Viewed – 20 February 2013 Blu-ray
John Carter is a down on his luck Civil War veteran who tells tall stories of caves full of gold, whilst being hunted by the authorities in 1868, trying to recruit him back into the army. Yet on actually finding the professed cave he has been seeking, Carter stumbles upon a strange figure within, and following a struggle, takes in his hand a golden medallion – and is suddenly transported to another world.
So begins the story of this man who discovers a civilization living on Mars (locally referred to as Barsoom) and soon lands himself in trouble with the local tribes people. Based on the book by Edgar Rice Burrows (creator of Tarzan) this fantastical movie is full of spectacle and interesting characters, and felt like an amalgamation of movies like Planet Of The Apes, Star Wars and Avatar – no bad thing. Lead actor Taylor Kitsch may be a poor man’s Johnny Depp, boasting a performance that jumps between heroic and arrogant, leaning more towards cocky for my liking, but carries the story well enough. Supporting cast fair slightly better, with the always reliable boo-hiss Mark Strong as one of a race of supernatural beings, and a feisty Lynn Collins as Princess Thoris, the token eye candy (and then some), but spars well alongside Kitsch. Effects-wise this delivers some impressive CGI, the tribal race oozing personality and emotion, stealing the movie at times from their real-life co-stars (helped clearly by good voice work from Willem Dafoe and Samantha Morton). The action also is exhilarating with aerial battles and vast ground assaults, as well as a stand-out arena sequence.
At times the overdose of CGI does get a bit much, and I longed for some practical effects, and with a lead character who is at times unlikable, this doesn’t quite make for essential viewing – but more so one of those movies you might have over looked, but really shouldn’t have.
Verdict: 4 /5