OK, they botched the title. But not the entire film.
“John Carter on Mars” would tell science-fiction fans (such as yours truly, for example) that this is a sci-fi story. The newly shortened “John Carter” title doesn’t tell the general public anything and could be one of the reasons it didn’t make a bigger splash in the box-office earnings pool.
If you see this show, you’re actually going to the great-granddaddy of many classic science-fiction stories, from “Star Wars” to “Avatar.” What makes the movie even more enjoyable, at least for me, is knowing it’s based on the writings of Edgar Rice Burroughs (who also penned the famed “Tarzan” series) — writings that are about 100 years old. Most of this is based on “A Princess of Mars,” part of the “John Carter” series.
The movie is all about Carter (Taylor Kitsch, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”), who was a captain in the Confederate army during the Civil War. Carter is a fighter who simply refuses to give up. Regardless of who bullies him or captures him (and this happens several times), we see that he simply does not give up or give out. He’s determined to find a stash of gold, in fact.
But his plans go awry when he discovers himself in the midst of a barren landscape where he finds that he is unable to walk at first. The change in gravity has its advantages, though: He easily can leap hundreds of feet in the air. He has a semi-comical encounter with a troop of residents led by Tars Tarkas (voice of Willem Dafoe) and also ends up fighting a battle in which he rescues a princess (Lynn Collins).
The look of several sequences is a reflection of the way Carter and his adventures are depicted in the works of the late artist Frank Frazetta. Fans will recognize and welcome these scenes instantly.
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Director Andrew Stanton also helmed “Finding Nemo” and “WALL*E,” which are also full of action. He’s no stranger to animation, so the computer-generated and motion-capture creatures here have as much substance as their live-action peers.
There’s so much action, in fact, that some character development and motivation is omitted, particularly with the secondary and tertiary characters. But it’s still great good fun, particularly for Burroughs fans or those who enjoy a fast-paced science-fiction yarn.