NOTE: This John Carter review was just posted on a movie message board and the author, in subsequent postings, revealed details of the film that make it clear he did in fact see the movie. We consider it adequately verified and are posting it:
I just got home from what I think is their first word of mouth screening. I know a lot of critics have seen it but are embargoed. Well, since I’m not, I thought I’d share my impressions. Very tiny spoilers may follow, but not anything you haven’t already seen from promo footage.
First off, its visually stunning. I saw it in 3D, and like Avatar they used it to immerse you into the world instead of using it as some cheap gimmick. Throughout the movie they would briefly flash back to snippets of Earth, and what really struck me was how well the two worlds seamlessly blended together. In Avatar, it was almost a bit jarring when they reverted back to live action scenes. Here, everything is smooth, natural, and overall stunning.
But unlike Avatar, there is some real meat to this story. A Princess of Mars (the book it was based upon) really invented the action-adventure genre, and you can definitely see it here. I had a great longing to return back to the world that John Carter was transported too, much more than I did in Avatar. While both movies have an impeccably rich world surrounding the story, I felt much more invested in what was going on. The movie is fairly long (2h 15m or so) but the story moved everything along at a brisk pace. They also spend a surprisingly decent amount of time on Earth in the beginning, which was definitely nice to see (I wouldn’t have been surprised if paranoid Disney had wound up cutting it down at the last minute to get to Mars quicker a la Avatar).
There are an abundance of different characters, and all of them fleshed out and believable. I was worried that they might overdo Woola (John’s pet of sorts), but some of Woola’s segments with John are among the best scenes in the film. Mark Strong played a good villain; there is more than one in the film (with albeit smallish roles), as you’ll also see. Taylor Kitsch was also fantastic as the lead. You really got to know John and the complexity of his character as a whole. Comparing yet again to Avatar, I understood him much more than Worthington, whose character to me always seemed really transparent.
The action scenes are also terrific, and proves that regardless of his work on solely animated films, Stanton definitely knows how to shoot the hell out of an action scene.
Overall, I’m sad that Disney has failed to pull off a marketing campaign that is able to show what a truly great film it is. There are some problems with it; sometimes the story might breeze over a small plot point with little explanation, but it’s strengths gloss over its weaknesses; I’m still amazed how well I got to know the world in the brief span of 2 hours or so. Don’t fret guys, it’s great. And if you don’t end up liking it as much as me, I promise that at the very least you will definitely be thoroughly entertained.
My score: 9/10