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New John Carter Review: “Unlike Avatar, there is some real meat to this story. 9/10”

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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

13 comments

  • WOW, you can NOT compare the tharks to the gungans!

    Where the tharks were cool, the gungans were annoying as hell, I still can’t help but cringe when someone mentions jar jar.

    did you notice how when used for comic relief woola became more endearing, where as jar jar got more and more stupid, distracting and annoying?

  • You know your comments made me think – and I am a bit embarressed by not having read the book when seeing how many people he has touched. I think I will get my hands on a copy and then maybe then I can appreciate what I saw a little more. For me I went into the movie “blind” not having a clue about what it was about and then it got a little confusing so that just made it worse. It also seemed like John Carter spent more time with the Tharks compared to the Red Martians I guess that’s why I kind of compared it to Star Wars Episode One with Jar Jar Binks and the Gungan race. So that’s why I mentioned that I didn’t get a sense of who the characters were. All in all, like I said, the animation with the planet and characters was very well done and believable, if I ever ended up there I would JUMP for all I’m worth to get away from those White Apes!

  • Fair comments offered in a spirit of reasonableness. There have now been dozens and dozens of reviews and it seems most people find the story quite a bit more engaging than you seem to have, but your comments about the Na’vi are well taken. I don’t think Burroughs or Stanton intend for the Tharks, with their damaged culture, to play the same role in the story that the Na’vi did in Avatar. Remember there is Helium and the red Martian race to consider in that regard.

  • Reading over the reviews I found them interesting. I also got to see a early preview on the local military base last night, and I also thought it reminded me of Avatar, but I’ll go even a step further and say this – it reminded me more of Avatar met Star Wars Episode 1 and went horribly wrong… I didn’t get the same sense of the characters as the reviewer did – though I also didn’t read the book. Hands down it was visually appealing the “Martian” characters were very well done and Woola was awesome, but I didn’t get that feeling for any of the real people. I didn’t find myself rooting for the good guy, or wondering “what could possibly be around the next bend?” truthfully I didn’t care – and after about 1 1/2 hours I was thinking “Why isn’t this over!” I absolutely love these types of movies, I am a Fantasy/Sci-Fi lover to the extreme, but this one didn’t do it for me. I will make this comparison though only because I disagree with the reviewer in stating there was more meat to John Carter. In Avatar you were taking along on a journey to learn about these creatures/people. You saw them hunt, love, ride, fly, grow, you knew how they were spiritual connected to the land. In John Carter I knew they were a warrior race…. and they had a Coliseum for where the bad people went with some amazing animation there… and that was it. I didn’t know any more about them than that. Truthfully, I’m not trying to deter anyone from seeing this movie, I just saw a critique that I didn’t quite agree with and thought I’d leave my opinion, but as we are all different, many others may become caught up in the story, and I hope you do, because honestly it is refreshing to have these types of movies come to the theatres. I myself can’t wait until I’m sitting in front of screen later this year for the Hobbit.

  • I agree and I wouldn’t write a review that way. Unfortunately there are a lot of people who don’t seem to have room in their soul to love both Avatar and John Carter. Me — it’s a big tent and I love them both. And although I acknowledge the criticisms of some of the formulaic aspects of Avatar — ERB was himself somewhat formulaic sometimes. I think the difference in this case is not so much Burroughs/Cameron, rather its Stanton/Cameron. Stanton is a more gifted character based storyteller, while Cameron is more a visionary who sort of fills in the characters. Each has their merits. And we are pretty blessed to have — if this goes well — BOTH Avatar and JCOM going thorough a series of sequels. Wouldn’t that be grand?

  • I resent the backhanded criticism of Avatar. I know it’s en vogue to rip it, but c’mon, it’s the highest grossing film of all time for a reason. Extremely ambitious filmmaking of the highest order. John Carter is yet another adaption, as if we don’t have enough of those. I hope it is good, but I have yet to see another movie in the last 2+ years that was the equal of Avatar as far as inspiring wonder.

  • A splendid review. I always appreciate it when reviewers describe the experience rather than dive right into the critique. (8^)

    I believe in the experience of now. When I see a movie, I think, “Am I having fun?” rather than “Am I having as much fun as that other time?” I treat each film as an experience in of itself and this is just the way I look at movies. I work at a theater, and I’ll tell you, nothing shapes your ideology like theater work. I’ve popped the popcorn, scrubbed the floors, screened films for damage, and thwarted the efforts of cellphone users. In my position, you go through the day making sure that people enjoy the time they spend at the theater. You abandon critique and learn to just watch. Was Avatar original? Well, yes and no. “No” in that it borrowed heavily from Barsoom. “Yes” in that it was not a Barsoom movie. People are contextual. People make movies. Movies, as a result of contextual beings, are all internally original, regardless of outward originality, you could argue (oh boy…my art education talking). (8^)

    Thank you for the prompt reply! I know that I’ll enjoy John Carter just as much as I did Avatar and I hope it gains more attention before blockbuster season hits. I have my ticket and Mondo poster and I’m looking forward to a great ride.

  • I don’t mind people comparing them but it should be in the vein of “kindred spirits” — i.e. they share a lot and most people who like one should like the other unless they are in some weirdly competitive mindset. When Avatar came out I wrote about it reminding me of Burroughs but not as in “he ripped off Burroughs” ….. http://www.erbzine.com/mag30/3038.html

  • This review seemed to be more of a shot at Avatar than anything. I don’t think John Carter needs or should be compared to Avatar (and vice versa), regardless of the obvious similarities. All that matters is how entertaining a movie is. I loved Avatar, I love the Barsoom novels, and I’m going to love the John Carter movie. Movies are movies. If all we did was compare, we’d forget to appreciate. Science fiction is awesome, whether the main protagonist has blue skin, four arms, or pointy ears.(8^)

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