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(PG-13; 132 min) John Carter is precisely the film many film makers have brushed up against on a late December holiday banquet. It’s the attention grabbing twice-hammered talker, full of fantastical stories seemingly too massively exaggerated to entirely understand with one mere human drink and one Willem Dafoe voiced alien character. John Carter film provides adventurous cinema goers something beyond our human reality in the form of high science fiction fantasy – it’s escapism done adeptly by “Wall E” director Andrew Stanton.

Set on a planet fairly close to ours

John Carter ReviewGet this – it’s set on Mars, that’s right not earth, alternate reality earth or some version of earth being threatened by an evil known as Sauron. You could compare it to a “Galaxy Far, Far Away” but Star Wars doesn’t exactly include an acknowledgment of the American Civil War does it? That’s where we initially find the main back story to our lead character John Carter (Taylor Kitsch), an incredibly decorated war hero who fought for the Confederacy. Why Confederacy and not the Union? There could be multiple theories to explain this but it’s better left to history tinkerers.

The narrative follows Carter as he violently escapes danger from bar patrons, the post-civil war Union Army and the Apache. Essentially he’s an escapist and he’s constantly running away from himself and others – he refuses to get caught up in an action that will ultimately lead to someone’s demise; his own, a sidekick's or even the strangest alien monster this side of Jabba the Hutt.

John Carter has issues

And yet, Carter finds himself gravitating to danger to save others because somewhere in his dejected being exists a small fire with the understanding of heroism, duty and being a non-jackass. He's not actively on a quest to regain some semblance of humanity; rather he wants to excise the part of him in need of intimacy. It's not that he doesn't enjoy being in a commitment, it's that making a commitment draws consequence.

You see Carter is a reluctant hero of sorts, he's a highly capable fighter, capable of great feats and completely into lead heroine Princess of Helium played by unnatural brunette Lynn Collins, but Carter is battling his inner demons named alcohol withdrawal and a metric ton of guilt – but not from being on the wrong side of the Civil War. The issue of John Carter film and John Carter's personal growth is coming to terms about himself, his relationship to others and the amount of control a person has over life's chaotic conditions.

Special effects junkies or fans of spectacle, will find plenty of goodness sprinkled throughout the 132 minute film. The director is keenly affectionate of the landscape, the ecliptic sense of huge alien-made structures and even the great distance between Mars and Earth. Beautifully shot on Mars-like desert Arizona, the film knows how to balance reality with CGI.

This is a class-A CGI affair and the computer generated characters show realistic emotions too. We should thank director Andrew Stanton for his playfulness with the script and characters, although there is a lot at stake and serious moments, every bit of the story comes off alarmingly charming, inventive, curiously hopeful and sweeter than aspartame.

It’s not Avatar or Star Wars

By now some of you may be familiar with ads pointing at John Carter as a story that pre-Avatared James Cameron’s Avatar and “influenced’ George Lucas’s “Star Wars” universe, and yet, Carter never really steps closely to either of the two products. It’s never even nears the shit-eating grin of Avatar’s obsessive love of nomadic indigenous tribes displaced by the want of “Unobtainium.”

It’s not “Star Wars” in a way that the sheer absurdity is the giddiness that drowns out the improbability of having the villain be the hero’s father – no, John Carter is science fiction fantasy without pestering, prodding morality and slight realism. It’s simply not that type of story. What we have is something focused on adventure, humor and a poor man’s Megan Fox look-alike speaking with a British accent – She sounds like she’s from London!

John Carter is not your cinema savior

John Carter film is based on The Princess of Mars book written by Edgar R. Burroughs, who cleverly inserted himself into his own tale. Burroughs shows up in the film as John Carter’s McLovin-esque nephew played by Daryl Sabara reviewing the hand-written journal of said hero. What strikes this reviewer is the sheer audacity of breaking the fourth wall. John Carter is an entertainment focused product, crafted by people fond of stories and characters.

John Carter is pure popcorn where the viewer is engaged not by spectacle alone, but a careful attentiveness to inventive “alien” cultures, characters and wit. Light on substance and abstraction, John Carter will not please the more jaded film goers or those expecting another evolution of the blockbuster flick – it’s not your cinema savior – it’s John Carter.


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