Disney’s John Carter was released March 9 by Andrew Stanton—director of “Finding Nemo” and “WALL-E.” The story is based on Edgar Rice Burrough’s “Barsoom” series. This action-adventure-fantasy seems to be what you get when you cross “Star Wars” with “Prince of Persia.” There are aliens, spacecrafts, ridiculous stunts and a nearly cliché plot. Yet, despite these negative appearances, the movie was surprisingly entertaining with its classic Disney themes of love, determination and hope against all odds.
John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) is a former confederate soldier who finds himself accidentally transported to Mars, or Barsoom as the martians call it. With the astonishing ability to leap incredible distances, he quickly becomes of interest to the inhabitants of Mars, which include Tharks—ruthless four armed creatures—as well as martians of the cities Helium and Zodanga. These two cities have been at war and Sab Than, Prince of Zodanga, (Dominic West) has acquired a powerful weapon by mysterious enforcers of the solar system. In order to prevent the razing of his city, the king of Helium offers his daughter’s hand in marriage to the San Than. As a result, the soon to be wed Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) seeks Carter’s help after witnessing his astonishing abilities. Thus, the earth foreigner, at first only motivated by the desire to return home, is chosen the unlikely hero of this tale.
Despite the seeming ridiculous pairing of a confederate veteran and the ritualistic yet advanced technologies of the martians, this film is well formatted in balancing the themes of family, love and determination. Not only is the film attractive with the visual effects which include gigantic monsters, spaceship explosions, and brutal battles, there is also a sensitivity to the characters themselves. Carter has during the war lost his wife and child. Furthermore, the same discord and loving ties on earth are also present on Mars. Promises are made and forgiveness is administered as all the inhabitants of Mars witness the potential destruction of their home planet.
There are cliché moments, however, that push the film into less serious situations such as the damsel in distress, promised to a man she does not love. However, the comic relief and completeness of the story seem to compensate this. Furthermore the film is not without twists and suspense. Carter finds himself against impossible odds with the forces of fate. As both a flawed and charming character, it is easy to cheer for him as he confronts, outwits and puts on a spectacular array of stunts.
Overall, the film was highly entertaining, perhaps due to the fact that the absurdity of the situation jump starts an adventure in a completely different world with its own species, customs and cultures. Like Carter, the viewer too is transported to a different time and place where space crafts fly on light and mysterious figures of fate can take on any shape they please. As a result, John Carter portrays a vast new setting of Mars while keeping in tacked very human struggles of war, family and power. In the end, it seems we are not so different than the alien forms on a planet that once seemed so far away.