With 2011 winding down, cinephiles are already looking toward 2012's most anticipated films. Near the top of the list is Disney's high-risk sci-fi epic John Carter, with its rumored $300 million budget. Friday Night Lights star Taylor Kitsch plays the title character, a Civil War vet who is inexplicably transported to Mars, where he finds himself in the midst of all-out alien warfare — which, of course, only he can end. The film hits theaters in March 2012 and is based on classic Edgar Rice Burroughs novels. The first full-length trailer was released Wednesday night. (Watch it below.) Here, six things people are talking about:
1. The visual effects look great
"If this film isn't amazing, we'll be truly shocked," says John Hill at Holy Moly. The trailer is a mesmerizing "sensory explosion," says Matt Patches at Hollywood. The "ridiculous spectrum" of four-armed aliens, monkey beasts, crazy martian dogs, and incredible stuntwork is exactly the "sci-fi whiz bang pow that I'd expect from a John Carter movie."
2. And so does Taylor Kitsch
One of the key takeaways here, says Jenna Busch at Zap2it, is that star Taylor Kitsch "rarely wears a shirt." That's reason alone to see this film. But sadly, the talented Friday Nights Lights alum, for all his ab-flaunting and high-flying stunts, "doesn't appear to have anything terribly interesting to do," says Angie Han at Slash Film, and the dialogue is "painfully generic."
3. Andrew Stanton's directing will be compelling
John Carter is a "coming out party of sorts for director Andrew Stanton," says Melissa Locker at TIME. It's the first-live action flick from the Academy Award-winning writer and director, best known for his Pixar hits Finding Nemo and Wall-E. Considering Stanton's grooming in the world of Pixar, "where story comes before everything," says Eric Eisenberg at Cinema Blend, I think he'll produce a quality film.
4. But the movie looks awfully familiar
"It's not hard to draw comparisons between Avatar and John Carter," says The HD Room. This trailer is a "visual effects showpiece not unlike the first trailer" for Cameron's 2010 film, just swapping the "lush forests of Pandora with the barren deserts of Mars." Even though this looks like an "amalgam of Prince of Persia, Return of the Jedi, Avatar, Wild Wild West, and Braveheart," says Christopher Rosen at Moviefone, "it works."
5. And where's the story?
Sure, "the movie does look epic," says Eisenberg. "But I'm not just seeing the substance." The trailer appears to be more concerned with "mood than plot," agrees James White at Empire, as there's "not a lot of story on show here."
6. All in all, John Carter is a huge risk for Disney
Judging from the trailer, the film hardly looks like it cost $300 million, says Geeks of Doom. But regardless, it's a huge financial risk for Disney. This movie could be a "good pulpy space opera" if done right. Or it could go the way and Green Lantern and Tron: Legacy, and fail to resonate with moviegoers, ending up a box-office disappointment.