John Carter (2012)

First published by movieScope


Accidentally transported to Mars, broken Confederate general John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) acquires miraculous powers, rediscovers his own humanity, saves others and transcends death itself  – yet despite this (and the hero’s messianic initials), the story comes less from the Big Book than from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ 1912 proto-SF serial novel Princess of Mars (aka Under the Moons of Mars), and subverts its own Jesus plotting with the decidedly sham cult of ‘Issus’.

Eye-popping creature effects and spectacular otherworldly design are earthed by nuanced dramatis personae (human or otherwise), witty dialogue, and a narrative that skips as deftly through time and space as its protagonist leaps over the Martian desert. Disney may have fluffed the marketing and kept changing the title (something Burroughs also did), but this retro space adventure – the first live-action feature from Pixar’s Andrew Stanton – is extremely well-crafted and engagingly pacey, with conflicts that, though epic, are always character-driven.

Anton Bitel