A little pushback from Forbes: “Ignore the critics, John Carter is fantastic!”

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Disney’s John Carter is a sword-and-planet space romance. If that’s what you’re after, you’re in luck.

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.

Take Roger Ebert, for instance, who writes:

When superior technology is at hand, it seems absurd for heroes to limit themselves to swords. When airships the size of a city block can float above a battle, why handicap yourself with cavalry charges involving lumbering alien rhinos? When it is possible to teleport yourself from Earth to Mars, why are you considered extraordinary because you can jump really high?

Such questions are never asked in the world of “John Carter,” and as a result, the movie is more Western than science fiction. Even if we completely suspend our disbelief and accept the entire story at face value, isn’t it underwhelming to spend so much time looking at hand-to-hand combat when there are so many neat toys and gadgets to play with?

Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote a very particular sort of story, and it wasn’t really science fiction per se. Burroughs wrote his John Carter of Mars stories as planetary romances. The series fits into the ‘sword and planet’ niche – science fiction in appearances only. There is very little science, and quite a lot offiction.

John Carter isn’t so different than Burroughs’s other, and more famous, creation: Tarzan of the Apes. Both are adventure-style romances and neither pretends to be at all realistic.

Read the whole article at Forbes.

19 comments

  • It was a very very good movie. A Saturday afternoon escape. Everyone that walked out of the theater when i saw it was grinning, the theater was full…not an empty seat. the last three star wars movies sucked compared to John carter. Bring on the sequel. I’ll pay.

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  • I liked the movie a lot, but I’m really conflicted. I have lots of thoughts, but they are too jumbled for me to be coherent about them until I have time to digest it a bit. (Dotar Sojat … you should make a section devoted to comments on the movie after people have seen it.) There was plenty I loved, and I sure hope Stanton gets his sequels. But there were some things I really disliked. And it’s not just the changes in plot. There were changes that go to the core of what I love about Barsoom. I’ll name just one, for now: The people of Helium would rather the empire be reduced to ashes than sacrifice their beloved princess to a “fate worse than death.” And Tardos Mors would never even consider it.

  • Marc, some of these reviewers don’t know what “intergalactic” means–or maybe they think Mars is in another galaxy.

    Elmo, really nice article. It’s really refreshing to read something in the professional press by someone who knows what he writing about.

    I loved about half the movie (the part by Burroughs). Stanton added way too much story, much of it clinched. The “red” male costumes were horrible, straight out of 1930s Flash Gordon. And he thought Frazetta was too old fashioned! The action was too quick and confused. Still, I hope he gets his sequels but stays much closer to ERB’s straightforward but powerful stories.

  • That’s the best review of the movie that I’ve read yet! That writer actually “gets” it, and knows how to handle/interpret those who don’t.

  • There’s more like that in APOM that really resonates — how JC’s life has been defined by a sense of honor and service…..things like that.

  • “When I was a boy, they also made me want to be on the side of nobility and righteousness. Which sounds corny as hell, now.”

    Nothing corny about it. Just sounds TRUE. That is exactly what makes ERB books stand apart – excellent values set in the most wildly imagined, fun worlds that we’ve ever seen.

  • i just saw it in l max 3d an it was amazing film i love it plan to see it again people please make up your own mind stop listing to movie critics set your self free this movie will remind you to take control see the movie you its great

  • Re the capcha …can someone describe exactly what is happening so I can get Ras Thavas to work on it and fix it?

  • RALOK — THIS IS FROM HRH THE RIDER. HE GOT CAPTCHA ZAPPED SOMEHOW…I”M WORKING ON IT . DOTAR.

    Yeah, but Sab Than could have parked Zodanga on top of Helium at any time — unless that crevass surrounding the city is wider than it looks. So Zodangan tech could have trounced Helium tech. (Except, of course, for the above caveat.)

    ERB explained — perhaps not always consistently — the reason for swords still being used. I would have liked them to have worked that somewhere in the dialog.

    And yes — why the hell don’t critics actually pay attention? Most of the extreme negative reviews seem to be from people who are either ADD or who missed the first five minutes. Christ, two reviewers said Carter was gold mining in Virginia!

  • I just saw the movie with a friend of mine and I’m here to tell you this, the film critics must be smoking some serious shrooms Because I found the film to be incredible. Seriously! And don’t get me started on those flame baiting Hacks at deadline.com! To sum it up I will be seeing this film again for sure! and tell as much people as I can about this amazing film!

  • Crap, that was supposed to be a response to Ralok, but the CAPTCHA is f**cking up.

  • Yeah, but Sab Than could have parked Zodanga on top of Helium at any time — unless that crevass surrounding the city is wider than it looks. So Zodangan tech could have trounced Helium tech. (Except, of course, for the above caveat.)

    ERB explained — perhaps not always consistently — the reason for swords still being used. I would have liked them to have worked that somewhere in the dialog.

    And yes — why the hell don’t critics actually pay attention? Most of the extreme negative reviews seem to be from people who are either ADD or who missed the first five minutes. Christ, two reviewers said Carter was gold mining in Virginia!

  • What I like about this Forbes take is that it describes what I wanted all along from a movie version of “Princess.” I don’t want a grand, sweeping, classic piece of cinematic art. Burroughs and his fans knew and know that his books aren’t fine literature. (“Litrachoor,” I think ERB called it.) They just get the heart thumping. When I was a boy, they also made me want to be on the side of nobility and righteousness. Which sounds corny as hell, now. But there are worse things to inspire in young people Or old people.

  • “But I can’t ever remember a movie that generated such wildly opposing views.”

    I can remember a similar situation with DUNE from 1984–the critics went all-in with the long knives before the film came out and soundly trashed it. Harlan Ellison wrote about it (he was one of the few critics to praise DUNE) and his articles are in his book HARLAN ELLISON’S WATCHING.

    I saw the film today…and I honestly want to choke some of these critics who have slagged the film. Yes, each of us is entitled to our informed opinions, but it seems to me that many of the naysayers have no clue about what a “planetary romance” is and they’re too caught up in whining about the film’s budget.

    I enjoyed the movie. It isn’t perfect, but it got so much right–and it captured the heart and soul of Burroughs’ A PRINCESS OF MARS.

  • I’ve never paid all that much attention to reviews before. But I can’t ever remember a movie that generated such wildly opposing views. It’s amazing to me — reviewers either absolutely love this movie or think it’s the worst thing ever. Sure, there are a few that fall somewhere in between. But the most passionate commentary seems to stake out one pole or the other. I’m not sure how to read that, or if it means anything at all. And I can’t even say where I fall. I see it tonight.

  • 1.because swords can still kill people

    2.because the forces that are using the “rhinos” do not have access to that technology as clearly demonstrated

    3.that is not common technology, as clearly demonstrated repeatedly the technology was unknown to most of the planet.

    try actually paying attention to the damn movie Ebert!

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