When you spend a whopping $250 million on a blockbuster sci-fi action movie, it's bound to at least look the part. But you need more than pools of money to make a movie of that kind work.
Directed by Andrew Stanton—making his live-action feature film debut after directing such revered Pixar films as Finding Nemo and WALL-E—John Carter is based on the almost 100-year-old Barsoom series of books by Edgar Rice Burroughs, specifically the first installment "A Princess of Mars." Stanton is reportedly a lifelong fan of the stories, and so the chance to direct the first film version must have been beyond exciting. And that love for the material inevitably comes across within the film itself.
However, while it may work for fans of the stories who know all the ins and outs of the characters, the array of diverse creatures and the general world the author set up almost a century ago, it hasn't really been developed into an entirely cohesive spectacle for those none-the-wiser to truly appreciate.
The film follows the titular John Carter, a Civil War veteran who is mysteriously transported one day to the planet Barsoom (that’s Mars to us), where he discovers 12-foot tall inhabitants known as Tharks. He is taken prisoner by them but soon after escaping he crosses paths with a Princess in need of his help to save her city.
Like I said, a quarter of a billion dollars—let me say that again, a quarter of a billion dollars—was spent on the movie and that shows on-screen. Everything looks fantastic, particularly the creatures that inhabit this world that's alien—pun intended—to our eponymous hero. Speaking of which, while there is a sense that this guy is a hero you can root for, he's never really brought to life by the main actor in a way that's all that engaging or involving. Taylor Kitsch—who was terrible as Gambit in the X-Men spin-off X-Men Origins: Wolverine—is very bland and lacks the charisma to carry the role (although I have heard good things about his performance in the TV show Friday Night Lights).