John Carter [2012]

Going in, I always have faith in movies like John Carter although they eventually let me down. In a way, this Mars-set western further advances toward achieving what Cowboys and Aliens set out to do. The latest adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s novel A Princess of Mars is a visually arresting, Asian-flavored summer actioner (despite the March release), with touches of light comedy but also too many plot threads, which is almost never a good sign. Despite its very original look, John Carter is the same silly, contrived and generic action movie. As it often happens with films that rely heavily on CGI and other technologies of the sort, it’s not very involving or entertaining. In order to save Mars, or “Barsoom” as it’s called here, Carter (Taylor Kitsch) must join forces with the Tharks, these insect-like, dopey-looking creatures a step up from Jar Jar Binks. Lynn Collins and Kitsch look positively beautiful but their performances are nothing to get excited about. There are a few noteworthy set pieces, though. The climactic wedding scene is one worthy achievement. And a desert fight interspersed with a dark memory of Carter’s past is a moment of brilliance where the editor Eric Zumbrunnen and composer Michael Giacchino really shine.