‘John Carter’ Review: A Good Old Fashioned Adventure

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John Carter is not here to change the sci-fi blockbuster as we know it. The audience, I suspect, knows that but unlike most films within the genre, so do the creators. Instead, they created a really fun film with some great action, characters, and story, even if some of it is more over the top than it should be.

The film is based on a book that was written long before classics like Star Wars and other great stories, so it is wrong to criticize the plot’s seemingly-unoriginal direction. But pacing wise, this is an exciting film that rarely lets up. It drags a bit in the middle when the action slows down and the plot really kicks in, but other than that, the set-up and conclusion are extremely well put together.

Technically, the film looks great. CGI is present in almost every shot, but it is never overbearing, largely because most of the film appears to have been shot in an actual desert and not on a sound stage (the end credits said Utah).

It helped that the special effects and environments were all great because the acting in the film is a mixed bag. Taylor Kitsch takes his role as the title character far too seriously. John Carter himself is written with a lot of humor and delightfully cheesy dialogue, which Kitsch just sucks right out of him, replacing it with countless wooden deliveries. Lynn Collins plays the princess that Carter rescues with a certain attitude that grabs your attention, but unfortunately, her character is written pretty flatly. Willem Dafoe lends his voice to the leader of the alien race and truly makes the character come alive, proving once again that good CGI and a great vocal performance can lead to the best character in any film. Mark Strong plays the villain of the movie dryly but effectively. He is clearly a force to be reckoned with, but we never truly get to see him at his full potential.

John Carter is a lot more fun than I expected it to be. The story is fun one and the characters all have potential, even if it is not fully realized. Had Taylor Kitsch been replaced with a more capable actor, this film could have been something spectacular. But for the first real blockbuster of any year, you could do a lot worse. Grade: B

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