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John Carter: movie review (+trailer)

Despite a good team behind the scenes, 'John Carter' only reminds audience members of the better movies it was inspired by.

John Carter trailer introduced by director Andrew Stanton

I don’t usually bring up a film’s budget in a review, but the reported $250 million price tag for “John Carter” gives one pause. I suppose one could argue that masterpieces have no price. Then again, “John Carter” is no masterpiece.

Based on sci-fi books by Edgar Rice Burroughs, primarily his “Princess From Mars,” the film is about a former Confederate soldier, Taylor Kitsch’s John Carter, who ends up on Mars and ends up embroiled in a galactic war that looks like a cross between “The Empire Strikes Back” and “The Fall of the Roman Empire.” There are nine-foot-tall, tusked, four-armed creatures that bear a disconcerting resemblance to Jar Jar Binks. There are also a slew of human or humanoid meanies, some of them shape-shifting, and, for the love interest, the warrior princess Dejah (Lynn Collins), whose blue eyes make Paul Newman’s seem lackluster. It all plays tolerably well (in 2D, which is how I saw it, or, presumably, in 3D IMAX), but it keeps harkening back to much better movies, especially “Planet of the Apes” and, well, “The Empire Strikes Back.”

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Its director is Pixar whiz Andrew Stanton, who directed “Finding Nemo” and “Wall-E,” and the script lists the wonderful novelist Michael Chabon as one of its contributors. So why is everything so thuddingly fun-free? Maybe that budget scared people off. Grade: C+ (Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action.)