John Carter may have flown under the radar for good reason
John Carter is a mess of genres, plotlines and themes, but a completely absorbing mess — perhaps thanks to the 3D visual effects and sweeping landscapes. The film, directed by Andrew Stanton and based on a 1917 novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs, follows the adventures of John Carter (Taylor Kitsch), a 19th century civil war veteran prospecting gold in the American West who transports himself to Mars. Once there, John Carter is thrust into a war between the planet’s two city–states, Helium and Zodanga, for the sake of the Princess of Helium, Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins).
The characters are undeveloped and, with the exception of the young Edgar Rice Burroughs, largely uninteresting. There are small attempts to make them more stimulating — Princess Dejah is a scientist, you guys, who refuses to marry for the wrong reasons! — but overall there’s too much going on and, while the campy, comic book aesthetic may be the point, John Carter’s too beautiful not to be taken seriously.