I don’t usually bring up a film’s budget in a review, but the reported $250 million price tag for “John Carter” gives one pause. I suppose one could argue that masterpieces have no price. Then again, “John Carter” is no masterpiece.
Based on sci-fi books by Edgar Rice Burroughs, primarily his “Princess From Mars,” the film is about a former Confederate soldier, Taylor Kitsch’s John Carter, who ends up on Mars and ends up embroiled in a galactic war that looks like a cross between “The Empire Strikes Back” and “The Fall of the Roman Empire.” There are nine-foot-tall, tusked, four-armed creatures that bear a disconcerting resemblance to Jar Jar Binks. There are also a slew of human or humanoid meanies, some of them shape-shifting, and, for the love interest, the warrior princess Dejah (Lynn Collins), whose blue eyes make Paul Newman’s seem lackluster. It all plays tolerably well (in 2D, which is how I saw it, or, presumably, in 3D IMAX), but it keeps harkening back to much better movies, especially “Planet of the Apes” and, well, “The Empire Strikes Back.”
Its director is Pixar whiz Andrew Stanton, who directed “Finding Nemo” and “Wall-E,” and the script lists the wonderful novelist Michael Chabon as one of its contributors. So why is everything so thuddingly fun-free? Maybe that budget scared people off. Grade: C+ (Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action.)