OKLAHOMA CITY, March 9, 2012—100 years after Edgar Rice Burroughs released the first of the fictional Barsoom novels, John Carter bursts onto the theatrical screen.
The Barsoom novels take place on a dying Mars where epic battles are warred on a planet whose natural resources are dying. In the eponymous film, John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) is a Civil War vet who gets transplanted to Barsoom, aka Mars.
Already a soldier on Earth, or Jasoom, Barsoom’s other-world atmosphere enhances Carter’s already formidable strength and skills.
As king of the ruling Tharks, Tars Tarks (Willem Dafoe), recognizes Carter’s strength and warrior skills and thrusts him into the middle of yet another civil war, this time not between the South and the North, but between Sab, the evil leader of the Zodangans, and the Heliumites and Princess Dejah.
Carter not only has to learn all those odd names, he has to survive the war while simultaneously trying to get back to Earth
The source material for the film is, as said, 100 years old, and the filmmakers are asking for a lot of viewer “buy-in” with John Carter.
It is a bit of a stretch they may not succeed at. With characters named Sab, Dejah and Tars all from the planet Barsoom, for an audience unfamiliar with the source material it might be a little too unfamiliar to embrace wholeheartedly.
Disney has really pushed this movie with the pre-release publicity and bigger than life commercials. Disney is billing John Carter as “The first blockbuster of the year.” It might be, but that status comes with a hefty price: a reported $250,000,000 budget.
Over all the movie is entertaining. It’s not great, but it is fun. I don’t know anyone who is really excited to see this, and although Edgar Rice Burroughs is one of those classic writer I get the sense from the marketing that while this is a story that we should already be familiar with, we are not.
So the question looms, do many people know who or what John Carter is?
Trailers don’t really let on that it is a sci-fi movie much less answer the who is John Carter question. Is John Carter a gladiator? A good guy? Are they on Earth? Another planet? And isn’t a Basoom slang for a grandmothers chest?
If they had left the title as it originally was, John Carter of Mars, I think that would have helped define the film for the audience.
Those that watched Friday Night Lights will be happy to see Taylor Kitsch in the leading role and, at least for the ladies, happier to see him bare chested for most of the movie.
Because of the different gravitational pull on Earth and Mars, Carter has the ability to jump long distances. Ok so science plays a role in that, but he can also, quite inexplicably, catch swords that are thrown to him before stabbing rampaging wild beasts.
It is a kids movie and I had low expectations walking in, so I did enjoy it. John Carter has the potential to be a franchise, but with the ginormous budget this release required, it has a long way to go to be a money maker worthy of making any sequels.
At the end, I can’t wholeheartedly endorse it as a sure fire movie to see. If you have reservations about the film, it might be worth a Blu Ray rental where they will probably throw in some interesting extras on the source material.
And if do go to the theater, don’t spend the extra few bucks for 3D if you have the option for 2D.
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