A 100 years after the first appearance of John Carter, the heroic protagonist of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ 11-volume Barsoom series of novels (1912–43), the character gets a live action movie courtesy Disney Films. John Carter is directed by director/writer Andrew Stanton, who has previously only directed animated movies, and stars Taylor Kitch, Lynn Collins, Samantha Morton, Dominic West & Willem Dafoe. On a $250 million dollar budget, the movie has so far only made $271.4 million, which would make it a flop. I think the way the movie is structure the audience finds it difficult to follow the storyline and get involved with the characters. It seems quite rushed. However there are some enjoyable moments & visual effects to the film.
John Carter is a a former Confederate Army cavalry officer, who has become an eccentric and wealthy scholar-adventurer. On his sudden death in 1881, his nephew Edgar Rice Burroughs becomes his sole heir and has the body, in accordance with his uncle’s instructions, put in a mausoleum, which can only be unlocked from the inside. Edgar reads his uncle’s journal which tells the young man as to the reason for such actions. The films flashes back to 1868 where a younger John having had violent fights with both the 7th Cavalry and the local Apache Indians, shelters in a cave where he finds a large quantity of gold. He is attacked by a strange man, revealed to be a White Martian Thern, and on killing him John accidentally activate’s the latter’s medallion which transports him to Barsoom (which is what the Martians call their planet). Now Mars isn’t the dead planet we think it is but a dying one inhabited by warring civilizations with great airships.
Due to the planet’s low gravity & his human higher bone density Carter is able to jump fantastically high and throw killer punches more powerful than he could have ever imagined back on earth. He is however captured by giant, four-armed Green Martian Tharks and taken to their leader king Tars Tarkas. The red Martian (with humanoid skin & blue blood) live on the two major cities of Helium and Zodonga and the two cities have been at war for over a 1000 years. The king of Zodonga, Sab Than, is now armed with a special power ray gun like weapon given to him by the Therns (why they want to side with the Zodongans is not explained), and proposes a cease-fire and an end to the war by marrying the Princess of Helium Dejah Thoris, thereby uniting the two cities. Although her father the king of Helium agrees, Dejah does not choose to do so and escapes the city and meets John. Carter, Dejah and Tarkas’s secret daughter Sola escape from Tharks and try to find a way for John to return to earth. At a facility of the Therns, John & Dejah discover information about the Ninth Ray (the special weapon), the medallion and the process by which the Therns teleport from planet to planet.
On their way out from the facility the Thern leader Matai Shang and his minions, the Green Martians of Warhoon, attack the trio and John fights off wave & wave of warriors until it becomes too much even with his newly formed strength. After the fight, Carter is captured by troops from Helium and taken back with Dejah, while Sola escapes. Dejah reluctantly agrees to marry Sab Than so she can give John a medallion and set him free. Carter decides to stay and in doing so is captured by the shape-shifting Shang, who tells him about the secret purposes of the god-like Therns and their age-old manipulations of the histories of civilizations on different planets. With the help of Sola, Carter escapes and goes to the Tharks camp to ask for help. There he finds that Ta Hajus has taken over as leader and he captures Carter & Sola. Tarkas, Carter, and Sola are subjected to a gladiatorial contest with two gigantic white Martian apes. After defeating them and killing Hajus, Carter is acclaimed leader of the Tharks.
With a vast army of Tharks advances on Zodanga, then on Helium, and defeats the Zodangian army, killing Sab Than and informing the citizens of Helium about the plans of the Therns & the Zodangans. Carter then marries Dejah himself and becomes king of Helium. At night after he decides to stay on in Barsoom with Dejah as his bride, he throws away the medallion, only for Shang to reemerge from hiding and banishes him to Earth. Without a medallion to return to Mars, Carter spends 10 years looking for signs of Thern activity on Earth. He acquired wealth & a good standing but no medallion. So now, on his death he has given Ned clues about how to open the mausoleum which Ned goes to do. As Ned approaches the mausoleum, Shang who was spying on Carter approaches from behind to kill him but is instead shot to death by Carter who was hiding nearby. He has faked his death to bring Shang out in the open and get a medallion from him. Entrusting his nephew with his earthly belongings, Carter shuts himself in the mausleum and transports back to Mars to be with his love.
Confusing? It seems like a lot happening in one movie. I think they should have done a 2 parter or something, giving the characters room to breath and time to fleshen out their development. Instead we get a rushed movie that was doomed to fail despite a big budget and some awesome effects. Oh and a monster kinda creature that turns out to be an overgrown puppy-dog like thing that attaches itself to Carter. I still liked it enough to give it a 7 outta 10!