by Sean P. Means|Salt Lake Tribune: “John Carter,” a rousing science-fiction adventure adapted from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ early 20th-century pulp novels, is a rare bird that’s at the same time strikingly modern and engagingly old-fashioned.
Director Andrew Stanton, making his live-action debut after decades as animator and director at Pixar, knows well how to mix old and new. (After all, he had a robot fascinated with “Hello, Dolly” in “Wall-E.”) And with “John Carter,” he combines epic scale and rugged heroism with the whiz-bang visuals that banks of 21st-century computer graphics can create.
The results are eye-popping and exciting, yet oddly familiar.
When we meet Carter (played by Taylor Kitsch), he’s a tortured ex-Confederate officer hiding out after the Civil War, seeking a cave of gold in the Arizona territory. A U.S. Cavalry commander (Bryan Cranston) aims to enlist him to scout the Apaches, but Carter — nursing the pain of losing his family in the war — has no wish to fight for anyone’s cause. Dodging the Cavalry and Apaches, Carter lands in a cave where an otherworldly figure mysteriously transports him somewhere far away.
Carter doesn’t know where he is, except that he’s suddenly able to leap 80 feet in the air. Oh, and the first creatures he meets are 9 feet tall, green, and have four arms each. These are the Tharks, nomadic survivors of a dying land. Their leader, Tars Tarkas (voiced by Willem Dafoe), takes Carter into his tribe, which watches from a neutral position when two groups of “red people” — the peace-loving Heliumites and the warrior Zodangans — battle in solar-powered flying machines above them.