Film review: John Carter (four out of five stars)

John Carter of Mars.
John Carter of Mars.
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(12A) 132 mins

Director: Andrew Stanton

Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Willem Dafoe, Mark Strong

THE first of the year’s big block-busters is out with this intriguing Disney science fantasy based on Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burrough’s Barsoom (his name for Mars) series of stories.

In fact, in a nice touch, Burroughs is brought into the film as the nephew of Carter.

I was lucky enough to be one of the guests at the IMAX launch at Cineworld Crawley with John Carter in glorious large screen, pin-sharp 3D and a sound system that makes you feel part of the movie.

Such a great viewing system can, of course, divert your attention away from the film itself but even on a ‘normal’ screen this would still be a fun, if slightly overlong, story.

Taylor Kitsch is John Carter, a former American Civil War soldier who is transported to Mars where there is air to breathe and food to drink (despite apparently very little water).

This is true science fantasy so you have to put logic and all the things Professor Brian Cox has been telling us in his TV programmes firmly to one side.

Carter meets 12 foot green inhabitants but escapes, only to get involved with a war involving a beautiful princess (normal sized and not green, but with red tattoos for the ‘red’ planet) and a particularly unpleasant warrior who is controlled by another race.

The plot gets a bit too bogged down in the middle but there’s enough action throughout to drag your attention back.

Kitsch is fine in the main role and Hollywood’s go-to actor for all villains, Mark Strong, puts in yet another decent shift.

Willem Defoe, as one of the 12-foot six-armed aliens, also adds some gravitas to the film.

John Carter doesn’t pretend to be anything more than a action-packed fantasy movie and in this respect comes up trumps, with the 3D working pretty well to enhance the finished product.

Steve Payne

Screening courtesy Cineworld Crawley