Counterpoint: 5 Reasons Why ‘John Carter’ Is A Disappointing Movie

Published 3 years ago by , Updated March 10th, 2012 at 2:11 pm, This is a list post.

John Carter Discussion[EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is a counterpoint to our positive review of John Carter, and reflects the sole opinion of contributor John Hanlon.]John Carter could have been a good movie. In fact, I included it in a list of 10 films that we here at Screen Rant were looking forward to this month. The trailer made the imagery look exciting and I was eagerly anticipating one of the first leading movie roles that Friday Night Lights alum Taylor Kitsch was taking on. Unfortunately, I was massively disappointed by this tired adaptation of the iconic Edgar Rice Burroughs story.Admittedly, some here at Screen Rant have enjoyed this wannabe sci-fi epic, including managing editor Kofi Outlaw, who wrote our official John Carter review. But as a viewer and a critic, I was greatly disappointed - so I've composed a list of five reasons why the movie was a 'fail' for me. As always, let us know your own opinion in the comments below.


The Concept

Taylor Kitsch in the 'John Carter' movieJohn Carter focuses on the title character, who in the late 19th century is a Civil War veteran frustrated with the war. He’s a veritable misanthrope who no longer wishes to fight, and declines an invitation to rejoin the battle. But shortly after he rejects that idea, he is mysteriously transported to Mars, where he unwittingly becomes involved in a battle for the survival of that planet and its inhabitants.This strange concept seems bizarre enough to scare away possible viewers. A Civil War veteran fighting on Mars? This isn’t a plot that should be adapted into a movie. It sounds more like a dream someone has when they’ve been spent an evening reading both history and comic books.  It's not an interesting mix of concepts (or at least, it's very dated) and this shows throughout the story.

The Characters

Lynn Collins as Dejah Thoris in John CarterOkay. Getting beyond the bizarre story that finds Carter on a distant planet, it’s important to focus on the characters in the film. Strong relatable  characters can, at times, compensate for a bad plot or a silly storyline.However, that doesn't happen here. For me, there were no interesting or identifiable characters in the entire film. Carter himself is a bland stereotypical archetype unwilling to engage in battle until he is thrust into it. At least Luke Skywalker served as a relatable character in Star Wars. But he had more personality than Carter. Not even any of the aliens he befriends are memorable. In fact, I found it difficult to keep track of them because I didn't care for any of them.

The Dialogue

John Carter and Princess Deja Thoris

The dialogue throughout this entire story is often atrociously wooden. First off, Carter’s banal banter is tough to bear. He speaks in strong committed sentences - “We’re nothing but a war species and I want no part of it,” he says, as if he has the authority of Moses. He continues with declarative sentences throughout the picture. “I don’t fight for anyone,” he says later, adding, “War is a shameful thing.” There’s no depth to dialogue like this and little reasoning behind it. It’s okay for a character to have a certain mindset about something, but Carter’s dialogue is so dry and uninspired that it’s hard to take an interest in him.Not to mention the fact that the aliens' dialogue isn't any better. “You are ugly but you are beautiful,” one says to Carter. Of course, these throwaway lines are only the tip of the iceberg. When Carter first arrives on Mars, the aliens think that his real name is "Virginia" - a running joke that never actually works. And the romance between Carter and his alien princess doesn’t work because the script throws them together too quickly and never tries to find any depth in their relationship - something stronger dialogue could have helped develop.

The Run Time

john carter movie featurette taylor kitschIt is one thing to make a disappointing film. It is quite another thing to make a disappointing film that lasts for nearly two and a half hours. John Carter meanders its way through 137 minutes of silliness and overdone action sequences. By the end of the movie, I understood the story that the writers were attempting to tell, but it should never have taken that long to get there.More does not always equal better - see Transformers 2 for details - and this film seems to pack in as much action and battle sequences as possible. That doesn’t translate into an exciting movie. It translates into a failed epic that goes on for far too long with little depth or substance.

Lackluster Effects & Moments

John Carter battles White ApesThere are so many more reasons to be disappointed in John Carter. In addition to the aforementioned items, the visual effects aren’t even that good. Many of them look extremely fake, and for a movie that cost so much to produce, it’s surprising that the CGI team offered such a mediocre product.The story also offers up a few other reasons to be disappointed. There’s a silly paternity revelation involving two aliens that feels like it could have been featured on an extraterrestrial version of Jerry Springer. There’s also a scene where Carter kills a beast and is covered in its blue blood, which makes it seem like Kitsch is either auditioning for a role in the Blue Man Group, or an extra in the new season of Arrested Development. These scenes add to the silliness of this entire endeavor.

