John Carter is a movie that’s destined to be a flop. With a hefty $250 million dollar production budget and a lot of negative pre-release buzz, Disney stands to lose some big bucks. With all this negative attention surrounding the movie, it should be hard to watch and critique John Carter objectively. I don’t give a damn about any of that though. Having seen the film, I can’t say that it’s anything but awesome.
Case in point: this week’s “John Carter,” a fun, exciting, fast-paced science fiction adventure that looks great and really delivers what it promises. And it’s tanking. Why? Because the “I’m a comic book/sci-fi genius who still lives in my parent’s basement with no job and lots of spare time on my hands to type 1,000 word treatises on the finer points of obscure Korean horror films” fan base has been whining for the past six months about the lame title compromise imposed by the marketing department at Disney. It was supposed to be “John Carter of Mars,” but they were afraid girls wouldn’t go see a movie with “Mars” in the title. Now no one is going.
Since day one corporate lackeys of the entertainment industry predicted doom and gloom for the Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter space epic helmed by “Wall-E” guru Andrew Stanton but those who have actually seen the mind-blowing heroic fantasy are saying WTF?!
In what Forbes.com and others are calling a media conspiracy and an outrageous expert stock market manipulation helmed by the Nielsen Corporation (the TV ratings corp.) who own The Hollywood Reporter and Rupert Murdoch’s vast media empire which includes 20th Century Fox which owns both “Star Wars” and “Avatar” a vast tapestry of falsehoods are now merging.
While they claim “John Carter” is a box office disappointment in the United States it has grossed over 100 million overseas and it’s the top grossing film in Russia – no less.
My condolences to you, Andrew, and the rest of the audience members like me, who long to see great throwback spectacles like JOHN CARTER. If the early returns are any indication, the negative press and botched marketing campaign may have condemned us to the realm of wishful thinking, should we hope to see something so wondrous and original ever again. Instead, we’ll be cursed to endure more lack-luster creations based on board games, children’s toys, bad teen novels and increasingly obscure comic heroes. Memorable characters will take a back seat to more explosions and wiz-bang effects, and any semblances of narrative will seem like it was spit out of a random story-generating computer.
BC: This is a very well-made and well-acted movie, and one of the first sci-fi/fantasy movies in a quite while to stir a sense of wonder in me. Not unlike, the first time I watched “Star Wars,” “Harry Potter” or “Lord of the Rings.”
JP: The plot is elegant in its simplicity, but it is by no means a weak or bland story. Age-old elements such as greed, bigotry and revenge form the backbone of a tale about a swashbuckling and brave warrior, out of his depth, who finds something to finally believe in. Just the kind of story to make one’s heart flutter, as the hero fights the good fight, finding himself in the process.
…some of the word from Europe about the movie itself makes me even more curious to see it. In Libération, Olivier Séguret recommends that viewers approach the movie with “innocence,” which is “the key that makes it possible to understand the extraordinary and shambolic spectacle that’s astir on the screen.” He says that the story is insignificant—“so classical that we already know it all by heart”—and prefers to call attention to the blend of live action and C.G.I., which, he says, “attains in this film new summits in amplitude and virtuosity.” He continues, “Stanton gorges himself to a certain excess, but also treats us to graphic fireworks that are striking in their freedom, their fury, their intense creative quest” and concludes that the movie offers “an ingenuity that sometimes borders on the ridiculous, but also a candor, a virginity that renders this thunderous object terribly fragile. And, by that fact, quite endearing.”
The critic Jean-François Rauger, at Le Monde, also praises the film’s “perfection of digital special effects,” which bring about “the feeling of a quasi-infinity of possibilities in graphic invention,” and adds that the “playful exaltation of the adventurous man” reminds him of the flamboyant sword-and-shield action films directed by Riccardo Freda in the fifties and sixties.
It’s fun and trendy to trash science fiction and fantasy films that aren’t Very Serious Movies.
That’s what we’re seeing happen with Disney’s John Carter, a fun, campy action-adventure directed by Pixar’s Andrew Stanton, and written by Stanton, Mark Andrews, and novelist Michael Chabon.
John Carter is everything it’s supposed to be. And because it achieves exactly what it’s sets out to do, it’s no surprise that critics are panning it. For one thing, many reviewers of the film aren’t quite sure what to classify the film. The swashbuckling confuses them.
Despite all the anti-Mars alarmism, John Carter has a decent shot at being one of those rare movies that picks up steam as its run continues. Even all this bad, bottom-line crazed press could be beneficial, stirring up some curiosity. It’s a better ad campaign than what Disney devised.
But what it most reminds me of are those great classic matinee adventures like Jason and the Argonauts — big, bright adventures with wild monsters and brave armies, heroes and heroines who run and jump and kiss while we grin like kids at the sheer fun of it all. There was a time when not every movie tried to be some cliched “dark and gritty” version of itself, and when critics and audiences went to movies to laugh and cheer and have grand ol’ fun getting entertained by movies that worked hard to give you your buck’s worth for two hours.
And that’s what John Carter is — an old fashioned matinee adventure. It’s Tarzan and Flash Gordon, it’s The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and Star Wars. It’s a mixture of barbarian-like ancient technology and weird heavy machinery, it’s swords and flying ships, it’s cowboys and space travel.
This is pitch perfect. I like dark and gritty as much as the next guy, but I also love movies that don’t pretend to be anything but themselves. Occasionally, I want to just sink comfortably into the adventure.
John Carter does this masterfully. It’s the sort of movie that we don’t see all that often. There’s some Indiana Jones in there, and some Star Wars, too. It’s fun, and it avoids many of the mistakes and shortcomings of other big blockbusters.
it’s ultimately a love letter to childlike wonder at the impossible made real.