Movie Review

John Carter also known as “John Carter of Mars”

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action.

Reviewed by: Raphael Vera
CONTRIBUTOR

Better than Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults Family
Genre:
Sci-Fi Action Adventure Fantasy Adaptation
Length:
2 hr. 12 min.
Year of Release:
2012
USA Release:
March 9, 2012 (wide—3,500+ theaters)
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Relevant Issues
Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

bravery, courage, self-sacrifice

caves

war

TRUE LOVE—What is true love and how do you know when you have found it? Answer

Edgar Rice Burroughs comic book novel, A Princess of Mars

planet Mars

American Civil War

Arizona desert

Apaches

princess

Featuring: Taylor Kitsch … John Carter—“X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” “The Covenant
Lynn Collins … Dejah Thoris—“X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Samantha Morton … Sola
Willem DafoeTars Tarkas
Thomas Haden ChurchTal Hajus
Mark StrongMatai Shang
Ciarán HindsTardos Mors
Dominic West … Sab Than
James Purefoy … Kantos Kan
Bryan Cranston … Powell
more »
Director: Andrew Stanton
Producer: Walt Disney Pictures
Lindsey Collins … producer
more »
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

“Lost in our world, found in another”

Captain John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) is a former Confederate “rebel” who, soon after the Civil War, discovers a cave that, through either science or magic, transports him to the red planet Mars—or “Barsoom,” as the natives call it.

A thousand year war is drawing to a close, thanks to the sudden intervention of the mysterious hidden race of Barsoom called the Therns. They have chosen to give Sab Than (Dominic West) the power needed to force the rival state of Helium to surrender and for its Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) to marry him.

Upon arriving, John Carter discovers that Mars’ lower gravity gives him the ability to leap great distances, as well as great strength. He is soon captured and then “adopted” by Tars Tarkas (voiced by Willem Dafoe ) the leader of a race of fifteen-foot tall, green, multi-limbed beings called the Tharks.

Can John Carter, a stranger to this world, forge an alliance between the compassionless, war mongering Tharks and the scientifically advanced “red men” long enough to end the war and save a planet?

Objectionable Issues

Language: Minor. “Hell” is the most frequently used curse among the few objectionable words in the film. The Lord’s name is misused once (G__damn) during the prologue, which takes place in the wild West of the 1880’s. Later, upon finally understanding where he is, John Carter says, “Good God, I’m on Mars!” which is acceptable, as Jesus himself said in reference to God the Father that, “There is only One who is good…” —Matthew 19:17.

Violence: Moderate. Though for the most part bloodless, with the exception being a scene involving giant white apes, violence is very present throughout much of the film and includes the use of swords, bullets, cannons and energy weapons. People, aliens, monsters and baby monsters (not seen) are killed, and one is beheaded. Many are simply disintegrated by the Thern’s energy weapon. The PG-13 rating is appropriate, as the violence is not acceptable for children under 12.

Sex/Nudity: Minor. Nothing beyond kissing is shown but the women’s attire, especially on Dejah Thoris is very revealing and cleavage is usually pronounced. Dejah even admits, regarding her wedding dress, that “this is vulgar for my tastes.” When John Carter is first placed with the Thark hatchlings (babies), they are all bathed together, though the scene is so quick that nothing explicit is shown.

Spiritual: Mild. On Barsoom many believe in the “goddess,” and the legendary Therns are said to be her holy messengers. The goddess is given the name of Isis, on a few occasions. Interesting to note how both mythological and actual demonic names often find themselves in movies with exactly the same spelling. “Mother Isis” is used as an expletive. The Tharks “survival of the fittest” and the wedding vows which speak of “celestial lovers rising from the sea” are both subtle nods to darwinistic theory which, contrary to the scientific method, begins with an unproven premise that there is no god.

A word about male/female role modeling. Barsoom (Mars) is a planet where warring factions are a way of life, so while John Carter is surprised to see Dejah more than able to defend herself with a sword, it does not seem overly out of place. John’s chivalry remains constant and is not dampened by her fighting capability.

Lessons

Tar Tarkas and his daughter Sola both show compassion, which is very uncharacteristic of Tharks. When Sola shouts out “Father,” upon seeing him in the Arena, another Thark asks, “Are you mad?” to which she replies, “No, the blood of my father drives me!”

As Christians, we understand the difference that the shed blood of Christ has made in our lives, for without it we would neither be changed beings nor saved ones.

“For all have sinned, and fall short of the Glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood” —Romans 3:24-25.

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ” —Ephesians 2:13.

The main Thern (eerily played by Mark Strong) tells John Carter, “I do not exist. Indeed I work very hard at it.” Similar to the very real Devil we deal with in this world, the Thern’s are both worshipped and schemers, though secretly behind the scenes. The Thern also admits to how much work goes into destroying a planet, likewise reminiscent of the Devil planning nothing but destruction for us all.

“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings” —1 Peter 5:8.