5 Reasons why 'John Carter' is such a Disappointing Film

John Carter Movie DiscussionJohn Carter is attracting mixed reviews from critics so it’s likely to engender debate among the audience (Feel free to join the debate at our John Carter Discussion thread).As a fan of the Star Wars, I wanted this movie to work and to signal the beginning of a new epic science fiction series. Instead, it just showed me how hard it is to create a quality film with so many details to include. Screen Rant critic Kofi Outlaw and I surely disagree on the success of John Carter, but I encourage you to check out his review and then tell us who you think is right about this movie.Here, again, are my five reasons for being so disappointed in John Carter….
  1. The Concept: A Civil War Veteran on Mars? What's to Like?
  2. The Characters: No Memorable Characters to Relate to
  3. The Dialogue: No Depth or Substance in the Proceedings
  4. The Length: 137 Minutes of an Underwhelming Story
  5. Mundane Effects & Moments: Forgettable Effects, Alien Paternity &  Other Silly Story Beats
Follow me on Twitter @johnhanlon.
TAGS: john carter


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  1. I say make the counter-point a feature of the actual review (2 pages).

  2. I make one comment on this article and I get 49 emails telling me I’ve got replies which I am never going to read. So please, stop.

    • Don’t tick the reply box then. ;)

  3. I beginning to wonder if JC is this years “movie that will not be named”. Last year, a movie that I liked was the major flop of the summer and I’m thinking that JC is on the track to the same fate.

    • Well judging by all the positive comments from people who have seen it on here and Superhero hype, I’d say 90/95% actually thought it was a very good movie despite all the bad press. And the reviews ere generally 50/50, with half the reviews being very positive.

      I think ill advised promotion, title changes and a bit of a anti John Carter campaign have really done the damage to it’s success at the box office. i just hope more people discover it on DVD and Blu-ray.

      • “90/95% actually thought it was a very good movie”?!…. what, um, planet, are you living on?!! Just Google “John Carter flops”, with over 5 pages worth of wretched reviews from newspapers all over the world, including the LA Times, with “Costliest box office flops of all time”, the U.K.’s Daily Mail with “Welcome to 2012′s first mega-disaster”, and The NY Post with my own fav, “John Carter’ looking like bigger flop than Jimmy Carter”!

        And yeah, yeah, we know, those trend-setting Russians really liked it…. just like they’d probably appreciate your Director’s Cuts of Norbit and Ishtar (LOL)!!

        • I wasn’t talking about what google is saying. I specifically said 90/95% of this site and Superherohype. Just look at those comments to see how popular it was with people who actually bothered to see it.

          Because it hasn’t drawn the money they were hoping for has nothing to do with how good a movie it is. That wasn’t the point of my post. So Kathy, despite you thinking I’m from another planet (possibly Mars) At least I’m one of the people who didn’t listen to all the nonsense and went to see the movie only to discover it to be the best fantasy film I’ve seen for a very long time.

          Why do you need other people to decide for you if a movie is good? Decide for yourself. I don’t give a schiznit what “The UK’s Daily Mail” or “the LA Times” thinks.

            • Just “critics”?… what part of headlines like “Box Office Flop” don’t you get? And nothing says “I care what others think”, like getting testy if they disagree with you.

              BTW, we saw it over the weekend with the kids, who liked it, although let’s just say the adults were “underwhelmed”. But you’re certainly welcome to a different opinion … now just quit working so hard to get everyone to agree with you!

              • I have a B.S. in Biophysics and am an M.D., but I’ve never heard the word ‘misanthropes.’ Am I not educated enough to understand your review?

                I can’t help but notice that movies that don’t challenge traditional perspectives tend not to do well or get good reviews.

                I was enthralled by this movie, consider it one of my top 3 all time. Critics tend to forget why we watch movies – to escape to a world of fantasy for a bit. I was enthralled by a civil war vet who was disillusioned by a war in which he initially thought he found meaning, but in the end only death. I thought the producer did a much better job than Mr. Burroughs in this…. No civil war vet from the south would still have a glint for battle in his eye…

                Dialogue might have been better, but given the script probably was about as good as it could be.

                I loved the mars princess…

                The whole idea of a separate timeline in which a neighboring planet had a parallel culture was fascinating and refreshing to me, not a ‘dated archetype’

            • I agree with you Motoko. Just try not to use the word schiznit ever again. And Kathy, if you add the word “flops” in your search engine, all you will get is negative reviews. Just try “John Carter review” next time. It did alright numbers worldwide, so as long as you didn’t think about the humongous budget it had, John Carter did pretty decent. Domestically it made 30 million in one weekend while The Artist has made a total of $40 million so far and it won an Oscar. So what does that tell us? Critics, box office returns, the general population’s opinion…none if it matters. All that matters is your own personal opinion and if people can’t agree with that…then they are wrong (or just have a different opinion from yours) And Kahless, its not Green Lantern…none of us fanboys had high expectations for John Carter. That’s why so many of us enjoyed it so much ;)

              • Thank you B-list. And I promise never to use that word again! ;)

              • Apparently Kathy doesn’t understand that people who didn’t go to the movie are not what we are talking about. We are talking about the general public that did see the movie. A majority of them liked the movie. There was a 25% increase in ticket sales on saturday. That doesn’t happen unless there’s good word of mouth. The film has made $100 million worldwide in it’s first week. It should, at the very least, break even. I think dvd sales will be huge for it as well.

