John Carter: Movie Review
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Based on A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Carter is an Avatar-like 3D spectacle with Matrix effects, epic battles, some characters reminiscent of Star Wars and Gladiator and a damsel in distress. If that sounds a bit much, it is sometimes.
The basic story opens revealing John Carter (played by Taylor Kitsch) to be a fearless but disillusioned post Civil War Confederate Captain from Virginia. An army colonel is trying to forcibly recruit Carter to fight Indians in Arizona. He refuses, escapes and continues his relentless search for a “spider cave” filled with gold. Upon finding the cave, he’s attacked by a man with a mysterious medallion. As the man dies, Carter is mysteriously transported to Mars.
Not knowing where he is, Carter wakens to discover he’s in a strange environment with strange creatures. He also has the ability to jump to amazing heights because the gravity on Mars is not as strong as Earth’s gravity.
The creatures of the planet, which include four-armed aliens with tusks and red-skinned humans, soon witness Carter’s astounding ability to fight. Throughout the movie, his fighting ability attracts the attention of those in search of a savior for their planet, especially Princess Dejah Thoris of Helium (Lynn Collins). Dejah belongs to a red-skinned race of humans. (For more of the plotline, visit movieguide.org).
John Carter is a rousing science fiction adventure, with all sorts of fabulous, thrilling daring do. The main impetus of the action is saving the damsel in distress.
One of the movie’s logos is simply JC with an “M” below it for Mars. The problem with the movie’s idea of a savior, however, is that Jesus Christ didn’t come as an ultimate fighter able to dispatch countless villains with fists and swords. Jesus claimed his war was not against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces. John Carter has spiritual forces, but they include references to a goddess names Issus, mysterious powers, and the nefarious white-skinned humans or Therns, who can change their appearance like a chameleon. There is even a bad guy who accepts the Thern leader’s demonic offer to be made ruler of the planet in exchange for absolute obedience.
At one point, the demonic Thern leader explains to John Carter that planets tend to gradually become more advanced while using their ever-improving technology to engage in war – to the neglect of their planet. This is a bit of an environmentalist lecture, but the character adds that he and his pals exist to encourage and manage the warfare behind the scenes. This is similar to Satan’s role on Earth. He is the father of lies out to create and manage human suffering.
John Carter is transformed in the course of the movie from being a selfish, greedy person to unselfish savior. Of course, the only true savior in the universe is Jesus Christ, who already defeated Satan by paying the price for the sin of mankind on the Cross. The real power of Satan is in encouraging sin, causing a sense of guilt, and proclaiming condemnation. God’s plan of salvation forgives, cleanses and frees those whom Satan wishes to condemn.
That’s not to say there isn’t a place for physical combat and heroes like John Carter. Satan may have led Hitler to do what he did, but many brave heroes were needed to combat Hitler’s forces. Many great movies feature heroes who risk their lives combating evil forces. That’s exactly what John Carter does. What’s missing, however, is a clear reliance on God. King David slew Goliath, but the Bible makes very clear his reliance on God in doing that.
Although the Martians are the only ones to mention the goddess Issus at first, John Carter rallies the Tharks by getting them to fight in her name as well as for Mars. In the second book by Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Gods of Mars, Carter apparently discovers that the goddess Issus is a fake. In fact, the evil Therns who serve Issus aren’t even mentioned in his first book. Hopefully, if Disney makes a sequel to John Carter, it will bring out these important points and insert some references to the One True God. After all, 92 percent of Americans say they believe in God, and there are 2.3 billion Christians in the world who would like to see our Divine Savior, Jesus Christ, getting some proper attention in blockbuster movies such as John Carter.
At 132 minutes, John Carter tries to make sure viewers get their money’s worth of action and spectacle. The hero is handsome, the princess gorgeous, the bad guys nasty and the faithful dog-like creature is fun. The character of John Carter is a paradigm for all the action heroes that came after him, including the comic book heroes that Hollywood is so fond of these days. The first Mars novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs was published in 1912 as a magazine serial. That was the same year that Burroughs also wrote the first Tarzan novel.
Regarding John Carter, caution is advised for young children, for some brief foul language, all the action violence, the references to the goddess and the two scary creatures the hero fights. If anyone in your family chooses to see John Carter, a good discussion about “saviors” and salvation also would be in order.
NOTE from Dr. Ted Baehr, publisher of Movieguide Magazine. For more information from a Christian perspective, order the latest Movieguide Magazine by calling 1-800-899-6684(MOVI) or visit our website at www.movieguide.org. Movieguide is dedicated to redeeming the values of Hollywood by informing parents about today's movies and entertainment and by showing media executives and artists that family-friendly and even Christian-friendly movies do best at the box office year in and year out. Movieguide now offers an online subscription to its magazine version, at www.movieguide.org. The magazine, which comes out 25 times a year, contains many informative articles and reviews that help parents train their children to be media-wise consumers.
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