A moving scene took place when Dejah Thoris sent her captain of the guard to bring John. In order to reach her, Carter has to make the biggest leap of his life, and he doubts he can do it. The captain merely says, “My Princess says that you can reach that.” Keeping his eyes on the goal, we are left with no doubt that Carter will make it. (see: faith)

Similarly, there is very little that we as Christians cannot accomplish, if we keep our eyes on the Lord. The apostle Peter learned this lesson the hard way.

“When the disciples saw him [Jesus] walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I, Don’t be afraid.’ ‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’ ‘Come,’ he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came towards Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ —Matthew 14:26-30

Watching “John Carter” evoked similar feelings to when I viewed the original “Star Wars” release (“A New Hope”). The story moved briskly with pauses only to focus on the characters and a world in all its alien ways. The film was intended for 3D, and this added appreciable depth to the numerous action sequences. Exciting and humorous, with an intriguing storyline, I recommend it to audiences—teen and up—who are not looking for a sci-fi epic, as this is definitely more fantasy than science, and clearly more fun than thought-provoking.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: Minor

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—This movie was fun! The story kept a brisk pace, while providing good comic relief. I could have done without the cleavage, but that, and the one line about the planet dying, were all that I found objectionable. The characters were believable and engaging, without being too dramatic, thereby keeping the movie a fun escape from the everyday. Yet, it also made me think about loving people—even my enemies, and my mind dwelt on that long after the movie was over.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Trina, age 44 (USA)
Positive—What an awesome film! I really enjoyed seeing “John Carter” with my family. We had a great time and really can’t wait for the DVD release. The acting was good, the action was intense, to say the least, and the story was good. Overall, a great movie, as I said before, but one that is only meant for teens and adults, as the reviewer suggested. Good job Disney! Keep up the good work!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Alexander Malsan, age 21 (USA)
Positive—I saw this (in 3D) with my husband today. I went into it knowing virtually nothing about it (other than a quick glance at this site to make sure it wasn’t getting bad moral reviews). I LOVED IT! Really, it was so much more than I expected. I loved the time and space jumps that the plot took, the action scenes, the romance… everything. It was really a great movie, and the 3D was well made. I didn’t appreciate the seductive attire or the fact that there were women in authority (goddesses, a woman minister marrying a couple at a wedding, etc.), but otherwise, it was a great film.

I got goosebumps in a few places, and the bonds that were made between man, beast, and aliens were very believable bonds, in a theatrical sense. I was really able to connect with people and animals of all types and cultures in the movie. Thumbs up… for teens and adults only, of course.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Chrystal, age 35 (USA)
Positive—I viewed this film six times in the theater and really enjoyed it. One point, the goddess the tharks referred to is spelled “Issus,” obviously a play on Isis, the idea of an earth mother type. Typical beliefs of ancients who tended to be nature worshipers. Overall, I thought the story was very obviously a battle between good and evil.

Lynn Collins portrayal of Princess Dejah Thoris was excellent, she was given a strong character who had to change from viewing John Carter with mistrust, but wanted him to aid her in the war with Zodanga to one who believed his tale of being from another planet (earth) and falling in love with him. Particularly the scene where she decides to marry the evil Sab Than to save her city state from destruction. She asks John Carter what choice she has and asks him to basically stay and fight for her. He is conflicted and seems to leave. Her despair is evident when she says she is alone, but she finds the inner strength to go through with the intended marriage. more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Jeffrey T Fouberg, age 56 (USA)
Positive—As a kid, I was a huge fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs, esp Tarzan and the Barsoom Series. When I found out this movie was being made, I was very excited to see it. I re-read A Princess of Mars, off which the movie is based, just before seeing the movie, to re-familiarize myself with it. I was mildly dissapointed in some areas where the movie did not stay faithful to the book, but realizing that it would have taken an eight hour long movie or a mini-series to to so, and knowing that many elements were changed or added for cinematic effect, felt that it was an acceptable compromise.

The special effects, acting, and overall plot and flow of the movie were excellent. I went to watch it with my girlfriend, and my 4 teen kids. It was nice that there was no explicit language or other content, and there were positive themes throughout. We all enjoyed it and agreed that they should make the sequels to it. Bought the Blue-Ray to add to my collection as well.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Dave, age 38 (USA)
Neutral
Neutral—This started out as a fun adventure flick… but poor acting and weird alien mumbo jumbo ruined it for me. The acting of “John Carter” kept me wincing throughout. What really annoyed me, though, was the poor use of James Purefoy! Why introduce an awesome Robin Hood-type character, only to give him one measly scene?
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Kadie Jo, age 19 (USA)
Neutral—The effects were superb and on par with the science fiction film, “Avatar”. However, the reviewer missed in the violence category. The blood in this movie is blue and can be seen several times spraying from downed enemies, as they are slashed. This occurs in many more scenes than just the White Ape hunt. While it was never the focus of the frame, it was disappointing that my girlfriend did not get to enjoy the action scenes, because the violence was not as “bloodless” as the review would make it out to be.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Joseph, age 23 (USA)
Neutral—Yes, the action was nonstop and kept your interes,t but this has to be one of the dumbest movies I have ever seen in my life! Most of the time I had NO idea what was going on, and, honestly, it didn’t even matter, because there was nonstop action. I also didn’t think John Carter’s acting was bad, I just took that as his character he was playing. I sure don’t know how they pull off a 2 hour movie that makes no sense and still be entertaining. Interesting! It is worth the action, but if you go in with no expectations that you will have any idea what is going on, it might be even better. And, of course, he runs around with no shirt on, and the woman is dressed objectionable the whole time, but, overall, there was no sex, except one kissing scene, and I liked how apparently they got married before they were intimate, so I am glad they showed that part. Good job for that Disney!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Samantha, age 37 (USA)
Neutral—Note: I saw this film via XFinity On Demand in 3-D. John Carter is a good film. The storyline is engaging, and the visual effects are good. However, I’m still shocked that Walt Disney Pictures would produce a movie with a religious profanity in it. This is the first, and hopefully the last, time they will ever make a film that includes the Name of God paired with a mild profanity, thereby turning it into a strong religious profanity. Hence, the reason for my Neutral opinion on the film.

