Complete A-Z list

John Carter - 3D (AF)


Stars: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Willem Dafoe, Thomas Haden Church, Samantha Morton, Dominic West, Ciaran Hinds, Mark Strong, James Purefoy, Polly Walker, Darryl Sabara, Bryan Cranston

Director: Andrew Stanton

Co-writer/director Stanton, who directed the animated hits Finding Nemo and WALL-E, switches to live action to bring ‘Tarzan’ creator Edgar Rice Burroughs’ interplanetary hero Carter to vivid 3D screen life in a breezy blend of spectacular special effects and rousing spectacle and action whose overall impact recalls Saturday morning serials blended with sword-and-sandal actioners, science fiction and fantasy extravaganzas and, for good measure, happy memories of Arabian Nights adventures.

John Carter first appeared in print in 1912.

Now, 100 years later and played by Tarzan-styled muscular hunk Kitsch, American Civil War veteran Carter tangles with Northern troops before a glowing gizmo buried deep in a cave in Darkest Arizona inexplicably transports him to Mars.

There, thanks to the lesser gravity, he finds he can bound into the air like a human ICBM thus anticipating the 20th century moon landing since one giant leap for Carter adds up to one small leap for the 12 foot tall, four armed (four-armed is forewarned?) Martian Tharks (after all, this is appropriately a leap year), who capture and enslave him.

After which lashings of plot kick in on the war-ridden planet known as Barsoom to the locals, involving Carter saving feisty Helium princess Collins from a forced marriage to evil West, close encounters of the sinister kind with shape-shifting immortal Strong who manages the destruction of worlds and feeds on the results, and extraordinary battles on the ground and in the air in which Carter’s unique leaping ability plays a winning role. And, eventually, saves him from being killed by the giant multi-legged white apes he has to battle in a Roman-style arena.

Kitsch (his name seems perfect considering the deliberately kitsch elements that abound on screen) does well enough in his heroic role, Collins puts in her two cents worth with zest, while Strong (one week an Arab sheikh, the next an interplanetary immortal) enjoys himself the villain of many faces. West, Hinds, Morton and Purefoy support strongly and it’s to none of the performers discredit that their performances tend to be overshadowed by the plentiful movie magic.

So if you fancy a merry mélange of genres, stirring action, slicing swordplay, splendid special effects and a cast of (special effects-generated) thousands of Martians, humanoids and, happily, a giant six-legged canine-slanted slug which becomes attached to Carter, along with a pleasing human cast, John Carter hits the blockbuster spot without asking too much intellectual attention from the audience.

Alan Frank

USA 2012. UK Distributor: Walt Disney. Colour by deluxe.
132 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 03 Mar 2012