Release date: July 2nd, 2012
Certificate (UK): 12
Running time: 132 minutes
Director: Andrew Stanton
Writers: Mark Andrews, Michael Chabon, Andrew Stanton
Cast:Taylor Kitsch, Willem Dafoe, Lynn Collins, Dominic West, Mark Strong, Bryan Cranston, Ciarán Hinds, James Purefoy
Civilisations throughout history have more or less followed the same path. Defined by the wars they’ve fought and the battles they’ve lost, we’ve come to be known as a violent and greedy species inhabiting a once blue planet.
We fight, not to keep peace, but to keep power and spread dominance. Like a parasite, we consume and lay waste to all we touch. This is how we will be remembered?
I always hope that when an alien race appears on screen in the films I see, the writers would have enough imagination to not burden them with the blight of the human condition. Perhaps this is too much to ask for, seeing as they are human themselves and can’t do more than is humanly possible with these characters.
John Carter, directed by Andrew Stanton and based on the novel A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, tells of a Civil War veteran (Taylor Kitsch) who lost his wife and child and now spends his time evading any kind of responsibility. During an ambush by Native Americans he hides in a cave where he discovers a device which then transports him to Mars.
Once there, and after learning that on Mars he can spring into the air and leap over incredible distances, John is reluctantly drawn into another war, this time between the inhabitants of the planet they call Barsoon.
He tries to unite the leaders of two warring clans, Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe) of the Tharks tribe and Tardos Mors (Ciarán Hinds), Jeddak of Helium, so that they can fight against Sab Than (Dominic West), Prince of Zodanga, who in turn is being guided by Matai Shang (Mark Strong), leader of the Holy Therns, an eternal figure who manages the destruction of civilisations on many planets and promises John that he will do the same to Earth.
John is spurred into action by Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins), the Princess of Helium, who’s about to be forced into marriage with Sab Than. Dejah also serves as our hero’s romantic interest.
John Carter is a film that primarily deals with war as an eternal struggle throughout our solar system. It tells us that this is not limited to Earth, but something all species will experience, thanks to the Therns who whisper and influence the decisions, choices and cravings for power, eventually leading to the downfall of these civilisations.
Feeling like a cross between Star Wars, Avatar and Conan the Barbarian, John Carter displays its visuals in a very eye-catching way but they don’t give the story any depth. The dialogue is at times leaden and cliché in its attitude that war is always the answer to tyranny. For once I would’ve liked to have seen alien races dealing with their problems in a way that wasn’t so human.
Although there are attempts at humour, they are just that, attempts. Together with a running time of over two hours, I really did feel like an actual journey to Mars would have been shorter and a much more rewarding experience than another space wars movie and gladiator-style fights.
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
You can find his music on Soundcloud .