Ever since Pirates of the Caribbean unexpectedly morphed into a multi-billion dollar juggernaut Walt Disney Pictures has been on a tear to unearth a new live-action tentpole franchise capable of attracting young males to the multiplex by the horde. So far, this questionable business objective has motivated the company to foolishly squander bordering-on-obscene resources on the synthetic, terribly written blockbuster non-starters The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, The Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and Tron: Legacy, to little financial gain. For a company famed for harnessing the limitless potential of imagination and awing audiences of all ages, these failures were more than a little embarrassing. After all, it’s darn hard to sell toys or build theme park attractions based on dead-end cinematic endeavours.
The Mouse House’s latest kick at the can, the woefully generic-sounding John Carter, doesn’t quite reverse this sad trend but it’s at least a step in the right direction. Based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’s near-century old literary creation, the film is a big, broad sci-fi swash-buckling spectacle that enthusiastically embraces its spaced-out, pulpy roots – frequently to its own narrative detriment – and paints the screen with vivid visions of grand otherworldliness. It’s not a particularly stellar movie; however those who maintain a love for geeky, old-fashioned thrills will appreciate the flashes of invention, ambition and wit that shine through the straight-faced, messy silliness.