The really short review? It’s good. You should see it. No, really. It’s fun. Get a free ticket from Amazon and go.
The slightly expanded review:
Disney’s marketing of this film was terrible. Not bad, not so-so, but terrible. They stripped its original title, John Carter of Mars to the unbelievably generic John Carter and released a series of trailers that did their best to conceal any concept of what the film is about.
Oddly, most of the viewing public didn’t seem to know the fine details of a pulp novel from a century ago, so no one knows what this movie is about… and Disney isn’t telling. Disney really botched this one and the press was ready to eviscerate it. Everyone likes a trainwreck, and the negative coverage was almost gleeful in its smugness.
It’s a shame for them that the movie is actually pretty good.
For those who don’t know: It’s the story of a disillusioned Civil War veteran and widower who is transported to Mars where he is forced to become embroiled – or not – in a Martian civil war. It’s based on a series of books by Edgar Rice Burroughs, who wrote Tarzan, and is pretty much the template on which all serialized sci-fi pulp in the last century was based.
I didn’t love it, but I liked it a lot. It’s well made. It’s pulp fun, with a good script that doesn’t make you want to hide your face in your hands (coughprequelscough). It’s an epic film that also has things like “characters” and “motivation” which is always exciting. The production design and art direction is fantastic.
The characters are complex and interesting. I’ve heard some people complain that the plot is somehow confusing or convoluted, but I can’t imagine how. I’d never read the book and it all made perfect sense to me. It’s an old-fashioned pulp tale that’s not one bit ironic or smug; it’s completely earnest and straightforward. Although it’s missing a certain spark, there is a wry humor to it.
So yes – I’m keeping this short, but you really shouldn’t let the horrifically clueless performance by Disney marketing sour you to this if you’d otherwise be at all interested. It’s certainly not perfect, but what is? It’s fun, it’s well made, and it deserves to be seen.
Also, here’s a picture of Dejah Thoris: