Another Reviewer Making a Belated Discovery of John Carter

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A lively, belated review from Dec 10, 2012


Some movies just don’t hit the mark they’re supposed to. This year’s horribly named yet excellently executed sci-fi/adventure epic John Carter is, unfortunately, one of those movies. It’s a movie that pretty much does everything right – methodical pacing, fun action scenes, interesting story ideas, epic and engulfing music, decent performances, and solid characters are all features of this unique flick. Sadly, some movies are destined to not find a solid audience, no matter how well-made they are. Who woulda thunk that a Disney-funded sci-fi/adventure flick that’s actually pretty well made would end up being a box office bomb?
Personally, I blame the title. John Carter is an absolutely terrible name for this film. Anything, literally anything would have been better than simply naming the flick after the main character of the movie. It could have been called Mars Battle Adventures or something generic like that and that still would have been a better name for it, because then it at least describes what you’re getting. But John Carter? That sounds like a damn inspirational sports movie or something, or some kind of character-based story about some boring schmuck. It’s just NOT evocative of what kind of movie this is. I don’t know why they didn’t just call it A Princess of Mars, the name of the sci-fi/fantasy pulp novel written in 1917 by Edgar Rice Burroughs which this film is adapted from. I guess having “Princess” in the title is just WAY too gay, so they opted to take both that word and “Mars” out of the equation – even though those are by far the most exciting and descriptive words in the whole sentence – and just lazily name it after the main character. The fact that the word “Mars” does NOT appear in the title of this film is baffling to me. Why would you pass that opportunity up?! And then you consider how the sequel – I mean, the hypothetical sequel at this point – was going to be named John Carter of Mars, which by all logic and reasoning should have been the name of THIS film, if we’re changing names and shit….aggh it just really pisses me off, because this movie totally deserved to find a wider audience and its stupid ass name probably made people think it was about some real-life asshole they never heard of. SUCH a wasted opportunity.

Because, my friends, despite its tepid reaction upon its release, John Carter is actually a pretty damn fine film – it’s exciting, it’s humorous, it’s got all kinds of crazy alien shit going on in it, and it keeps your interest all the way through. And SOMEHOW, it actually gets you to care about and sympathize with weird events and strange aliens (respectively) that don’t even correlate to our planet in the slightest. If that isn’t some good filmmaking, I don’t know what is. And hey, I’m not too surprised about that aspect either – this movie is the live-action debut of Andrew Stanton, a two-time Academy-Award winning computer-animated film director of Pixar fame, specifically Finding Nemo and WALL-E. That pretty much means that this dude is an accomplished filmmaker (even if his previous movies technically don’t take place in reality) and can definitely be trusted with material such as this.
So why did this film flop? Well, apart from the title problem I’ve already addressed, I’d have to say that it’s also because this film is pretty esoteric for the most part. It’s based on an almost 100-year old series of sci-fi books, cost a good $275,000,000(!), and featured no massively major stars of any real sort. It was pretty much a gamble from the get-go. In fact, I’m not entirely sure how or why Disney even let this film get made, and why they gave it the budget they did. I mean, they must have believed in the subject matter if they were willing to drop THAT many millions of dollars on it, right? A film this epic and large-scale surely would have been a sure bet, right? Well……no. Quite simply, the lack of any kind of public interest is the main reason this movie flopped. But the movie itself does not suck, despite what some critics out there have said.
Speaking of the movie, well, it’s about a guy named John Carter (played with Indiana Jones-esque fervor by Taylor Kitsch), a Civil War Confederate Army Captain who is accidentally transported to Mars (known as Barsoom to the locals) via a magic medallion belonging to a mysterious figure John ends up murdering in a cave. Due to the planet’s lower gravity and his different bone density, John Carter is something of a Superman on Barsoom, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound and knock the shit out of enemies with extra strength. He’s instantly picked up by some aliens known as Tharks, whose leader Tars Tarkas (motion-captured by Willem Dafoe) recognizes the power within this stranger. Before long, John Carter is wrapped up in an interplanetary conspiracy and war, and must fight to protect the residents of Barsoom from an otherwise unstoppable force.

Read the Rest (You have to scroll down past the Lincoln Review)


  • I was speaking about the beginning of Raiders. Then again, the associates were not especially trustful, Indy was just more ruthless than them. This part of the movie is indeed carried by Ford’s charisma, and our viewer’s past knowledge of him playing a hero elsewhere (as Tom Selleck would have had that background too).

    I think it was in Stanton’s mind when he devised his take on John Carter. Carter is not necessarily a sympathetic character at the beginning in Arizona. His entrance, without seeing his face, lit from behind, is not unlike Indy’s in Raiders. You’re right in pointing that Taylor Kitsch is not Ford (a feat Hollywood runs after ever since), and that Stanton is not Spielberg either.

  • “You ordered it from Amazon, right?”

    Yep. Was doing some last minute online Christmas shopping and threw it in. I’m still waiting for it to arrive.

    “What’s interesting in the Indiana Jones comparison is that, at the beginning of Raiders, he’s not a sympathetic character at all. He’s rude to his associates, and really nothing more than a tomb raider. It’s only through Harrison Ford’s natural charisma that you happen to like him somewhat. He’s not THAT different from Bellocq.”

    OK not to disagree but what version of Raiders did you see? Indy wasn’t “rude to his assoicates.” In fact he was pretty warm in his relationships with Marcus and Sallah. The only ones he was rude with was the ones who kept trying to kill him. Also Indy never said “its not my problem.” There was none of that reluctant hero. He agreed to go find the Ark under the belief that they would get to study it and on the side a nice amount of money. Also no moping over a dead wife and kid eating up the screentime. So I don’t see the comparison between Indy and Mopey. Also Ford had something Kitsch didn’t in this movie-charisma and a sense of humor. That and a director who knew what he was doing.

  • What’s interesting in the Indiana Jones comparison is that, at the beginning of Raiders, he’s not a sympathetic character at all. He’s rude to his associates, and really nothing more than a tomb raider. It’s only through Harrison Ford’s natural charisma that you happen to like him somewhat. He’s not THAT different from Bellocq.

    The difference with John Carter is that Spielberg doesn’t hint to any “tragic past” event at all to justify his main character’s attitude, that’s a given.

  • You ordered it from Amazon, right?

    Re the review . . . . I started to say this on Dec 2nd, but decided not to — no need for a rehash. But Carter isn’t nearly as consistently mopey as you think he is. I wish I could sit and watch it with you and dig you in the ribs every time he’s not being mopey. 😉

  • “John Carter (played with Indiana Jones-esque fervor by Taylor Kitsch)”

    OK what movie are these people watching? Where in this film did Kitsch display any fervor, much less Indiana Jones-esque fervor? I’m beginning to wonder if there isn’t some alternate version circulating around that actually is as good as these people seem to pretend it is.

    Beyond that I ordered your book and still waiting for it to show up.

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