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Life on Mars? 

John Carter mashes up genres, makes a mess

With characters and a story based on a 95-year-old Edgar Rice Burroughs novel and inspiration borrowed from Star Wars, Gladiator, and Avatar, among others, John Carter is a big, loud, and overlong sci-fi epic that aims for genre mythos but settles instead for super-caffeinated 3D spectacle.

The title character (played by Friday Night Lights' Taylor Kitsch) is a 19th-century calvary captain who, thanks to a celestial medallion, ends up on Mars, where he gets caught up in a war between towering, four-armed CGI aliens and a race of people who look like they raided Flash Gordon's wardrobe.

Pixar vet Andrew Stanton directs with the same wide-eyed wonder he brought to the animated WALL-E, so John Carter is a visual delight. But it's ultimately an empty experience, even with everything going on – and there's a lot in 135 minutes. It's occasionally campy fun, but where's the earth-shattering kaboom? --Michael Gallucci

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