I’m very sorry I missed this when it first came out on March 19. I spotted it today when someone posted a link to it on Facebook, saying that this had been the review that convinced them to give John Carter a try. It’s a personalized account of how the author reacted to the movie on a first viewing, then eventually decided to see it again — and how the additional viewing gave him additional perspective and appreciation. He chronicles his journey with the film very well. The writer is Pete Peterson, who is the author of The Fiddler’s Gun and Fiddler’s Green. His bio says he is also “a maker of stinky cheeses, wooden boats, and tasty sandwiches.” His site, The Rabbit Room, is well worth a visit.
by Pete Peterson
When I walked into the theater on March 9th, I was a skeptic. I’d seen some really weird looking previews that I filed into the “what the heck was that” drawer and tried to forget about, until a friend pointed me to a few facts that the trailer failed to mention. First, the movie was directed by Oscar-winner Andrew Stanton of Wall-E and Finding Nemo. Second, the script was co-written by Pulitzer Prize and Hugo Award-winner Michael Chabon of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay and The Yiddish Policeman’s Union. Third, the film is an adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom series which was the direct inspiration for Star Wars,Flash Gordon, Dune, Avatar, and basically every space opera trope of the 20th (and 21st) century.
As weird as it looked, I had to give it a chance.
When I walked out of the theater on March 9th, I was teetering on the verge of conversion. I felt a little like I’d just seen a new Star Wars movie, with a dash of Indiana Jones thrown in, but I was bothered by some perceived second act clunkiness, some thinly written scenes, some general goofiness, and, oddly enough, a nagging suspicion of its “almost-greatness.” My reaction was ambiguous, but I couldn’t shake the film. I couldn’t shake the feeling that for two hours, I’d been a kid again, peering wide-eyed into a fantastic world just beyond the world I could see.
I went home that night and lay in bed, kept awake by visions of four-armed Tharks, warrior/scientist princesses, tall ships that sail on light, and the possibility that somewhere there was a world where I could be more than the broken man I am. I started to wonder if anyone else was feeling the same way. After all, the film hadn’t gotten very good reviews and the media was calling it the biggest flop since Ishtar(ouch).
To my great relief, I discovered I’m not the only one. A quick perusal of Twitter and a few internet haunts quickly revealed that the film was connecting with audiences on a worldwide scale. In fact, it was the biggest movie in the world, despite the fact that it opened with split reviews and a baffling marketing campaign.