Mars is a planet not airless or dead but dying, yet inhabited by a variety of species that not unlike Earth have their social issues. Sab Than (Dominic West) is a red man chosen by the goddess to covet her weapon on his arm and use it to conquer Helium, a colony ruled by Tarlos Mors (Ciaran Hinds) and his beautiful daughter Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins).
New York City 1881, Edgar Rice Burroughs (Daryl Sabara) is summoned by his Uncle John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) to come to his estate since he needs his assistance immediately. When Edgar arrives he discovers that his Uncle has died and requested no embalming of his body, no viewing, no funeral but to be locked in a crypt marked ‘Inter Mundos’ with no key holes to ever enter. Edgar begins to read his Uncle’s diary, a 13 year old story that dates back to Fort Grant Outpost in 1868 where he is running from the cavalry led by Colonel Powell (Bryan Cranston) later to be chased by the Apache tribe. Eventually hiding out in a golden cave Carter is attacked by a strange man known as a Thern (Phil Cheadle) which eventually leads Carter thrust through time on to Mars.
Unsure where he is Carter soon adapts to his new surroundings, discovering that he has developed super human powers somehow which soon comes in handy for his own defense. He is greeted, not in a friendly method by a group of Tharks, odd looking creatures that have horns, long tall bodies and four arms, in addition to many other non-human features. Once they discover he can jump they take him back to their colony and throw him to Sola (Samantha Morton) to keep an eye on him. That proved not to be an easy task rather getting her in trouble with her colony. Although Carter soon creates a bond with man’s best friend, a strange yet lovable large beast that acts like an Earth dog having the capabilities to run faster than a bullet at times.
There is a battle going on between the red men led by Sab, and the people located in Barsoom a city of Helium. If Helium falls than so does Barsoom but as a token for their survival Sab asked Tarlos for his daughters hand in marriage. Dejah not wanting to abide by her father’s wishes in order to save the city runs away, eventually falling into the arms of the man who can jump, Carter. This is right about where the romance appears in the story between a fair skinned white ape known as Carter and a beautiful princess of Helium. As Carter once wanted to return to his native planet, Earth, he soon finds himself wanting even more so to stay and be with Dejah Thoris.
Soon Carter, Dejah and Sola along with their faithful dog set off on an adventure to discover Isis searching for answers to their questions of the medallion Carter carries from the Thern along with how to stop a war before it begins. Carter was too late once in his past when it came to the ones he loved and he promises not to be this time on Mars. Soon though Sab offers his life to the Princess in return for her hand in marriage which would assure the safety of her people. But can Sab truly be trusted?
In a turn of events Tars Tarkas (William Dafoe), recent leader of the Tharks and Carter are fighting for their lives against the true great white apes, not one but two. They later discover that if Helium falls so does Barsoom of course and what better way to invade the city than by trap and a large wedding may just do the trick. In a fight to the finish John Carter of Earth ends up changing his mind becoming John Carter of Mars, a planet fifty million miles from his home on Earth. In the end, in a turn of events, twists and turns, Carter finds himself trapped once again in a ten year search for another medallion that will lead him back to where he knows he belongs.
The director truly brings an interesting novel to life making this film interesting most of the time but a little slow at others. It is higher on dialogue and story rather than action and at times it was tough to keep up with the characters especially their names. Although the writing is well done so much of the story reminded me a bit of “Avatar” or should I say “Avatar” reminded me of this story. Either way the sets, scenery, photography, score and costumes are all brilliant and beautifully featured. Not sure if it was in our screening copy but in one jail scene I did notice a mic drop from above although sometimes it’s just the theatre sizing that made this happen and not the editing. Overall I though the story had a number of holes in it and left me wondering about a few things like what were those little hatched creatures and why did the Tharks not fly?
Kitsch does some good work physically in the fight scenes as well as fulfilling a woman’s fantasy with his moderately chiseled body but even as an actor he tends to pull off this macho big screen character out to save the good from the bad. Collins not only looks good throughout the story she too really was able to hold her own in many of the action scenes while still composing a beautiful figure. In her defense of costumes yes less is truly more! West was a strong bad guy out to win the hand of the Princess all along in the meantime plotting to destroy her world. Hinds does not have a huge role by no means but does a nice job other than playing a bit of a ruler not willing to fight for his family honor let alone that of his colony. Most of the other main characters were Tharks that were nicely played by several actors not only giving them a voice but character as well. I must say that I enjoyed this film although a bit lengthy it left me at times a bit confused but entertained for sure. Hands down though besides the main actors and the beautifully done special effects and 3D it is the dog that although silly at times truly wins best in show. Written and enjoyed with two and half paws out of four, I’m Jon Patch.