What’s the Story?
John Carter has just died and left a long, rambling note to his nephew. This note explains what happened one time when John, on the run from the law (in the Old West), stumbled across a bald man in a cave and accidentally got teleported to Mars, where he became the champion/leader of a group of weird aliens and helped stop an evil guy from destroying a good civilisation.
What’s the Problem?
leave it at the door for this one. You can breathe oxygen on Mars. You don’t instantly freeze to death. There are entire cities. You learn Martian language by drinking a special drink they give to babies. There are a couple of alien races, and one of them looks human (and even has the same standards for sexiness).
There is some logic – John, having been raised on Earth – has denser muscle and bone than Martians so he is super strong and can leap a great distance and fall without hurting himself. This is fun. It probaby doesn’t hold up to intense scientific scrutiny, but that really isn’t what this film is about.
Seen It Before
The main problem with John Carter is that we have seen most of it before, cut up into other sci-fi films. The whole giant-aliens-and-body-swap is very Avatar (the final shot of this film is almost identical to Avatar); the beast arena is very Attack of the Clones; the final battle is very… every epic film made in the last decade where the big army arrives right at the pivotal moment and turns the tide.
This isn’t exactly John Carter‘s fault, though, as most of these films are ripping off the book the film is based on (or are ripping off someone who’s ripping off the book), but for the average audience member it means that this film doesn’t feel very fresh or original. It feels like a stock-standard mindless sci-fi flick. That’s what it is, but I’m still not convinced that’s entirely its fault, being as its source material set the standard.
Carter takes a while to get to the point. As much as I liked Carter trying to understand the alien language, it was a welcome relief when he drank the magical now-I-understand-you potion. I’d had enough miming.
And we got who the big bad guys were from the opening montage. You don’t need to take this long establishing their grand plan. Kidnap princess, marry, murder. We got it. Can we move along now?
Speaking of, John can be a bit less thick any time he likes.
Who’s On First
In the prologue, I had no idea who I was supposed to be rooting for. Blue-clothed men were attacking red-clothed men. It wasn’t until the clearly-bad-guys showed up that I worked it out. It doesn’t bode well when you’re trying to convince us that one of these groups is the goodies and one the baddies and we can’t tell them apart by their race, weaponry, fighting style, or dress style. Just by the colour of their skimpy shirts.
The translation drink translates everything. Except the words for “Mars”, “Earth”, and “leader”. Maybe it’s so they can stretch out the amount of time John doesn’t realise he’s on Mars, but really it’s just… I don’t understand why that was necessary.
Yeah. It’s not original, but it’s fun. Leave your brain in the bins provided, laugh along at the very happy dog-thing, and watch awful acting in a mediocre film then call it a lesson in sci-fi history.