It’s difficult to explain how awesome ‘John Carter’ is, but it’s even harder to get others amped up to see the movie. I blame the marketing. No trailer or television spot does anything positive for the film. There’s nothing enticing in the advertising campaign, which makes the movie look like a CG-laden cook cutter space Western, or worse, a remake of ‘Attack of the Clones’. But I promise that if you make the leap of faith and give the movie a shot, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Let me put it out there right now that while I encourage you to see ‘John Carter’, it is not perfect. In fact, it’s pretty flawed – the largest problem being tonal issues. The film kicks off with a much-too-serious tone. The expository voiced-over montage intro (which feels like it was compiled and added just to shave ten minutes off the runtime) doesn’t help. Also problematic is the fact that the title character isn’t even introduced in the first 15 minutes of the movie. Around the 20-minute mark, the fun finally starts to kick in. I wish I could say that, while the ride starts off a little slow and bumpy, it’s smooth sailing once it finds its feet – but I can’t. The bi-polar vibe of ‘John Carter’ is constant. The good thing is that the fun parts are really fun, and almost entirely erase the negative aspects. And the unpredictable ending more than makes up for its faults.
I suspect that Disney has kept the story and set-up of ‘John Carter’ quiet in the ad campaign out of fear that the film will be compared to last summer’s lackluster ‘Cowboys & Aliens‘. I was oblivious to the fact that John Carter is a former Civil War soldier who moved out to the West. After the intro, a good chunk of the story is set in the Wild West, where John Carter is a gold miner. Only after he stumbles into a cave and triggers an alien teleportation device is he ripped through space and taken to Mars. Mind you, he doesn’t begin his Mars expedition until 20-something minutes into the movie.
The story of ‘John Carter’ doesn’t sound all that appealing, but I swear that’s it’s actually solid. Two warring tribes of humans on Mars have been fighting over power for ages. One tribe, the more evil of the two, has been aided by some sort of godly alien beings with superpowers. The advantage is on their side as they begin to cleanse the red planet of their enemies’ existence. When John Carter arrives, he saves the life of an innocent princess about to be slain and starts aiding the powerless victims in their rebellion. Even if this doesn’t sound like something that will tickle your fancy, the ending surely will. No matter what you think of the rest of the movie, the ending is sure to earn your approval and recommendation. It’s so intelligent and fun that you’ll walk away with a big grin on your face.
Having said all this, I expect that ‘John Carter’ will probably fail to find a mass audience. It’s hard to get excited for the film based on the trailers. I predict that ‘John Carter’ will become a ‘Tron‘-like cult film for the newer generation.