Last week I went into a screening of John Carter (previously titled John Carter of Mars) and thankfully I only paid 7.5 € instead of 12 € for the Austrian excuse for an Imax screening. John Carter is a massive 250 million dollars undertaking – intended to become a new franchise. Directed by Andrew Stanton (writer: Toy Story 1-3, Monsters Inc., writer/director: Finding Nemo, A Bug’s Life, Wall-E) there is a fair deal of talent behind this project. The question was if it has paid off…
This will be a very short review because otherwise I will rant way too long – my initial review went over one page just picking apart the prologue so to make things short:
John Carter is a dull affair. There is nothing new in this movie. It is the story of a man coming to Mars through a mysterious portal but instead of being a wondrous trip it is stale set piece after set piece.
It is not particularly offensive or stupid – not at all. It is just unengaging. The characters are standard characters. The love story feels like the type you needed to have because stories like this must include a love story. And before you think it is a “so bad it is good type” – it is not. It is just dull.
It is based on a series of novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs and the first novel A Princess of Mars which was released in 1917 (first publication in 1912 so we have a nice 100 year anniversary).
So the story pretty much predates all modern science fiction and surely inspired everything we have grown accustomed to – a fact the marketing likes to remind us. But instead of being awed it shows you how much sci-fi has evolved. John Carter is not really sci-fi, not really fantasy. There is a bit of sci-fi when he realizes that he can jump higher because Mars has lower gravity.
But that the jumping is only there when he needs it for the story otherwise everything on Mars is like on earth. The setting reminded me how much I want to see an adaption of Dune and the fact that this overlong, overpriced movie was made instead is a bit sad.
The story offers nothing remotely interesting and I started appreciating Avatar a bit more. Even if I am not a big fan of the Avatar story the world at least was interesting and lovingly designed. Here everything is as trite and stale as a George Lucas production. And it speaks for the movie experience when John Carter enters an Arena and you are left to think “wow that scene was so much better in Attack of the Clones“.
If your movie starts to make Attack of the Clones look good then you’ve done something wrong.