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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

John Carter (3D) | Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Willem Dafoe, Mark Strong | Review

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  3_Chicks_Small Jacqueline Monahan

Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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John Carter  (3D) | Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Willem Dafoe, Mark Strong | Review

Edgar Rice Burroughs’ 1912 pulp novel series (John Carter of Mars) comes to the big screen in a big way with CGI effects, battle scenes, 3-D camera work, and a princess – don’t forget the princess.

There is unrest on the planet Barsoom (Mars).  Citizens of Zodango fight the citizens of Helium.  Helium fights the Tharks, green skinned, lanky giants with tusks and four arms.  Tharks don’t fly so they’ll fight anyone who does.  Seems no one gets along on the angry red planet.

In the middle of all this drops Civil War soldier John Carter (Taylor Kitsch).  No stranger to tragedy, Carter’s wife and child are dead and he’s wanted by military authorities.  He comes across a glowing medallion in a cave and gets teleported to a strange desert-like landscape with gravity thin enough to give him the power to jump like a kangaroo on steroids, literally able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.  Superman was just a copycat.

Promptly captured by the green-skinned Tharks led by Tars Tarkus (Willem Dafoe), Carter learns of the humanoid wars, meets a Helium princess (no, she doesn’t talk like she inhaled some of the stuff) learns how to be a first-class warrior, falls in love, and always tries to retrieve the medallion that can transport him back to Earth.

Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) is being pushed into a political marriage with a Zodangan king she doesn’t love.

Bad guy Matai Shang (Mark Strong) a Holy Thern is a shape shifter who simply seeks the destruction of all of Barsoom’s races.

Armies clash, swords slash and Carter jumps for his love (with apologies to the Pointer Sisters) in this epic extraterrestrial tale about superiority, discrimination, and domination.  We’re not even talking humans here, so poor Carter who has just left a civil war, finds himself embroiled in one all over again.

There’s much more to the plot, but unfortunately, not a lot to get excited about other than some decent visuals and landscapes.

Taylor Kitsch plays Carter as a cardboard cutout more than a hero, and Lynn Collins is adequate as Princess Dejah.  The trouble is that adequate has no place in an epic, where the minimum response should at least be above average interest in the proceedings.  If you catch yourself yawning or looking at your watch, something’s wrong.

Director Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, WALL-E) tries to cram too much story into the two-hour+ film, a result of straying into material from later novels in the series.  There can be such a thing as too much exposition, too many fights, and too much action.  The result is a glazed audience instead of an enthusiastic one.  This is Stanton’s debut as a live action director, which may be why the visuals are so much better than the actors.

Younger video game aficionados will probably like this better than purists, who will no doubt invoke that old literary battle cry, “the book was better.”

And it only took 250 million dollars to find that out.

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