MSN John Carter Review: “the first movie of its kind in a very long time that I’d willingly sit through a second or even third time.”

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If you are among the millions of filmgoers who was bitterly disappointed by “The Phantom Menace,” you owe it to yourself, to your wounded psyche, and to your pleasure centers to check out “John Carter.” No, it is not a “Star Wars” film; of course it’s not. But itis set a relatively long time ago — in Earth years, the late 19th century. And it is based on a classic albeit relatively obscure piece of classic not-quite-pulp science fiction, the novel “A Princess of Mars,” by Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs. That work was one of the many that created the sci-fi adventure model/tradition that the first, good “Star Wars” films drew on and, um, rebooted for a new generation or two, or three. And while “The Phantom Menace” severely infantilized that very tradition, one of the triumphs of “John Carter” (a triumph that is already making those among us sometimes referred to as “fan boys” sigh in something like relief) is of tone. To say that this film does epic not-quite-pulp sci-fi adventure “right” is to imply ethical questions that this review has neither the space nor the inclination to go into. So let’s instead say that “John Carter” does it properly. And, more importantly, entertainingly

The opening of the film, directed by longtime Pixar maestro Andrew Stanton (this is the “Finding Nemo” director’s first live-action feature) and scripted by Stanton, Mark Andrews and genu-wine pedigreed literary feller Michael Chabon, is, I admit, more daunting than promising. A narrator updates the audience on the sitch on the red planet, which, she explains, is not really named Mars, at least not by the natives, but rather is named Barsoom, and inhabited by a race called X and another race called Y, and there’s this war, and this blue-ray power and … a disinterested adult may find himself or herself doing an eye roll and muttering, “Great, another damn encyclopedia of a sci-fi mythology to learn.” What then follows is something like a double frame story, beginning on Earth with a harried John Carter summoning his nephew, young writer Edgar Rice Burroughs, to his estate. But Edgar arrives too late, and instead of consulting his mysteriously wealthy uncle, reads his will … and his journal, which tells of An Unbelievable Adventure Carter had some two decades prior to that when, prospecting for gold in Arizona in the wake of the Civil war, he found himself transported to Mars, where …

Well, we’ll get to that in a second. There’s been a lot of chatter on the Internet about the marketing of this very big-budgeted epic, and its box-office chances, and its actual value. There are many reasons for this, and one of them is that, despite all the money made by the “Star Wars” prequels, they’ve kind of muddied the waters for their genre, quality-wise. And “John Carter” itself, being of the tradition, seems to have all manner of opportunities to turn a corner and descend into absolute suckage. For instance, there’s a Martian race made up of super-tall, multi-armed, skinny green giants with bulbous heads and tusks and names like “Tars Tarkas.” I know what you’re thinking, right? Jar Jar Binks, or as the writer Todd Hanson put it in an essay I commissioned some time ago, “He Who Must Not Be Named.” Only: no. The Tharks, as these CGI-ed creatures are called, are portrayed with what we might call integrity, even credibility (they’re voiced by some first-rate actors, among them Willem Dafoe,Thomas Haden Church and Samantha Morton).

Read the full Review at MSN Entertainment


  • We’re going to have to fight for it. But hey if anyone taught us how to fight ….it would be ….JC, right? We have to see it, tweet about it, see it again, harangue people into giving it a shot… that. We’re part of it.

  • Dotar,

    I just dont get why the RT score is so low. A real disapointment. Seeing it again
    at midnight tomorrow. I hope its score goes up. It should…

    We’re gonna get Gods.., right?

  • You’re gonna have to update the Tomatometer. Currently, it’s unfortunately DROPPED to 63%. That tells me people just don’t get it.

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