Shame there won’t be a sequel, though. Biblically speaking, the violence is intense, but not overly graphic, thanks to the “Blood” being blue instead of red, and there are a few uses of “Hell,” one incomplete “S.O.B.” and a few uses of “Damn.” However, the one that stuck out like a sore thumb was the religious profanity. I’m shocked that Disney, a family-friendly company, would allow that in a movie produced by them. Walter Elias Disney would be ashamed. more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—D, age 27 (USA)
Neutral—“John Carter” is offensive in the fact that the book, John Carter of Mars is much better.…
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Matthew, age 50 (USA)
Negative
Negative—I can’t believe a Christian is the director, and it is a Disney movie. Think of all the children who will be seeing this and thinking it will be a clean movie made by Disney.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 1
—Alice Gannon, age 68 (USA)
Negative—Entertaining, but miserably clichéd and cheesy at moments where the story needed to be powerful. And to no one’s surprise, Taylor Kitsch is much more eye candy than actor. Morally acceptable, but the box office returns definitely provide evidence to this “John Carter”’s short comings, mainly it’s focus on special effects and production values instead of character and story development.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 2
—Ethan, age 23 (USA)
Negative—This movie was based very loosely on the first two books of Edgar Rice Burroughs” Princess of Mars series.from the early 20th century (he also wrote the Tarzan series). The books themselves were fairly poor reads, so it is unfortunate that the movie is not much better. From a Christian perspective, there is a redemption story. In flashbacks, John Carter’s 19th century Earth family is found by him to have been murdered while he was away. Racked by guilt at not being there to help and consumed by grief, he continues to wear his wedding ring and is reluctant to enter into a relationship with the beautiful Mars princess, Dejah Thoris. Eventually, he is able to “atone” for his sins and you can guess the rest.

In terms of a compassionate side story, Disney really missed the boat. The green Martians are a very violent group. However, John Carter’s eventual friend, Tars Tarkus, is different from the rest. Green Martians raise their eggs in a communal incubator. When they hatch, they are given to random females to raise. Tars Tarkus fell in love with another green Martian, and they had an egg and raised Sora in secret. Sora’s mother was found out and killed, taking the identity of Sora’s father with her. Sora has the compassion of her parents and becomes John Carter’s protector and teacher while he lives among the green Martians. The movie only hints at this back story.

Otherwise, the movie is rather lame and predictable, with a different explanation for who the Therns were. In the book, they set themselves up as false gods worshiped by all Mars until John Carter, in the second book, reveals them for who they are and ends there reign of terror. In the movie, it is not clear who the Therns are. They are apparently a race apart who apparently feed off the societal disintegration of other worlds. I would not recommend this book simply because it is a bad, albeit clean, movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 2
—Guy Smith, age 53 (USA)
Comments from young people
Positive—This was a great movie! It was definitely worth seeing in the theater. The only objectionable thing I can think of is the dresses the princess wears, which are a bit revealing (showing her stomach, thighs and sometimes cleavage). Other than that, the story was very well written and very entertaining. Overall, it was a very good movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Claire W, age 15 (USA)
Positive—I seen this movie, and it was great! I was surprised, though, that the director is a Christian, , and he still put a goddess in this film. But it was fine with me. But I was also surprised to see how violent this Disney movie was—but I loved that! Great movie!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Andre, age 15 (Canada)
Positive—I enjoyed watching this movie, but the princess was very immodest. I felt like the plot was good, the acting was okay, and the characters were well built. I do not believe that there is life on Mars, and I feel like this movie does not make you believe that there is any. So that’s good. Overall, I think that you would be glad if you watched this movie.…
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Brooke S., age 12 (USA)
Positive—My father bought this movie and our family all watched it together. I admit that I had low hopes for it and was not expecting to enjoy it. Was I wrong. This movie was funny, romantic, filled with good actors, well scripted, and fun for the whole family. The main characters were moral people, which is unusual. The only time the princess was wearing a showy low cut dress, she says that even she finds it vulgar for her taste. John Carter was well played, and his character was well done. The violence was a little bad in some parts, nothing horrible, but a little bad. There was a little cussing, but like the violence, not too bad. Overall, I enjoyed it and will watch it again.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Sarah Kay, age 16 (USA)

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