'John Carter' Review: Millions Squandered on D.O.A. Sci-Fi Franchise

The most awesome of the many special effects on view in the new "John Carter" is pyrotechnic in nature: How often do you get to watch $250-million (the movie’s reported budget) go straight up in flames?

Making his first live-action feature, director Andrew Stanton—the Pixar eminence who directed "WALL*E" and "Finding Nemo" — seems to have been swamped by the picture’s sprawling source material. Watching the film is like sinking into a 3D bog of unending — and surprisingly dull — confusion.  

The movie began shooting more than two years ago, and has had, as they say, a “troubled” production history. It’s largely based on the 1917 sci-fi novel "A Princess of Mars," by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Since Burroughs went on to extend this tale about a 19th century earthling transported to the Red Planet through 10 more books, it seems likely that "John Carter" — originally titled "John Carter of Mars" before some genius decided that was a little too interesting—was envisioned as the first installment of a large and profitable franchise. I’d say we’ll be seeing a series of "Cowboys & Aliens" sequels before that happens.

The Burroughs books were eagerly absorbed by any number of famous fantasy writers and filmmakers, from Robert Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke to James Cameron and George Lucas. By now, after much cannibalization, the author’s original narrative elements, wheeled out here as though they were fresh, seem musty and drained.

Read the rest of the review at Reason.com


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