Fans of sci-fi author Edgar Rice Burroughs will know that this movie should actually end with the words “Of Mars”, as this is based on Burroughs’ red planet-visiting character that first made an appearance in print 100 years ago in the novel A Princess Of Mars. It’s taken nearly that long for the story to reach the screen (a first attempt at a movie adaptation was made back in 1931), and it now gets the full blockbuster treatment in the hands of Andrew Stanton, making his live action directorial debut (he’s better known for animated movies like Wall.E and Finding Nemo).
It’s 1868, and American Civil War veteran John Carter (Kitsch) is trying to keep one step ahead of officers who want him to return to soldier life. Stumbling into an Arizona cave, he comes across a dying figure clutching a pendant. When John holds it, he finds himself transported to a strange, arid place where he can leap great distances in a single bound (cool), and he soon discovers he is on the planet Barsoom (otherwise known as Mars), caught up in a war between the Zodangans and the Heliumites, and befriended by odd looking aliens called Tharks. Oh, and there’s a princess (Collins) for him to rescue, too.
While the movie didn’t need to be released in 3D, it does look absolutely scrumptious, packed with other worldly creatures, flying ships, imaginative cityscapes, battles and explosions galore, and Kitsch – best known for his role in TV series Friday Night Lights – navigates it all like a pro, flashing his sculptured torso like a pin-up, yet retaining a nicely sarcastic edge to his performance. Collins, as the princess who can kick just as much butt as the men, is enjoyable too, and there’s nice support from Mark Strong as the uber-bad guy (although some more screen time for him wouldn’t have gone amiss).
Viewers will spot similarities to other big-budget sci-fi movies from Star Wars (the landscape of Barsoom will remind you of Tatooine) to Dune to Avatar, but it is worth remembering that all those movies owe a debt to Burroughs’ original novels, so it’s silly to debate who borrowed what from whom. On the downside, there’s almost too much action here – the filmmakers possibly pandering to kids with short attention spans who are waiting for the next explosion – so after numerous battles and escapes it never quite builds to a big finish. Not too memorable, then, but while it lasts it’s a fun, feisty, family adventure.
Is John Carter suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
This movie is a 12A certificate so is aimed at children over the age of 12.
Younger children (under 10) may initially find the alien Tharks scary to look at, and will be upset at the way that their babies (which are equally freaky looking) are disposed of.
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