Movie Review: John Carter

I realize that I’m getting to this one a little late, considering that it’s been out for almost a week, and I would have seen it sooner, but you can blame work and my adamant refusal to watch it in 3D, which severely limited my viewing options. But I finally saw it last night. It’s movies like these that always leave me in awe, awe that so much money went into something where absolutely nothing interesting happened. John Carter is a typical science fiction movie with typical science fiction everything. It adds nothing new to the viewing experience.

I haven’t read the books this was based off, so please keep that in mind, but I can only hope the books at least took the time to develop the setting and characters, instead of throwing them in our faces and telling us to be invested in them. Movies don’t have hundreds of pages to flesh things out; they only have a few hours, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t at least try. John Carter left me wondering why I should care for any of it.

Let’s talk about John Carter, for example, our hero. He starts off as a bum punishing himself while trying to get filthy rich by means of a gold cave. Why does he hate himself and refuse to take a side between the Americans and the Native Americans and hate them both? Well, I can’t tell you that; the reason might be interesting, after all. His wife and child are dead and he thinks it’s his fault, or I think he thinks it’s his fault. I’m not too sure on that. Do their deaths have anything to do with him not rejoining the army? Maybe, but in this case, emotional trauma, dead family, and warring conflict are surprisingly not linked to each other. He just ends up on Mars and discovers his ability to jump fifty feet in the air. This is a nifty ability. Apparently, being able to jump really high makes him able to fly space ships, understand instant messaging, heal bullet wounds in the course of a few hours (or maybe the director forgot he got shot in the ass), duel-wield alien swords, and defeat entire armies, all the while falling in love in the course of a day, which brings me to my next point:

There’s no sense of time in this.

He goes to Mars, fights some alien humans that night, meets the love interest who will henceforth be called Princess Jasmine, falls in love, becomes the leader of a nation, goes to war and wins the war, and marries Jasmine before the next night is over. The end. Oh, and then apparently ten years pass.

Jasmine herself is loathsome. She is the generic love interest for John to feel really bad about liking because he’s still emotionally unattached to his first wife. And despite Jasmine’s ability to fight and take care of herself, she spends the entire movie in the damsel-in-distress role, dangling helplessly at heights so John can save her numerous times with his jumping ability. Jasmine herself ran away from Agrabah in order to avoid marrying an evil man to create a peace treaty between their warring countries. I suppose I could argue that she knew full well that the other country was going to take over hers regardless, but the film’s insistence in putting her in the damsel role over and over again leaves me very unforgiving. That and her inability to dress properly. When wearing the wedding dress of her evil fiancé’s mother she says it’s too vulgar for her tastes, you know, because evil people are skanks and she was so entirely not scantily clad for the whole hour and a half beforehand in her midriff and upper-thigh revealing battle outfit. So she enlists the begrudging help of John Carter, a four-armed alien chick, and the only good character in the film, a froglike dog with super speed to help her human country fight off the other human country.

There are actually three sides on Mars. We’ve got the green aliens with four arms who hate humans yet cheer when John becomes their new leader, and then we’ve got the two human sides trying to kill each other. The war was started by a Sherlock Holmes villain with the power to shape shift. He and his ignited the war because they manage the destruction of planets for some unexplained reason. But how did they start the war? I know how they turned it in favor of the bad guys who are evil because every story needs an antagonist. But why do they hate each other? Racism seems to be a pretty big deal in this movie when it doesn’t get in the way of that pesky plot and conveniently disappear, but even during the battles I had no idea what was happening. Agrabah and Evil Land have the exact same culture and architecture as each other to the point where if the movie didn’t specifically tell me which country we were in, I wouldn’t have known. I also don’t know why Jasmine and hers are the good guys and why I should cheer for them.

I suppose I could also go into how the beginning of the movie had no bearing on anything outside being able to wrap everything up in a neat little bow, but I’ll stop now. This is not a movie I recommend.

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