Friday Flicks: Can John Carter Justify Its Rumored $250 Million Price Tag?

Grab some popcorn! TIME's Glen Levy brings you the movies you should check out (or avoid) this weekend.

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John Carter

Tagline: Lost In Our World, Found In Another.

Imagine if you were read Edgar Rice Burroughs’ epic 11-volume A Princess Of Mars (he was probably best known for being behind Tarzan) and wanted nothing more than to see a movie adaptation. Well, even the biggest optimist would surely have conceded defeat after a century of near misses. But Andrew Stanton, the Oscar-winning director of Finding Nemo and Wall-E (he was also involved in Toy Story), was beyond keen to see this film get made. The difference between him and us? Stanton got the job done by directing this rumored $250 million film which sees him take charge of live action for the first time in his storied career.

Of course, without submitting fully to what’s going on, the plot of John Carter (they dropped the Of Mars because they thought it would hurt box office) comes across as ever so slightly ridiculous: Civil War vet John Carter (Taylor Kitsch, best known for Friday Night Lights and surely having a breakout 2012) finds himself transported from a cave to the planet of Barsoom, where he tips the balance of a war between the Zodangans and the Heliumites by rescuing a princess (Lynn Collins), which does not go down well with Matai Shang (Mark Strong). If you can picture, say, a Star Trek fan reciting this back at you, it’s easy to see why sci-fi gets such a tough rap at times.

But if there are comparisons to be made, it’s with Avatar (which, to be fair, was reportedly inspired by Burroughs’ original text). Stanton has employed the voices of such talented actors as Willem Dafoe, Thomas Haden Church and Samantha Morto, and with a script co-written by the quite brilliant Michael Chabon, there’s a chance the film might not just break even but could even make for quite the diverting watch. “Just about every sci-fi/fantasy/superhero adventure you ever loved is in here somewhere,” writes Empire. “A handsome new sci-fi adventure that feels rather familiar. Enjoyable enough while it lasts, John Carter is big on ambition and disappointingly short on action,” is the verdict of Total Film. But SFX is more upbeat, commenting that it’s “an oddly underblown epic, which at least makes a nice change from the overblown bombast that normally parades itself as the sci-fi blockbuster.” Yet for some reason, the feeling persists that John Carter won’t be going down in sci-fi folk lore.

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