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3/12/2012 9:01:00 AM
MOVIE REVIEW: John Carter rates high on escapism, low on drama
Photo Credit: DisneyLynn Collins (from left) and Taylor Kitsch in John Carter.
Photo Credit: Disney

Lynn Collins (from left) and Taylor Kitsch in John Carter.

David Kanowsky
Kudos Movie Critic, The Movie Man

John Carter is the name of the main character and the name of the movie. It could as well be titled "Rambo on Mars." John Carter is a puny offshoot of quality films like Avatar and Dances with Wolves.

In 1881, a young man in New York named Ned receives a telegram from his uncle John Carter. Ned is urged to come to see his uncle in Arizona as soon as he can. Ned arrives at the imposing mansion very soon after the uncle has died. All of the John Carter estate has been willed to Ned, including a memoir that is only to be read by the young man. It's the story of John Carter's life after the Civil War. Capt. Carter was a decorated member of the Confederate army.

In 1869 John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) is revealed to us as a loner, a down and out gold miner in Arizona. In a small isolated saloon, the bartender refuses to give him any more credit. When two rough characters begin to mock John Carter, he quickly dispatches them with lightning fast blows.

John is confronted by Union soldiers and he is ordered to help the army fight the Indian tribes in the area. John refuses and is jailed but he escapes and pursues his quest for gold. In a cave he finds a medallion with strange carvings and a strange glowing center.

When he touches the glowing jewel he is transported to a strange place he doesn't recognize. He tries to walk about, but keeps stumbling. The problem is that he is on the planet Mars where gravity is lighter than on earth. He quickly learns he can bound over great heights and distances, almost like flying.

John is confronted with inhabitants who are 10 or more feet tall, with horns and four arms each. They speak a language that John cannot understand. But a basis for civility quickly emerges and eventually John can converse with them. It is in English, but we can assume he has learned the native tongue and the English is for our convenience.

This tribe is being threatened with extinction by another group of Martians who are superior in their weaponry, especially flying warplanes that are reminiscent of the Lockheed Lightning P-38 of WWII (on Earth). A third tribe is also being annihilated by the belligerents. In that tribe, all the members are human in appearance and they speak with a British accent (huh?). The beautiful Princess Dejah (Lynn Collins) is being offered in marriage to the leader of the conquerors to save the lives of the remaining tribe members. Dejah escapes and eventually teams up with John Carter. They argue, fight, love, fight and love again while trying to save the planet.

There is a continuous stream of action events in John Carter. John keeps battling overwhelming odds to emerge unscathed and undeterred from his mission. Between scenes of John single-handedly beating hordes of warriors and never touched by their arrows or bullets, he is captured and jailed several times. But he manages to escape each time and repeat a battle scene with lots of noise, explosions, fire and aircraft crashing and burning.

It's a bit strange to see places on Mars where there is ample water (filmed on Lake Powell), beautiful Arizona and Utah red rocks, and plenty of air to breathe. However, that list of anomalies fits in with the fantasy of the entire film. John Carter is escapism at its highest level and drama at its lowest!

John Carter is at Harkins Sedona 6 Theater.

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