John Carter - Blu-ray Review

'the plot gets lost with Carter himself, adrift on strange shores with little to do until someone gives him a reason to shout at them and run away'

The reasons for the much-maligned John Carter's commercial failure are no doubt still being argued over in the mouse-ridden halls of Disney but really, the answer is simple: it's not very good.

Studios may wish to point the finger at clumsy marketing departments (was dropping the words 'of Mars' ever going to help?) or single out a shift away from mainstream Science-Fiction by audiences recently, but the simple honest truth still remains that if you make a good film, people will, eventually, by and large, make an effort to see it.

The reasons behind why John Carter ends up being a galaxy-sized trudge towards an early nap time and a pit-of-the-stomach feeling of dissatisfaction are more varied than its simple failure to reign in the dollars but, once again, they can be summed up fairly simply: the plot is nonsense.

Somewhere in it director Andrew Stanton clearly wants to find something interesting to say about Carter's (Taylor Kitsch) own id, he being your typical American hero who doesn't want to be a typical American hero, but he never does. Instead the plot gets lost with Carter himself, adrift on strange shores with little to do until someone gives him a reason to shout at them and run away, something which happens with both increasing frequency and decreased willingness on the audience's part to keep up.

Stanton has a challenge too in creating the world around Carter. The different races and inflections, words and locations are as varied as something like Terry Pratchett's Discworld, but where Pratchett has had multiple iterations and many years to chisel out his careful satire, Stanton gets a single film to make someone run and jump a lot. John Carter is a franchise film without the franchise. A back story with too much to do and nowhere meaningful to go afterwards. It's like someone spending a very long time explaining to you how Google+ works: its kind of relevant, kind of complicated and certainly modern in its inception but after they've finished, the knowledge you've gained is close to useless.

As ever with pieces so stunningly flawed, it is to small pieces of individual work that you have to look to find anything worthwhile. The production design by Nathan Crowley is occasionally beautiful, although let down, again, by a plot which calls for a lot of dusty reds and desolate wastes. 'Star' Taylor Kitsch, whose name recognition can be added to the list of reasons for commercial failure, is actually OK, with no chance to be any better and Lynn Collins gets a decently-written female character, which she fleshes out well. Not enough for overall redemption.


  1. I quite liked John Carter but it seems like the kind of the film in which you say "it's not as bad as you think...".

    Granted the various warring factions are rather over-complicated and this is another film that beats you over the head with a mythology that should be grand but feels like you've fallen into a dark ditch.

    Regarding the dropping of "Mars" from the title, I don't think it would have made much of a difference but I do think it added to the sense of fear emanating around this project. And the media pounced on that which didn't help the film at all.

    1. I was really ready to like it but it just did nothing for me. Wasn't involved with the hero, didn't care about any side character except Dejah. Just did not do it for me.

      Agree that there was fear from the start here, but as per the first paragraph, people would have looked past that if it was better.