UK Release date: 9th March 2012
Watched on Sky+ Saturday 2nd March 2013.
PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE UNINTENTIONAL SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.
The title of this film should be ‘JOHN CARTER OF MARS’ but the Disney Corporation didn’t think people would go and see it if the word ‘Mars’ was present. As it happens, it didn’t make a blind bit of difference; once it had acquired quite a bit of bad press the people stayed away in their droves. And so when it came up in the TV listings this week I decided to give it a look and see just what was so bad about it. I will give you my thoughts after this very brief summary (pay attention now, it’s complicated).
When American Civil War veteran John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) finds himself transported to Mars (or ‘Barsoom’ as the locals call it), he is taken in by Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe) the leader of a twelve foot tall, four armed race called the Tharks. He seems very impressed with the fact the Carter can jump extremely long distances. Now, there is a war going on between two humanoid cities, Helium and Zodanga, and the princess of Helium, Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) has been betrothed to the leader of the Zodangan’s, Sab Than (Dominic West). Of course she does not want this union and escapes only to be captured by the Tharks. There is a mysterious entity who calls himself Matai Shang (Mark Strong), a member of a hidden race known as a Thern, who is pulling the strings in this particular conflict. All Carter wants is to get home and a Thern device holds the key. He escapes with Dejah Thoris and the daughter of Tars Tarkas, Sola (Samantha Morton) and heads for a shrine to the goddess that might hold the key to his return to Earth. But Matai Shang has other plans… I’ll leave it there.
I think much of the negative press this film got was because of the enormous amount of money it cost to make. And yes, I can see it has extremely high production values with many exciting battle/chase/fight scenes all using very high quality CGI. I admit I have never read the Edgar Rice Burroughs ‘John Carter of Mars’ books but I’m sure those that have will have got a lot more out of this film than me. It’s an exciting adventure that (I’m afraid) has a storyline that doesn’t quite hold up today. Yes, it’s visually quite stunning in places with some very exciting action sequences along the way but the plot is a tad too over-complicated, particularly for a younger audience, and the main premise that Carter can jump is, quite frankly, very weak. So, does it deserve the vitriolic reception it received? I have to say no; it is a better film than many have made out. Was it worth spending that amount of money on making it? Again, no; although it’s not as bad a film as many have said; I still find it hard to justify the amount of money spent on it. Would I watch it again? Probably not; but I’m glad I did see it the one time.
SteelMonster’s verdict: RECOMMENDED (just watch it once)
My score: 5.8/10.
IMDb Score: 6.7/10 (based on 120,483 votes when this review was written).
MetaScore: 51/100: (Based on 42 critic reviews provided by Metacritic.com at the time of going to press).
Rotten Tomatoes ‘Audience’ Score: 61/100 (based on 102,575 user ratings counted at the time of going to press).
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Tars Tarkas: [voiceover] Mars. So you name it and think that you know it. The red planet, no air, no life. But you do not know Mars, for its true name is Barsoom. And it is not airless, nor is it dead, but it is dying. The city of Zodanga saw to that.
Tars Tarkas: Did I not tell you he could jump!
Tars Tarkas: [to John] You are ugly, but you are beautiful. And you fight like a Thark!
Tars Tarkas: Zodanga, red flags. Helium, blue. Zodanga is winning the war. But I say let red men kill red men until only Tharks remain.
John Carter: That doesn't look like a fair fight.
Tars Tarkas: Zodanga never fights fair.
John Carter: Stand behind me, this might get dangerous.
[John fights the Zodangans. When he loses his sword, Dejah takes it and kills the remaining enemies]
John Carter: Or maybe I ought to get behind you...
Dejah Thoris: [Cleans the blood off the sword with John's clothes] You let me know when it gets dangerous.