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March 15, 2012

'John Carter' offers good, hokey fun

Disney was hoping for an epic franchise — think "Harry Potter," "Lord of the Rings" — and "John Carter" falls short of that. That doesn't mean, however, that the high-priced sci-fi epic is a flop.

Convoluted and perhaps a little too earnest, "John Carter" is nevertheless good, hokey fun on a grand scale.

Based on the 100-year-old Edgar Rice Burroughs' pulp classic "A Princess of Mars," the film stars Taylor Kitsch ("Friday Night Lights") as the title character, a former confederate cavalryman turned gold prospector in 1868.

While having a rousing Western adventure, John Carter is magically teleported to the planet Mars (or Barsoom, as the natives call it), and things get quite a bit more strange.

The difference in gravity gives Carter super strength and the ability to leap tall buildings, both of which he'll need on a warring planet that includes barbaric 12-foot (and four-armed) aliens called Tharks.

The planet also contains its share of humanoids. The good ones live in the civilized, educated city of Helium. The bad ones live in an evil mobile city called Zodanga. Oh, and there's a race of advanced, immortal beings (Tharns) who are pulling the strings in the conflict for their own nefarious purposes.

Carter will naturally fall in with the good humanoids — and who could blame him after he gets a glimpse of Lynn Collins' ("The Number 23") Martian princess, Dejah Thoris? The princess is not only gorgeous and scantily clad, but she's brainy (a scientist!) and she wields a mighty sword.

Kitsch looks the part of action hero and turns in a solid performance, though acting takes a distant backseat in "John Carter." It still remains to be seen, however, if he can advance from teen idol to someone who can carry a movie.

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