If you are looking for a fun, family-oriented film, then Walt Disney Studios has offered up a delight of a flick in “John Carter.” Disney Studios gives director Andrew Stanton (“Wall-E” and “Finding Nemo”) a big budget along with big expectations and Stanton delivers a very good movie that treats the audience to loads of action, solid acting performances, spectacular computer animation and magnificent alien creatures (with very good voice-overs by Willem DaFoe and Thomas Haden Church). My personal favorite is the Woola (you have to go see the film to appreciate this adorable character).
Based on the book “The Princess of Mars” by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the film features Civil War veteran John Carter (played by Taylor Kitsch) who, while searching for riches of his own, gets transported into the midst of another civil war; this one just happens to be on Mars. Carter’s arrival on the Red Planet is accompanied with “superhuman” physical traits, which become a prized commodity for several indigenous cultures on Barsoom (the native’s name for Mars). Carter’s talents lead him to transform himself from self-centered anti-hero to enigmatic and sometimes clueless savior figure.
In viewing the film through a lens of faith, there are many potential theological themes that present themselves. Among them one could ponder the idea of a savior figure who arrives in a culture that does not understand him, the nature of a creator (the Goddess) or the manner in which others are drawn to John Carter (aka disciples). These are common to the science fiction genre of film. However, none of these themes quite hits the mark with the same vigor as redemption. Carter’s experiences in the American Civil War provide the backdrop for Carter’s opportunity for redemption on Mars. As is the case of this eventual transformation, Carter must go through many trials and relationships, which shape and mold his character into something that he once was and seems destined to be again.
The film is a western swashbuckling sci-fi adventure that is driven by characters, plot and special effects in equal amounts. The family flick’s PG-13 rating is based largely on non-graphic violence (of which there is plenty) and some intense action sequences. The pace of the film never really slows down as it moves from one mercurial scene to the next. Go see John Carter for a good time and take your age-appropriate children along. I promise smiles, laughs, curious glances and cheering for a hero who is worth cheering for!
Rating: 7 out of 10 stars
Wade Pond ([email protected]) is a senior student at Dubuque Theological Seminary who incorporates the study of theology and mainstream film into Christ’s ministry.