        • I did the opposite; I searched for “John Carter good movie” and got 10 pages in Google.

          • I Googled “Welcome Back John Carter” and got a nice combination of John Carter and Welcome Back Kotter. It’s good that Google gets me.

  4. We loved it and gave it 4 stars ourselves

  5. Agree strongly with the 5 reasons that it didn’t work. Also why try and tell a story a 100 years after everyone has ripped off its ideas and mythology? So many of the scenes in this film feel like you have seen them in a dozen other films. Arena scene reminded me of Attack of the Clones. And why did Mars have to look like Utah? They spent so much money on the CGI, couldn’t they have done something to make Mars actually look like a place we hadn’t seen before. This film is a monumental dud. Which I am very disappointed about because I believed Stanton to be a much better filmmaker.

  6. this was an interesting read, the only thing to me that got my attention was that Kofi Outlaw was a managing editor other than that it seems you would have burned the movie right after previewing it if you had the chance.

  7. Well, we’ve just come back from viewing John Carter and we all thought it was a great movie. Much better than some of those other so called blockbuster fantasy/sci fi/action that do make money.

  8. One positive I’ll throw out there is that given the dialogue, the actors actually did pretty well with what they were given.

    I found that they tried to put so much into this movie that it just couldn’t possibly be as satisfying as the public expected it to be. Continuing the comparison to Star Wars, the original trilogy was actually a pretty deep story if put into one film, but the story of ANH was kept pretty simple so it didn’t get bogged down, and the deeper elements could be fleshed out in the sequels. John Carter felt like it was trying to cram a trilogy into 2+ hours.

  9. I loved the movie! I think your reasons and deductions are wrong.I found it compelling, exciting, otherworldly (as it should be) and plain all out fun! I give it 4 and a half stars!

  10. I enjoy the movie. great action scenes. I looking forward to buying the extended edition. It’s a guy movie. everyone slamming this movie were probably looking to go see some Titanic or something. This is a guy movie. If you like star wars type action then you will enjoy this movie. It’s a guy flick. action, aliens and a sexy princess

  11. John Carter was a FLOP Because, they didnt stick to the book. First of all the book is “A Princess of Mars” Its about the Princess and the love affair that develops between her and John Carter. Yes John Carter is the main character but it isnt so much about him. As a lover of the books by famous author and creator of Tarzan Edgar Rice Burroughs for over 30 years I did expect there to be changes and some disapointment but Stanton took way too many liberties. He changed everything so much. The whole attitude about the barsoomian people and there roles in their societies etc. were virtualy reversed. John Carter is a Proud soldier and longs for the fighting life and the thrill of battle. Burroughs describes the glint in his eye and the fighting grin. NOT the deserting whimp that Stanton created. Deja Thoris is the adored and loved Princes of Helium. Beautiful and feminin almost frail yet willing to fight by Johns side if need be. Shes a little spoiled and haughty but warms to John after understanding his ignorance of the ways of Helium society. There love affair is a back and forth struggle filled with apprehension. Will she understand? Will she forgive him? Can he make amends? Can he convince her of his love? Its so passionate and romantic. There was absolutely NO romance in the movie. The bigest disapointing reversal of themes is when The Jedack of Helium, Dejas Father tries to influence her to mary the prince of their enemy to stop the war. OMG I was livid. Helium loves their princess and moreso her father the Jedak (King) and would go to war until the end of time befor they would allow her to mary the ruler of their enemy. Soooo disapointing. If Andrew would have stuck to the story it would have been so much better but instead he tried to rewrite it. Shame on you Mr. Stanton. From now on, keep your artistic license in your pants. There is only one way to do the book justice in a movie, and that is to let the book be the script.
    “Edgar Rice Burroughs is one of the worlds most popular authors. With n previouse experiance as an author, he wrote and sold his First novel A Princess of Mars in 1912 (100 years ago) In the ensuing 38 years until his death in 1950, Burroughs wrote 91 books and a host of short stories and articles. Although best known as the creator of the classic Tarzan of the Apes and John Carter of Mars, his prolific pen ranged from the American West to primitive Africa and on to ROMANTIC adventure on the moon, plantes and even Beyond the Farhtest Star (one of his books titles) No one knows how many copeis of ERB books have been published throught the world. It is conservative to say however, that of the translations into 32 known languages, including Braille, the number must run into the hundreds of millions. When one considers the additional world-wide following of the Tarzan newspaper feature, radio programs, comic magazines, motion pictures and television, Burroughs must have been known and loved by literally a thousand million or more”
    And still is. This is why we should pay homage to Burroughs creations and do the movies right.
    A THOUSAND MILLION PLUS fans and admirerers.
    I too believe very much that if done right, All the Burroughs books can be made into succesfull movies and movies series. I guess we will just have to wait for some one with the courage and integrity and respect to do it right. I’ll do it!!!!

    • i tried

  12. It’s a fun movie to watch.

  13. I think they should’ve done better for the ending of the movie. It didn’t really make sense to me