John Carter (2012) – 3.5/5

A terrible first act gives way to a pretty good action film all in all, despite some moments of stupidity and cliché here and there. Certainly not the worst movie I’ve ever seen, not by any stretch, and definitely not deserving of all the crap it’s gotten. It’s a good action film; fun, exciting, beautiful, decently acted, and, save the first 30 minutes or so, pretty enjoyable overall. Even the CGI was pretty good, which is no easy feat given just how much of it there is. Definitely not as terrible as I was expecting, not terrible at all actually. Well, maybe just a little.

The beginning of the film is pretty bad. It’s choppy and all over the place, going from random setting to random setting until you just stop giving a damn about anything that’s going on. At one point you’re following the main character, (the handsome unemotional guy from Friday Night Lights who isn’t much of an actor but works here for some reason), but then he suddenly disappears and is replaced by a completely different guy for about 20 minutes, then you’re back with the main character in another setting doing something different. What the hell! Just get to Mars already. I don’t care about this cowboy gunslinger Civil War crap! It’s boring and stupid and could have easily been cut to make room for the more interesting stuff, especially considering how long the movie ultimately is. There’s no reason for this movie to be longer than two hours. None. Especially with a beginning like that.

Anyway, once we get to Mars, things start to pick up. But man is it a slog to get through until then. They really ought to have just started the thing with him already on Mars. I just can’t get over how terrible the first half hour of this movie is. What were they thinking starting it like that? I have a feeling the reason this movie got so much crap is because of this terrible beginning. It’s the type of thing that really makes you want to leave the theater. Or burn it down.

Mars is much better though. The world is interesting and the crazy characters are unique and colorful, and not badly animated, though they’re not perfect, but what CGI is? And the action scenes are pretty cool and engaging. Some of them look fake, as though they were shot on a green screen, which they were, but others are actually pretty dang exciting. There’s definitely a lot of heart and passion here, and all around good film-making, despite the occasional questionable choice. Can’t win them all.

There are also the occasional lapses in logic and character consistency, like how **SPOILERS** they really try to shove the notion of the main character being a good guy down our throats, even if it means his behaving in a rather haphazard manner most of the time. He just arrived on the planet, doesn’t know anything about it, yet doesn’t hesitate to go out of his way to save some random red woman falling from a giant flying machine? And he’s all determined never to fight on anyone’s behalf again, yet when the life of said mysterious red woman is held in the balance moments after he’s met her, he suddenly goes against these beliefs without a second thought? He doesn’t even know the woman!

Or why is it that, sometimes, he can cut through dozens of those green four armed people with ease, and other times, he can be grabbed and tossed about by just one, or somehow become chained and held prisoner by them, or be otherwise at their mercy, even when the movie has established countless times how easy it is for him to break free from just about anything and anyone? And why did the green people so quickly and easily agree to follow him into war despite his having savagely butchered a huge portion of them just a few days earlier? Did they just forget about that little incident of mass slaughter? And what’s with his jumping? Sometimes it’s just a few feet, other times it’s several miles. What gives?**END SPOILERS** It doesn’t make sense.

Ultimately, the movie is pretty inconsistent, but more good than bad. The world created here is rich and interesting, and, save the beginning and a few schmaltzy and/or stupid moments here and there, fun to watch. The acting is pretty decent all around, even from the lead who thankfully isn’t required to do all that much here other than pose and look heroic/pretty. It doesn’t take much skill, but it works.

I also liked the fact that they used so many TV actors in this: there’s the guy from “The Wire,” Bryan Cranston from “Breaking Bad,” the guys who played both Julius Ceasar and Mark Antony in “Rome” who also, hilariously, play essentially the same roles here that they did on the show. The actor who played Mark Antony especially is great; you can tell he had a blast in the role.

So, yeah, a decent movie; nothing great or spectacular, but not terrible either. It’s a lot more good than bad, and there’s certainly a lot that is worth watching, just make sure to close your eyes and cover your ears for the first half hour, and at a few other parts here and there throughout. Watch.

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