Movies: John Carter

My husband had heard a very positive review of this movie from a friend. He also had enjoyed reading the books by Edgar Rice Burroughs when he was a boy. He thought it was the kind of movie we might want to end up getting on DVD – but we wanted to see it first, so we rented it yesterday.

I had read none of the books by Burroughs – and hadn’t even heard of his books about John Carter on Mars. So I had no particular opinion about it ahead of time – other than that the title sounded pretty lackluster.

For the first half of the movie, I found it more confusing than anything else. I couldn’t keep track of who the different groups of Martians were, and which ones were fighting over what.

It got better once I managed to figure out more of the plot and the different characters’ motivations. I’m not sure I would care about seeing it again, but it was reasonably enjoyable.

What was interesting was reading various reviews of it at imdb.com afterward. Some reviews are so over-the-top in praise of the movie’s greatness that one comment suggested that they were planted there by the studio to make the movie look good. Others complained it was boring, with one-dimensional characters and stilted dialogue.

As usual, I think the reality is somewhere in the middle. There may be details that I missed that I would catch on a subsequent viewing, that would make some aspects of it clearer or give greater depth to its story and characters. But not enough, I think, that I have any great interest in watching it again, at least not anytime soon.

I don’t feel particularly motivated, either, to read the books, though I would be more inclined to do that than watch the movie over. The action is apparently not nearly as compressed as in the movie, giving far more time for Carter to adapt to the strange new world he finds himself on. I have always been interested in stories examining different cultures, so that aspect I would find interesting.

There are movies that have successfully put more focus on that aspect of travel between worlds, but I imagine it is harder to pull off than a film where the viewer’s attention is riveted on the action. John Carter isn’t bad at all. It just isn’t great.

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