A lot's been said about the financial failure of John Carter, but I went into the movie wanting to like it. On paper, it's the kind of story I love - I'm an avid consumer of pulp adventures. And a screenplay by Michael Chabon? Added bonus.
In reality, I couldn't love the movie, although I did enjoy it. Most of its flaws have been well reported - over long, bland villains, a lead that lacks star power - and those are probably true. Taylor Kitsch lacked the secret ingredient of charisma and the twinkle in his eye. Something that James Purefoy's performance had plenty of. Sadly Purefoy was on screen for maybe a few brief minutes. Kitsch was there through the whole movie. Purefoy was, however, for me, the only supporting character to stand out. In fact, thanks to the similarity of costume design between most of the supporting characters, armies and even CGIed characters, I had trouble telling any of them apart. It was like watching a Transformers movie.
John Carter had plenty of the ingredients I love, but the one vital ingredient it seemed to be missing was a sense of fun. The movie didn't need to try and be a comedy, by any means, but everything was so straight faced and earnest. I just felt that more buckles needed to be swashed in the process and the central character's reluctance to play the hero dragged. The aforementioned James Purefoy seems to have been the only one who was really relishing his role and had the playful rogueish element the movie could have done with more of, although Lynn Collins was also a strong Dejah Thoris.
But the elephant in the room was, perhaps, the biggest problem with the movie, in my eyes. The movie's lost a lot of money, yep. And it's lost a lot of money because a lot of money was thrown at it. The film has the reek of over-indulgence. The world-building is rich and detailed, but you can't help but feel that a much smaller budget would have led to a more thrifty screenplay. As it was, the movie was bloated with scenes that could easily have ended up on the cutting room floor and led to a more punchy, and enjoyable, movie.
But when all's said and done, John Carter wasn't a terrible movie by any means. A complete marketing failure, to be sure, but there's plenty I enjoyed about it. But it's not a movie I'll be rushing to pick up on DVD. Worth a look and, despite pulling for it because of the beating it's been getting, I enjoyed it just enough. But I couldn't necessarily recommend it.