Direction: Andrew Stanton
Actors: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins
Following the delightful animated adventures, Finding Nemo (2003) and WALL-E (2008), director Andrew Stanton strives to broaden his range with his first foray into live action. Utilising standard-issue F/X tricks, he brings to life an array of alien creatures and even humans who drive Edgar Rice Burroughs’s century-old pulp fiction.
Set on the distant red planet of Mars, the tale of the eponymous civil war soldier (Kitsch) caught up in a struggle for freedom and justice is a natural fit for producers Disney.
There’s the generic good-versus-evil conflict, sword-and-sorcery-style acrobatics, not to forget romance with a beautiful warrior-princess (Collins).
Evidently designed to send sci-fi geeks into a tizzy, John Carter serves up an interminable yarn which fails to fully engage or excite. For all the running, leaping and fighting, the intrepid superhero’s exploits are devoid of energy.
Having author Burroughs (Daryl Sabara, lacklustre) read from his own story makes for a clever framing device, but the logic of several sequences is muddled at best. Scientific mumbo-jumbo and platitudes abound. While the dialogue is consistently cringeworthy, sporadic efforts at humour, courtesy a puppy dog sidekick, fall flat.
The performances, including the voice cast led by Willem Dafoe, is uniformly dreadful. Even aficionados of the John Carter mythos will likely deplore this overblown big-screen fantasy. Perhaps director Stanton should revert to animation.