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Lynn Collins and Taylor Kitsch star in Disney's "John Carter," out March 9. Photo courtesy of Disney Enterprises, Inc.Disney’s newest big-budget film, “John Carter,” seems at first to be a decent movie. Based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “A Princess of Mars,” the title character finds himself accidentally space-traveling from Earth to the planet of Barsoom (aka Mars). After being thrust onto the new planet, Carter finds he has superhuman strength and can literally leap buildings in a single bound.
However, the movie fails to mesh its fairly impressive special effects with the lackluster story. We first meet Carter (played by Taylor Kitsch of “Friday Night Lights” fame) as a down-and-out former Civil War hero on a search for gold.
Opens: March 9
Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Willem Dafoe
Final Grade: C
We’re soon transported, with Carter, to the sandy, dying planet we know as Mars. After a pretty comical scene of Carter falling on his face attempting to learn his new talents, he meets a green, six-armed alien Tars Tarkas (voiced by Willem Dafoe). Tarkas is intrigued by Carter’s jumps, so he saves him from being captured by the other Tharks.
After Carter shows his leaping ability against Than’s space ships, we meet the planet’s princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”). Together, she and Carter, along with Tarkas’ daughter, Sola, hatch a plan to overthrow Than and get Carter back to Earth. There’s a mild speed bump when sparks fly, so to say, between Carter and the princess.
The multitude of fight scenes are staged on the exceptionally crafted planet of Barsoom, from the Tharks’ sacred cave to a moving city to the princess’ home city of Helium. The visuals provide a perfect ground for the film’s many battles, but the writers fall short of keeping the complicated background information from the books entertaining, and the whole movie lacks heart. Even the love story doesn’t feel just right — the princess is substantially more interesting as a fierce warrior than a doting lover.
Those who hoped “John Carter” would make Kitsch a frequent leading man in big-budget action flicks shouldn’t get their hopes up. There’s no doubt he’s a talented actor from his time on “Friday Night Lights,” but for whatever reason, his portrayal of Carter doesn’t impress.
On the bright side, Collins’ costumes show a lot of leg, and Kitsch doesn’t wear a shirt for an hour and a half.