The Soldier That Goes To Mars

movie poster courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

John Carter is a character developed from famed author, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ 11-volume book series entitled Barsoom. Disney Studios’ adaptation marked the centennial of the character, John Carter portrayed by Canadian actor, Taylor Kitsch (Friday Night LightsBattleship).

The film begins as in introduction to life on Mars- it is not a ‘dead’ planet as previously believed. In fact, it is inhabited by warring civilizations (Helium and Zadango), possessed by a greater power (the Ninth Ray) that can rule or destroy them all. This is all found out upon the death of John Carter when his nephew, a young Edgar Rice Burroughs reads the diary left to him in the will of his late uncle.

During the flashback scene in 1868, the viewer learns that John was a former cavalry officer in the Confederate Army and in a tussle with other infantrymen and the local Apache tribe, John finds himself in a cave with strange hieroglyph-like symbols where he encounters a strange man from Mars whom Carter kills and upon taking the Martian’s medallion, he is inadvertently transported to Barsoom (Mars).

During Carter’s time in Barsoom, he is imprisoned by a group of four-armed aliens called Tharks. While imprisoned, Carter meets the princess of Helium, Dejah Thoris, played by star, Lynn Collins (X-men Origins: Wolverine). The princess has fled her home of Helium after her father promised her hand in marriage to the leader of Zadango, Sab Than played by Dominic West (Mona Lisa Smile, 300).

With the princess now in the protection of John Carter, and her refusal to marry Sab Than for the time-being, villain Matai Shang portrayed by British actor, Mark Strong (Sherlock HolmesThe Green Lantern) tries his best to influence Sab Than who wields the power of the Ninth Ray thanks to Shang.

While a romance begins to blossom between Carter and Dejah, the princess has to choose between Carter and her happiness, and the likely destruction of her people if she does not wed Sab Than. This leads to a battle of epic proportions, vying for the audience to pick a side and root for the underdogs as they participate in a bloody battle for the red planet.

The plot itself is creative and unique- much like Star Wars meets Gladiator, and with a director like Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo and Wall-E) at the helm, Disney had high hopes for the film which had an estimated budget of $250 million. But after mediocre reviews from critics and opening at the box office in the number 2 spot, John Carter has just recently broke even after being in theatres for 24 days- ultimately resulting in Walt Disney Studios’ loss of profit once you factor in the money provided in advertising and merchandise. There were even talks about a sequel being in the works, but that is highly doubtful at this point.

This being said, despite its short-comings at the box office, there is no way I would deter someone from watching this film. It was entertaining, and the CGI-animation in 3D of Mars in, the alien technology, and the Martians was amazing – definitely an aspect that came through on the big screen. It also has something for everyone: there are space creatures for the kids, epic battle scenes for the guys, and a surprisingly genuine love story for the girls whose boyfriends, husbands, brothers, or uncles dragged them see the sci-fi adventure. I’d certainly give John Carter 3 out of 5 stars.

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