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A Movie Review on John Carter (2012)

Updated on January 9, 2014
Theatrical Poster for John Carter
Theatrical Poster for John Carter | Source

John Carter is based off of the 1917 novel A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The novel is the first in a series of 11 that was published from 1917 to 1964. Filmmakers have been trying to develop a movie based on John Carter for almost 30 years until Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, Toy Story) pitched his version to Disney and was signed on to write and direct the film. John Carter was released on March 9th 2012 to mediocre reviews. After running its course in theaters John Carter is now considered one of the biggest box office flops, causing Disney to lose around $200 million.

There are many possibilities on what caused John Carter to become such a massive box office disappointment. The marketing department could have been to blame with the film not reaching the type of awareness that a large blockbuster like John Carter should have. The source material was not as well known as many other adaptions, which along side the weak marketing for the movie led to many people not knowing the movie was coming out, and left others not knowing what the movie was even about. John Carter also didn't have any big named stars they could lean on for a larger draw of ticket sales. Numerous things could have been the cause its box office disappointment. I know I had wanted to see it opening weekend, but between school, work and other movies that I wanted to see I was never able to see John Carter.

With John Carter currently out on Blu-ray and DVD I was finally able to get the opportunity to see it. Contrary to the mediocre reviews, and the fact that it is considered one of the biggest box office bombs, I thought the movie was done quite well, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Although it does have a few drawbacks the movie does not match the numbers and stigma that it carries along with it.

The movie follows John Carter, played by Taylor Kitsch, a civil war vet who mysteriously ends up on Mars after discovering a unknown man and device inside of a cave. On Mars he comes across unique inhabitants and a Princess who desire his help to save their planet. He must choose between going home or saving an entire world.

Screen shot from John Carter (2012)
Screen shot from John Carter (2012) | Source

I was not familiar the source material or the story prior to watching the movie. I only really knew about the film from the trailers and TV spots that I saw. I found the story to be slightly confusing at times, and luckily had my brother around who had both read the novel and saw the movie already, and was able to fill me in when I got a little lost. Many of the negative reviews for the film noted that the story was confusing and hard to follow at times so I'm glad I'm not the only one this has happened to. I feel that the movie should have been a little longer than it was, since there were a few scenes where I felt the movie just jumped right into the middle of, with no explanation of how or why it got there. Making the movie a little longer would have allowed the filmmakers the right about of time to explain certain things to the audience.

Other than this, I thought the story was great and actually want to go and read A Princess of Mars. We are introduced to an entire new world, new inhabitants, new customs, new lifestyle and new problems. You can definitely see where Avatar got its inspiration from. Even when the movie hit its slow points it was the story that kept you engaged. You wanted to know what was going to happen next, what John Carter was going to do, etc.

The visuals and effects are absolutely astounding. You can tell a lot of time and money was put into this movie in order to get the look of Mars, the airships, the inhabitants, and the white apes to look fantastic. The action scenes are also very impressive, with the sword fights being done quite well. The area fight that pitted Carter against two giant white apes, the scene that was used in much of the trailers and TV spots, was one of the best action scenes in the film, which is probably why they choose to use it for much of their promotions.

Screen shot of John Carter and Princess Dejah in  John Carter
Screen shot of John Carter and Princess Dejah in John Carter | Source

Taylor Kitsch as John Carter seemed like a perfect choice and I thought he did a great job in the role. I really feel bad for him. He's a fairly decent actor and yet he has been in two huge box office bombs this year, John Carter and Battleship, which are both really good movies that just did not reach the interest or awareness of general audiences. Lynn Collins, who plays Princess Dejah Thoris, perfectly fits the role of a beautiful princess and also does a great job in the acting department as well. Dominic West, who plays Sab Than, equals the performances of Kitsch and Collins, providing a very charismatic villain.

John Carter is a very well done fantasy epic with great visual effects and an engaging, but sometimes confusing story. The movie does not match up with its mediocre reviews and terrible box office numbers. It's definitely worth a viewing and will hopefully find a bigger audience on Blu-ray and DVD.


John Carter was released on Blu-ray and DVD on June 5th 2012

Directed by Andrew Stanton. Starring Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Dominic West, Mark Strong, William Dafoe, James Purefoy, and Bryan Cranston.

Rated PG-13. Runtime: 132 Minutes


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    • Reynold Jay profile image

      Reynold Jay 5 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan

      In that it did not cater at all to ten year olds may have been the problem bringing in the box office numbers. I was reminded of the terrific production that I see in all the Lucas Star Wars movies. They were definitely influenced by the Lucas films. They maybe should have thought about who the audience for this might be and they might have changed a few things. Star Wars brings in the numbers because of the G rating and the catering to kids.

      Now they did have that cute doglike creature that may have been an attempt to bring in the kiddies, however it was not enough. I suspect they figured they’d cater to an adult audience, and the numbers are not going to be that big when they do that. This means that a huge adult audience attended the film and they must have liked it intensely as the box office tells us that.

      I think that you and I should help these people figure out how to make money and take these things into account before they start filming.

      One more note: you are young and can find direction for your writing skills. I did read your profile and I can see that you very likely have the talent to write horror, paranormal etc. and I can tell you that script writers earn an average of $175,000 a year. I wish I had done that as I love to write and would like to be connected to the world of script writers. I can also advise that writing a novel is the wild card of writing and that is NOT a way to go.


    • Richard Perazzo profile image

      Richard Perazzo 5 years ago from Shirley, NY

      And you got to take into account all the money they spent promoting the movie. It's really a shame that it didn't find the audience that they were hoping for. It's a great film.

    • Reynold Jay profile image

      Reynold Jay 5 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan

      This movie was my number one pick for the year. It actually did make money for the producers taking in $282 million and costing around $200 million although I have seen different figures on the cost. In that it was expensive to produce is what caused all the tempers to flair. Had they brought it in at $100 million or so, everyone would have been happy. It’s difficult to imagine that a film taking in $282 million would be labeled a “flop,” as most films do not achieve figures anywhere near this figure. The winner is the viewer who is treated to first rate production values in an imaginative story in which nothing is quite like it. It is wondrous that E.R. Burroughs dreamed up all of this at the turn of the century. Oh—the 3D is comparable to Avatar, absolutely stunning.