There are actors whose casting already clues you in that it’s not going to be a good movie. Taylor Kitsch is one of them.
The movie has great visual effects and a sense of humor. Mar’s landscape looks realistic, and the aliens were rendered well. John Carter’s ability to literally make huge leaps in the air due to Mar’s low gravity is amusing. His self-appointed sidekick/pet Woola is funny. Moreover, the female heroine has weight – she’s a scientist and a skilled swordsman.
The actors did well with what they were given. I can see any other capable and physically fit actor in John Carter’s role, but he is a stereotypical character so Taylor Kitsch can’t really do much.
But that is all there is to it really. Once the action stops and the story unravels (and confuses you), the audience is plunged into boredom with its derivative themes. It’s Cowboys and Aliens in space. It’s Avatar’s body swap with a medallion. It’s Star Wars technology with a hint of Steampunk. It’s a princess put up for marriage to some brute for peace between two warring cities. It’s a white guy landing out of nowhere and helping natives.
The plot has its problems too. The movie has two stories that eventually connect but not executed well enough to come together.
John Carter goes back and forth between dealing with the Tharks and a persistent princess and her problems, then other characters pop out of nowhere who apparently controls the fate of Mars. And yeah, the guy has to find a way home too. After some muddled pacing, the movie eventually wraps up with a contrived ending.
Overall it’s still a good distraction, but you have to get past its clunky plot and forgettable characters.
John Carter is an incoherent derivative sci-fi action adventure with forgettable characters and a bland lead.