As one of Pixar's star players, Stanton is an experienced cinematic storyteller, which is why it's disappointing that his first live-action project is so unwieldy at times.
The most indelible performance in the film is not, strictly speaking, a performance at all. Rather it is Woola, a six-legged Martian hound who rather resembles a cross between a bulldog and a fetal gila monster.
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.
Where John Carter continually gets it right is pacing, levity, and breadth of story.
Whenever the fighting stops and two people have to stand and talk, all the air goes out of everything. Suddenly it feels as if we're in an empty theater, watching a dusty old sword-and-sandal epic.
It isn't bad so much as innocuous, $250-million worth of innocuous, framed by a decent start and a solid finish but sagging through the long middle like a cheap mattress.
Though messy and overlong, it's an enjoyable throwback to the movie spectacles of a more innocent age.
"John Carter" is a huge bore.