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Critical Beat: John Carter (of Mars?)

Day two of my being off work and I took the opportunity to go see John Carter.  I’m keeping the “of Mars” in my title because I think that’s how it should have remained; it was removed to create a greater appeal for mass audiences.  This obviously failed because when I told my roommate I saw the movie she said “isn’t’ that the one about the cavemen?”



I would very much like to say something good about this movie.  It wasn’t awful as some critics are suggesting.  But it also wasn’t special in any way.  The movie starts off slightly confusing.  First we’re on Mars, then in New York in 1881 where we see a telegraph being sent by John Carter to someone named Ned, then we meet his nephew Edgar and John Carter is dead (but when?), followed by a tale from 1867, and now back to Mars.  And it’s when we get back to Mars that the movie begins to be enjoyable.

On Mars it is your solid “Hero out of place” adventure story.  In all actuality, the John Carer novels (written by Edgar Rice Burroughs) created the genre.  It only seems like the same old story because so many movies have done it since then.  And why not?  It works.  And it still works in this movie, to a point.

Everyone loves to see a hero rise from adversity.  When a normal man overcomes a hardship and finds something worth living for, we feel we can do the same.  That is what John Carter is about.  Problem is, you first have to care about your characters  in order to relate to them.  And that is where this movie falls flat.  Amongst all of the grandeur of Barsoom (a.k.a. Mars) the writers forget that a story is about people first and events seconds.  Events shape people.  If we don’t care about the people we won’t care about the event.  From the hero to the villains, we get no since of motivation for their actions throughout the entire movie.  Which is disappointing because that is what prevents this movie from being memorable.  At its best this is a fun little movie, but nothing more.  It will only be remembered as that space movie about cavemen.



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