DVD Release Date: June 5, 2012
Theatrical Release Date: March 9, 2012
Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action)
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Run Time: 132 min.
Director: Andrew Stanton
Actors: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Dominic West, Ciarán Hinds, Willem Dafoe, Mark Strong, Samantha Morton, James Purefoy, Bryan Cranston

Christians spend a lot of time condemning Hollywood for undermining their faith, so it’s refreshing to find Christians working in Hollywood. It’s particularly encouraging when those Christian artists turn out to be widely admired in their field. Andrew Stanton is one such filmmaker, a Christian who has spoken about his faith while creating and publicizing two of the best films of the 2000s: Finding Nemo and Wall-E, both by Pixar.

Now Stanton has been given a gigantic budget—reportedly $250 million—to write (with Mark Andrews and Michael Chabon) and direct an adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ 1917 short story “A Princess of Mars.” The resulting movie, John Carter, frustrates. The money is there on the screen, with often impressive, if derivative, special effects. The acting is satisfactory, considering that the human actors spend much of their time interacting with CGI creatures. But the story never quite comes together, leaving a dissatisfying sense of what might have been. John Carter isn’t terrible, it’s just OK. But it could have been much more.

The movie’s opening stretch, which introduces Civil War veteran John Carter (Taylor Kitsch, X-Men Origins: Wolverines) from Virginia, is its best. Stanton has done a nice job of giving the film an authentic Old West period feeling, but just as we’re settling into the film’s environment, Carter is transported to Mars, known by its inhabitants as Barsoom. There he’s drawn into another civil war between warring regions Helium and Zodanga. Helium’s leader, Tardos Mars (Ciarán Hinds, The Woman in Black), thinks he can avoid war with Zodanga leader Sab Than (Dominic West, Arthur Christmas) by giving Than the hand of his daughter, Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins, X-Men Origins: Wolverine), in marriage. Not surprisingly, Dejah isn’t thrilled with that plan, or with the revealing bridal gown she’s forced to wear through much of the film (“I find it a bit vulgar,” she says). John Carter to the rescue!