I saw a screening of the new Disney 3D movie John Carter (2012) (runtime 132 minutes. It's a pulp fiction, science fantasy romp on Mars. If you, like me, appreciate classic heroic fantasy and sword and sorcery, you might enjoy it. John Carter is an old-time fantasy adventure done up nicely with a big budget. But if you go see it, simply sit back and be entertained, don't expect it to be anything remotely possible.
The movie John Carter is based on the book A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, first of the Barsoom books. The first part of the book appeared in serialization in 1912, a hundred years ago. We now know that there isn't enough air to breathe on Mars, and nobody could go nearly bare-chested, like John Carter, in the Martian temperatures. But people didn't know that for sure back then.
John Carter (played by Taylor Kitsch) is a Civil War veteran, originally from Virginia, who finds an odd cave in the southwest. From there he is transported to Mars, where he discovers that a white man really can jump. Carter encounters and is captured by tall, alien-looking Martians called Tharks. He proves his strength and befriends Tar Tarkas and Sola. After an air ship battle, Carter learns there are human-like people on Mars too. He meets the courageous and lovely Dejah Thoris of Helium (played by Lynn Collins). The people of Helium are fighting against the city-state of Zodanga and the villainous Therns. Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium, is being forced to marry a Zodangan prince. John Carter fights bravely to save Dejah Thoris and Mars, which the natives call Barsoom.
John Carter looks good overall. The lead actors fit the roles and were watchable. The outfits worn by John Carter and Dejah Thoris seemed inspired by pulp book illustrations. The rocky desert scenery was fitting for Mars. The Red Martian air ships, and smaller fliers, were eye catching.
The movie features many popular fantasy film concepts. It has a handsome muscular hero who fights superhumanly, and a brave, sometimes scantily clad, heroine princess. There are wicked looking swords, fierce combats, and battling hordes. There are also visual effect aliens, the Tharks with their green skin and six-limbs, and otherworldly creatures such as the ferocious white-apes, and Carter's fast-moving, lizard-dog pet.
But does John Carter work as a movie? I think so, for the most part. The touches of humor help, but maybe the story is fundamentally a bit too cheesy for modern viewers. John Carter jumping up to the tower was farfetched. The schemes of the Therns were too cryptic to be scary. Somehow I never really got emotionally involved. Yet the movie was visually interesting and kept me entertained. In my opinion, John Carter is worth seeing in the theaters, at least for a matinee, if you enjoy science fiction and fantasy movies.
John Carter is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action.