Transplanted to Mars, a Civil War vet discovers a lush planet inhabited by 12-foot tall barbarians. Finding himself a prisoner of these creatures, he escapes, only to encounter a princess who is in desperate need of a savior.
The success of Avatar keeps the heads of the world movie corporations awake at night. Cameron managed to create another world, populate it with unusual yet charismatic creatures, create a conflict with humans, drop the main character in and let us watch the development of the story. What sounds simple in theory found a great response in peoples’ hearts, allowing Avatar to take in a lot of profit and leaving fans waiting for the sequel. John Carter is so obviously trying to be the second Avatar, it is impossible to escape from comparisons. And comparisons are, unfortunately for John Carter, not in its favor.
The movie is based on the book “Princess of Mars” by Edgar Rice Burroughs, being yet another example of how the movie industry is unable to come up with its own original plots. But that is not a problem, particularly given the fact that Burroughs is thought to have inspired Lucas and Cameron. The problem is that Disney decided to make the film, reducing sharply all the harsh parts to fit into the “family movie” category. John Carter lost immensely because of this. The storyline is dry, straightforward and simple. It is predictable if you watched any Disney movie at all. Princess? Check. Misfit-but-good-person? Check. Outsider? Check. Cute animal? Check. Evil super-powerful genius? Check. Disney's production line is working day and night to produce cliche movies.
But even tedious storyline does not mean the movie is bad. There still is some hope – in action part, in smart dialogues, in carefully drawn characters… But leave your hopes: action is little and still pretty boring. Dialogues are dull, silly and, worse of all, intolerably long. Coupled with predictable storyline, long dialogues make it a pretty big nail into the coffin of John Carter. The storyline jumps around almost randomly, leaving huge logical gaps and holes in the plot. The characters are there as if only to play their part in the main storyline: they have no past and no future. You are left to guess their intentions and motives. The movie is boring, the characters are plain and tasteless. Even Mark Strong fails to bring the arch-enemy to life despite his huge portfolio of evil characters. Smart, ingenious in the book, here the character looks a bit clumsy and definitely not scary. Other actors understandably fail as well, with Lynn Collins playing top-model rather than princess, with Taylor Kitsch playing emotionless wooden soldier rather than opportunistic adventure-seeker. Willem Dafoe lent his voice to Tars Tarkas, but this four-handed king is opaque in his motives as well as all the other characters, making it impossible to enliven him.
Now onto the technical part. It is well-known fact that John Carter has the budget of $250m. The question is where all the money was spent. 3D does not bring any extra emotions as there are no particular effects based on it. Compare it with Avatar or Hugo, and you will ask why one would want to use 3D in the first place. The Martian land is the best representation of the movie as a whole: plain and boring, grey and dry. The movie fails to impress with CGI and looks more like Star Wars Episode 4 than modern age technological breakthrough.
VERDICT: Boring, non-inspiring, dull and grey movie; Pale shadow of the underlying book.