In 2011, we had the very hyped sci-fi film "Cowboys and Aliens" which Universal dump a ton-o-cash to promote. It worked, people were excited and then... they saw the film. Ugh... what a disaster! It received poor reviews and the public, in general, walked away disappointed. Though the studio says that including foreign receipts, it turned a modest profit considering the $613 million budget.


Around this same time last year Disney released their own corporate flop - "Mars needs Moms" - a film that set them back $150 million and made a grand total of $38 million including foreign cash. Ouch! What did Disney learn from that mistake and watching the demise of "Cowboys and Aliens?" Well, they are releasing their first big flick of 2012 essentially on the same Friday they launched "Mars Needs Moms" and they dumped $100 million more into "John Carter" than they did "Mars Needs Moms" and $90 million more than Universal did with "Cowboys and Aliens!"


That ought to do it... right? Well, we'll see.

Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote the John Carter series at the same time he created the Tarzan series - beginning in 1912 through to his death in 1950. The first was A Princess of Mars, and that seemingly is were this "John Carter" is rooted.


No doubt, Burroughs was influence by contemporary's H. G. Wells and Jules Verne as they shared the same interest in sci-fiction and it's intercourse with the United States Civil War; because John Carter (played by Taylor Kitsch) is a former Civil War soldier who, while panning for gold in Arizona, is tele-ported to Barsoom (aka Mars).


There he finds himself thrust into the middle of a planetary civil war between three or four groups. The first group were the Tharks - a tall four armed Avatar-like critter that found it interesting that Carter could leap extremely high. He must use his leaping abilities to escape from them before they kill him... maybe.

This was a role he embraces once he finds the kidnapped Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) whom he is hell bent of rescuing from the Zodangans. She has been captured to marry the Zogandan king played by Dominic West.


The other side to the war were these human-looking folk called Heliums - their king was Tardos Mors (Ciaran Hinds) - who were at war with the Zodangans. Zodanga is a mobile city the walks around the planet ready to destroy the Heliums.


The Heliums are Roman throwbacks - gladiators who fight with swords but use levitating ground speeder-like chariots. there is a serious technology mismatch here. How is their weapons haven't progressed pass swords but their transportation kicks? Unless they are riding one of their rhino/horses.

Amazingly, it comes off like a really odd western with great special effects, surprisingly like "Cowboys and Aliens") and an inane storyline. I'm pretty sure that Edgar Rice Burroughs would be spinning in his grave if he saw this. Director Andrew Stanton is the Oscar winning director of animated films "Wall-e" and "Finding Nemo". He also directed "Toy Story 3" which was nominated for an Oscar. But this is his first foray into live action.


You can only assume his success with animation is why Disney gambled so much money on this overblown mess. Great tech; bad story. And even the tech is too much.


"John Carter" technically is a fantastic film with a confusing story. And even the special effects look as though it was done by someone who just discovered the FX menu and had to use them all!   -- GEOFF BURTON