I don’t want to break this whole scene to dollar signs, but when you’re dealing with a budget in the $250 million range you need to show us something great. Nothing else will do. Those who are familiar with some of the tenets of the Film Cynics will recall that a movie can be considered “great” if it does at least one thing better than any other film, or brings us something we have seen before. John Carter, despite it’s financial and computer generated efforts, does neither.
One of the key elements at play is that while the source material might have been the first out of the gate when it comes to certain sci-fi themes, many films have tread that ground since, so any hopes of novelty are long forgotten. If they hoped to cash in on some kind of nostalgia, they choosing a modern approach was the wrong way to go. Perhaps they could have taken a page out of Captain America’s playbook, and gone all nostalgia all the time. At the very least, Taylor Kitsch’s performance doesn’t engender any kind of reverence for the story’s classic origins.
As for Kitsch, it’s a shame. I’ve spoken with the man directly about the film, and you can see he clearly bought into it. His enthusiasm for the movie was practically dripping from his pores; unfortunately I couldn’t see that conviction on screen. He’s still got a ways to go before he can carry a picture on those British Columbian shoulders of his.
The movie has a number of impressive action set pieces, and the whole jumping around thing is fun to watch, even if the explanations didn’t make too much sense to me. (I mean, if he can jump really high because of a lack of bone density, how the hell was he going toe to toe in combat with the planet’s residents and not breaking his wrist?) In essence, the film had many of the same ingredients that many other scifi action-adventures have – all it was missing was the “secret” ingredient that movies of a certain budget should have: Greatness. And for this reason, it unfortunately defines itself as a failure.