Review: John Carter is a Refreshing and Entertaining Sci-fi Film

I finally got a chance to see Disney’s John Carter, and I couldn’t have been more pleased with how entertaining it is for a geek like myself.  I had no reservations going into this movie, nor have I read the book that it is based on, so I went into my screening with a blank slate and fresh mind.  It may not be a perfect film, because there are some pacing issues, hammy acting, and at times less than perfect CGI work, but overall John Carter is one of the best pure sci-fi/fantasy movies I’ve seen in a long, long time.  I left the theater feeling like my childish mind was taken on a wild journey to a new universe that was full of interesting characters and motifs that I’d like to follow up on.  More importantly I left feeling entertained, which is all you can really ask of a good movie.  If you’ve been on the fence about seeing John Carter because it’s a Disney movie (there is blood and a decapitation) then please read through the rest of our review to see if we can prod you one way or another!

John Carter

EB 8 out of 10 Buddhas 

This film is based on the book from Edgar Rice Burroughs called A Princess of Mars, which I may have to read now that I’ve seen and loved the movie adaptation.  What makes this movie so special is that the book itself was written in the early 1900’s, so technically, John Carter is one of the first ever characters in the science fiction universe.  Essentially, Burroughs’ creation ushered in the sci/fi era, so its themes pre-date pieces of art like Star Wars, Star Trek, and every other massively popular fantasy franchise from the 20th century.  Luckily, the folks behind the movie did its motifs some justice, at least to a new fan such as myself, because I left the theater wanting to learn more about this character and his world, so I would consider that a success on the part of Disney.

Trust me, this is a much better arena battle than that AOTC abortion

Like I said, John Carter is a movie for geeks.  In fact, my wife didn’t nearly enjoy it as much as I did, but she also doesn’t write about nerdy stuff for a living.  Even with that being said I still think this film will entertain more people than it disappoints.  It’s just a real fun movie with a great story, cool characters, interesting worlds, and everything else that a movie has to have to keep people entertained for 2 hours.  If you prefer movie about fictional happenings, versus the depressing films that focus on our bleak existence as humans I can almost guarantee that you’ll find Carter to be an enjoyable experience.

I think what I enjoyed the most about this movie is its characters and Martian world.  I’ve always been intrigued by alien worlds and the Hollywood studios that create them, so when you have an established property like John Carter and its universe, it benefits from the technology of tinsel town to give its pages life.  I thought Disney did a pretty damn good job giving Barsoom and its inhabitants a unique look that most geeks expect when watching a sci-fi film full of visual effects in glorious 3D.  Even with a majority of the cast being fully CG characters I never felt like I was just watching hollow animations voiced by A-list actors.  This movie didn’t feel like the Star Wars prequels at all.  Its CG characters actually made me feel a connection to them, and not disdain like Jar-Jar and the battle droids illicit.

The CG characters of John Carter may be more interesting than the man himself

I’d actually go as far as saying that the CG characters in John Carter were some of my favorites.  I really enjoyed the Tharks (big green aliens), especially Tars Tarkas who is their leader for most of the film.  These computer generated characters actually managed to make me care about them, which is a tall feat in this day and age of special effects in movie making.  If their animations were off even the slightest bit, the whole John Carter project would’ve been a flop (some consider it one because of its box office numbers, but it’s not).

In addition to the four armed green Tharks I also took a liking to the alien dog that becomes Carter’s best friend.  There were multiple scenes featuring this Jabba the Hutt looking canine that caused me to laugh to myself, which I usually don’t do when I know the director and animators are just going for a cheap giggle, but this CG pooch got to me.  There were moments in this film, even with some of the bad acting, where I had to man choke some tears from my eyes.  I credit this to the beautiful looking world and characters that Disney was able to create for John Carter, because, at least to me, they all seemed real enough to make me believe in their struggles and triumphs, which is all you can ask of a CGI laden film.

Love this little guy!

Unfortunately, John Carter is not perfect, which has sort of doomed it at the box office.  Like I mentioned earlier, a normal person like my wife may not dig this movie at all, but if you’re like me and absolutely love losing your imagination in a fantasy based world for a few hours, then you’ll love it.  There are other issues than personal taste at hand that also tarnish this movie a bit.  I really felt like the pacing was off.  Throughout the films 2 hour run I couldn’t help but feel like some scenes were dragging on, while others went too fast.  I honestly think that this movie would have been better told in two feature films.

It just seems like the writers tried to cram in as much as they could from the novel to do the movie justice, but in reality they just force fed some information to us that probably could’ve been better told if it were spread out amongst two different movies.  I enjoyed this movie enough that I would’ve liked to have learned more about the history of Barsoom (Mars), but not in a Hollywood budget saving manner.  This world definitely has some great stories to tell, so it’s a shame that it was so rushed, and/or dragged out in the movie adaptation.

In addition to the pacing this movie also suffers from some hammy acting.  In fact, I think Taylor Kitsch, who plays the lead, is one of the worst offenders.  It seemed like he was trying to do his best Christian Bale Batman impersonation while speaking his lines, and I found myself disliking him just a bit.  He doesn’t ruin the film, but during some of the heavier dialogue scenes his less than stellar acting performance drags down the movie a bit.  Kitsch isn’t as bad as Hayden Christensen in the Star Wars prequels, but he won’t earn any Oscar nods for his John Carter portrayal.

This babe makes up for the less than perfect acting, so hot, and so little clothes..

Overall, John Carter is one of the more entertaining movies I’ve seen recently, and I honestly think most geeks who are into the sci-fi/fantasy genres will love it.  The world itself is full of great history and stories that warrant a reading of the books to fully take in what John Carter tried to display.  I totally enjoyed the alien creatures and world that John Carter offered up, but I would’ve liked more!  I think the movie suffered from pacing issues in an attempt to do the book justice, but I think there’s enough good material in this franchise to have warranted two films.  The CG characters actually had a lifelike feel to them, which is something most geeky movies can’t claim.  It is a geeky film, so the acting isn’t going to be A+, but the cast does a good enough job at pulling off most of the nerdy dialogue.  Besides the lead actress is hot a hell, so if the acting gets too bad for you just stare at her and drown out the sounds.

For all of its upsides I give Disney’s John Carter an EB 8 out of 10 Buddhas.  It’s a very entertaining film that looks great in 3D, so go check it out to introduce your mind to a whole new universe!  You’ve been thinking about reading the book because the movie resonated with you…

John Carter Trailer 2012 — Official Movie Trailer | HD


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Tags : DisneyGeek MoviesGreat MoviesJohn Carter
Matt Heywood

The author Matt Heywood

Matt Heywood is the founder and EIC of where he strives to make you a better geek, one post at a time! When he’s not scouring the Internet for interesting nuggets of awesomeness he can be found in his secret lair enjoying the latest and greatest video games, taking pictures of toys, or talking Star Wars on EB’s Star Wars Time podcast show.