John Carter – 3/5 stars

Following the steps of fellow Pixar alumni Brad Bird, WALL-E and Finding Nemo director Andrew Stanton ventures into his first live-action film with an adaptation of John Carter, based on the novels by pulp fiction author Edgar Rice Burroughs.

We see rogueish Confederate soldier John Carter (played by the relatively unkempt Taylor Kitsch) being mysteriously transported to Mars.  Here, he finds himself embroiled on a planetary war involving sinister (cos, let’s face it; that’s the only type of role we see him in) Mark Strong and the alluring Lynn Collins (who is so shockingly tanned that I’m surprised that she’s not on Strictly).

First things first, Stanton makes Mars an intriguing place.  Like his work in Nemo and WALL-E,  he is able to take a place that can only be dreamt of (in this case; in the perspective of a 19th Century man from Virginia) and bring out the most from Burrough’s novel.  It is understandably hard to compare JC to his Pixar work but Stanton brings imagination and a certain geeky love to the film – a man with flying and superhuman abilities on Mars?  It’s kinda like his own version of Superman.
The visual effects in the film are stunning; the contrasting colours between red skin and blue light is quite pretty and the scenes in Helium are eye-popping, reminiscent of the first time stills of Asgard from Thor were  publicly released.

However, it needs to be remembered that this is essentially a Disney film; everything needs to be of a certain PG level and in effect – as pretty the film is – certain scenes such as the confrontation arena or even the climatic battle were not technically impressive or original.  The cast themselves look like they wish they could do more, giving the impression that they can bring another dimension to their characters, unfortunately with little success.  Kitsch makes a semi-convincing antihero due to the somewhat lacklustre dialogue yet surprising conviction in the action sequences.
Collins tries to pull off being an unconventionally smart and gutsy love interest as Dejah Thoris, but as soon as she changes into a skimpy outfit, she is reduced back to being eye candy (as you do).  Dominic West, Ciarán Hinds and James Purefoy are average – however, the voice actors (Thomas Hadan Church, Willem Defoe and Samantha Morton) who portray members of Martian race Tharks convey some emotion in their performances, making them the only non-one-track-horses in the 132 mins. running time.

The film starts off intriguingly only to be concluded by a rushed and cliché cherry on top and it is easy to find other films that can make a conflict on Mars more….original, but they probably won’t be as entertaining.

All together, John Carter is fun to watch and pretty to look at – just don’t expect too much besides that.

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