...John Carter is a visual effects extravaganza, but Stanton captivates us not only with ground-breaking effects, but by pulling everything together as a cohesive whole. It’s not enough to simply show John Carter zipping around on airships. The airship has to be part of a culture and the culture has to come alive through its representative characters. This is what good epic stories do. They take the time to set up the world and the characters, and only then does the action come alive, as opposed to one CGI thing fighting another CGI thing. And when the action in John Carter comes alive, it’s absolutely spectacular. The 3D doesn’t get in the way, provides a nice depth of field, and the world is so big that an IMAX screening would be worth your time. John Carter the kind of visual feast that only a movie theater can provide.
However, the film is like a Faberge egg. It’s beautiful and well-crafted, but it can shatter if you mishandle it for a second. As I mentioned earlier, John Carter is a balancing act and the film tumbles badly as it comes to the end. For over two hours, John Carter moves at the best pace to suit the story, but the ending moves in flash forward to the point where a series of big events become so condensed that they’re ludicrous. You can almost see the Disney executive off to the side tapping his watch, and saying “Time to wrap it up.”
It’s a jarring and unworthy finish to a vivid and memorable movie-going experience. John Carter is a swashbuckling tale (Carter even uses swords instead of guns) that measures up to and in some ways exceeds the vision of the source material, Edgar Rice Burroughs‘ 1917 novel, A Princess of Mars. Andrew Stanton has taken an old-fashioned adventure and given it a high-tech body. John Carter is visually stunning, thoughtfully constructed, and most importantly, the film is grand, goofy, old-fashioned fun.