John Carter: Prior to seeing this film, I knew precious little about it.
It wasn’t until seeing Mark Kermode’s review on BBC News that I realised it was originally entitled John Carter of Mars and that a focus group was put together who decided that the ‘of Mars’ part should be dropped from the film’s promotion.
Comparisons were also made with Star Wars in the promotion, so at the time of watching the film I didn’t realise that Mr Carter predated George Lucas’ story, and by almost 60 years, having first made an appearance in a magazine serial in 1912.
So, what’s the plot? Well, I figured I’d only write a review once I’d tried to put it all together in my mind, but then I gave up that thought as the plot seemed all over the place.
For reasons that’ll not particularly become apparent, Captain John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) gets teleported at random from the 19th Century civil war to Mars, even though he doesn’t realise he’s now on a different planet, despite there being a distinct lack of gravity.
He encounters Jar Jar Binks.. erm.. I mean, Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe), a weird creature who basically ends up leading him into a civil war of their own where a battle is raging between various people including Tars and Princess Dejah Thoris of Helium (Lynn Collins).
And so it goes on from there. I didn’t really follow which character was which, not even realising that there were famous names behind some of the creatures as I didn’t detect their intonation, and just thought, for example – “Ah, there goes Ciarán Hinds” or “There goes… oh, who’s that bloke. I think he’s playing Caesar? No, can’t be. But it looks like him…”, which turned out to be James Purefoy.
Several times we saw Dominic West and Mark Strong hamming it up as the bad guys, which was amusing in part, but they know they’re better than this.
All in all, John Carter (of Mars) was one of the maddest films I’ve ever seen. It just seemed to make it up as it went along and wasn’t particularly good, with no-one pushing out the boat in the acting stakes, but, still, it’s nice to see a film shot in anamorphic Panavision, as so few are made in this way these days. The majority of ‘cinemascope’ films are made in Super 35, which, to simplify things, looks like a 16:9 production that has had black bars stuck on at the top and bottom, so there’s no sense of purpose in making it that way. Filming in Panavision gives it a certain sense of style, usually with a slightly convex look to the landscape. The only other recent film I’ve seen which springs to mind and uses this is We Need To Talk About Kevin
Oh, and I also saw it in 2D, partly as it was more convenient in terms of the time it was being shown, but also because, as was confirmed by Mr Kermode, it was filmed that way and post-produced into 3D, apparently very badly. It did look well-composed in 2D, as well, with nothing shooting in or out of the screen, so there was no need for any 3D conversion, in my view.
Running time: 132 minutes
Released: March 9th 2012
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (Anamorphic Panavision)
Director: Andrew Stanton
Producer: Lindsey Collins, Jim Morris and Colin Wilson
Screenplay: Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews and Michael Chabon (based on “A Princess of Mars” by Edgar Rice Burroughs)
Music: Michael Giacchino
John Carter: Taylor Kitsch
Dejah Thoris: Lynn Collins
Sola: Samantha Morton
Tars Tarkas: Willem Dafoe
Tal Hajus: Thomas Haden Church
Matai Shang: Mark Strong
Tardos Mors: Ciarán Hinds
Sab Than: Dominic West
Kantos Kan: James Purefoy
Colonel Powell: Bryan Cranston
Sarkoja: Polly Walker
Edgar Rice Burroughs: Daryl Sabara
Sarah Carter: Amanda Clayton
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.