14 best and worst mainstream John Carter review quotes

Contributed by
Default contributor image
Marc Bernardin
Dec 17, 2012

Disney's $250 million gamble on Andrew Stanton's adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom books is facing a tough go of it at the box office—it'll probably get its Martian tush kicked by The Lorax—but if you're still on the fence, it's worth reading what the critics had to say.

And this sampling of the critical major leagues turns out to be surprisingly positive:


"Against the odds, John Carter is itself pretty amazing—an epic pulp saga that slowly rises to the level of its best imitations and wins you over by degrees. I say that as a grown-up moviegoer; behind me at a recent screening was a row of 10-year-old boys who were ecstatically in from the get-go. That's probably all that matters." —Ty Burr, Boston Globe

"But if you're willing to suspend not just disbelief but also all considerations of logic and intelligence and narrative coherence, it's also a rip-roaring, fun adventure, fatefully balanced between high camp and boyish seriousness at almost every second." —Andrew O'Heir, Salon

"Whether it's the elegant, dragonfly-winged airships, the mobile, earth-churning capital of the bad-guy Zodangans, the six-limbed, tusky Tharks, or the hulking 'white apes' (albino Kongs with a few extra fists and rancor faces), there is barely a moment of John Carter that fails to visually impress. Technically, it's Avatar's equal." —Dan Jolin, Empire

"What we have here is a rousing boy's adventure story, adapted from stories that Edgar Rice Burroughs cranked out for early pulp magazines. They lacked the visceral appeal of his Tarzan stories, which inspired an estimated 89 movies; amazingly, this is the first John Carter movie, but it is intended to foster a franchise and will probably succeed." —Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times

"The silliness—much of which is clearly intentional—is blended with some genuine grandeur. The Pixar touch is evident in the precision of the visual detail and in the wit and energy of Michael Giacchino's score, but the quality control that has been exercised over this project also has a curiously undermining effect. The movie eagerly sells itself as semitrashy, almost-campy fun, but it is so lavish and fussy that you can't help thinking that it wants to be taken seriously, and therefore you laugh at, rather than with, its mock sublimity." —A.O. Scott, The New York Times

"The result is a strange, at times misshapen, but somehow lovable thing: a movie that keeps trying to be smaller and simpler than its $250 million special-effects budget will permit. Buried within this bloated, CGI-crammed, unnecessarily 3D-ified monster is a bare-bones space western, the movie that last year's Cowboys and Aliens should have been." —Dana Stevens, Slate

"The movie's plot construction is rickety; the opening is needlessly confusing, and the heavies' political machinations didn't make much sense that I could see. Yes, too, it's another movie pitched overwhelmingly at teenagers. Whether they're prepared to take innocent hokum at face value we will know soon enough, but for all its flaws this is an altogether more idiosyncratic and personable blockbuster than your typical corporate popcorn fodder." —Tom Charity, CNN

"This Disney extravaganza is a rather charming pastiche, if perhaps not one with sufficient excitement and razzle-dazzle to justify the reported $250 million production budget. Neither classic nor fiasco, the film will likely delight sci-fi geeks most of all." —Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter

"I can only call the finished film a mixed bag, with exciting scenes followed by dull stretches. But no movie so rich in imagination and so skillfully staged could or should be dismissed out of hand. If you have even the slightest curiosity about John Carter, I'd encourage you to see it." —Leonard Maltin, IndieWire

"My advice? Shut out the noise and just watch the movie. For all the bumps in the narrative, concocted by Stanton, Mark Andrews and novelist Michael Chabon, and less-than-stellar 3D effects, John Carter exerts the pull of a tall tale told by a campfire." —Peter Travers, Rolling Stone


"But Stanton's visual brilliance, as well as his storytelling wit, gets lost amid all the blah hardware and monochromatic dust. There is hardly a moment in John Carter that isn't stamped by the generic spirit of franchise filmmaking." —Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

"There is much more heart in Wall-E's junkyard robot and in the merest flick of Nemo's fin than you'll find in all of Barsoom with its dying-planet woes, warring factions, beautiful warrior princess and brazen four-armed green alien savages, despite its fantastic look." —Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times

"For all its incidental pleasures, John Carter could use what the best Pixar movies possess: a strong, original story and characters who attach themselves to moviegoers' hearts instead of simply passing across their field of vision. The film could have been a triumph or, even more endearing, a wild folly on the order of David Lynch's mad science-fiction epic Dune. But it neither transcends nor subverts the genre that Burroughs more or less invented." —Richard Corliss, Time

"Though the project, based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel A Princess of Mars, is ambitious, it's also bloated, dreary and humorless. It's tedious even during its frantic action scenes, many of which also involve computer-generation and performance-capture technology." —Claudia Puig, USA Today

Make Your Inbox Important

Get our newsletter and you’ll be delivered the most interesting stories, videos and interviews weekly.

Sign-up breaker