Brian’s ‘John Carter’ Review

 “”John Carter’s” greatest problem rests less with actors, than with a studio that entertains the excesses of a director in matters relating to budget.”

When you think about Andrew Stanton’s “John Carter,” it’s hard to get beyond its monstrous budget.  That’s a pity because, despite beginning somewhat awkwardly, it’s actually pretty entertaining.

“John Carter” looks like an epic.  Huge “Martian” vistas fill the screen, and many wondrous beings and creatures are introduced to us, though Stanton can’t choreograph a fight scene seemingly to save his life.

What’s particularly strange is that the material seems that it should somehow be more personal, more intimate, than it ends up being.  This is odd because, despite being called ‘John Carter,’ the character somehow seems almost secondary to all the chaos that goes on around him.

We soon meet John Carter, a soldier tired of fighting, who somehow loses his wife and daughter (in a fire, though the causes weren’t quite clear).  Eventually he stumbles upon a ‘doorway’ to Mars, which is known to the Martians as Barsoom, where he ends up aiding Dijah Thoris, princess of the city of Helium.

Taylor Kitsch can act, as “The Bang Bang Club” illustrates, and while he does the best with what he has to work with, his presence is not enough strong enough to gravitate toward.  Lynn Carter (Dijah Thoris) acquits herself well, as do the other actors (with the exception of Dominic West, who plays Sab Than–which probably translates to “He Who Devours Scenery”–and Daryl Sabara,who’s Edgar Rice Burroughs seems to have one expression:  wide-eyed amazement), though they often appear to be competing with their often digital environments, as opposed to working in harmony with them.

I haven’t (yet) read the book by Edgar Rice Burroughs that the story is based upon, though I get the feeling that it is not nearly as far-reaching as Stanton has made it out to be.    I also suspect that, with some judicious trimming–of the film’s running time and budget–’John Carter’ could have been at least a moderate hit, as opposed to a potential failure at the box office.

Currently it has earned $179 million, and may possibly break even; though if the film were in the $100-150 million ballpark, it would be well on it’s way toward profitability, which is a pity because, when all pistons are firing, it’s a lot of fun.

Which is the rub:  “John Carter’s” greatest problem rests less with actors, than with a studio that entertains the excesses of a director in matters relating to budget.


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