John Carter makes Moviefone’s “10 Best Films You Didn’t See” List (and Time’s “10 Worst Movies” List)

Other Stuff

John Carter has landed on MovieFone’s “10 Best Films You Didn’t See” list and the writeup they give it is a good one.  I think it captures the John Carter Conundrum pretty well.   It manages to combine “deeply strange”, “wildly imaginative”, and “discombobulated mess” into the description, but lands on “easygoing, overtly earnest charm”.

It’s weird to think of a $200 million Disney event movie directed by the filmmaker behind “Finding Nemo” as a “lost” film, but that’s exactly what “John Carter” was. Based on a series of hugely influential, hundred-year-old pulp novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and flattened by the one-two punch of bad press and poor marketing, “John Carter” died a dog’s death at the box office this spring, despite being a deeply strange, wildly imaginative and hugely personal blockbuster. True, “John Carter” is a discombobulated mess, often times getting lost in a tangle of subplots and arcane terminology, but it works more often than it should, and has an easygoing, overtly earnest charm that’s hard to shrug off. Taylor Kitsch, from “Friday Night Lights,” plays the title role, a grumpy Confederate soldier zapped to Mars (that tired old story). Andrew Stanton, a Pixar veteran, made his live action debut with “John Carter,” and the action sequences have a zippy inventiveness befitting someone with an animation background (the script was co-written by Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon), often resulting in bold, sometimes deeply unsettling decisions. Known primarily as an astronomical financial dud, “John Carter” will one day rightfully be recognized for what it truly is — an utterly winning cult classic.

Oh, damn.  There I go baiting the contrarians again.


“Utterly winning cult classic”?

Will anyone take the bait?

Here, to balance things out, is the Time Magazine writeup on JC’s inclusion in the worst films of the year.  This should be soothing to those riled by the one above.


John Carter — #2

A 2011 New Yorker profile of Andrew Stanton revealed that the WALL-E director had never heard the words “I’m proud of you” from his parents. Who wants to kick that dude when he’s down? Thus, I saw the much-reviled John Carter with my son, a moviegoer so generous, he has defended Jar Jar Binks. We tried to get our bearings on Stanton’s alien planet, with its portentous conversations, native Tharks (who would fit in at a Binks family reunion) and long but passionless battles. John Carter (Taylor Kitsch, embodying Lorenzo Lamas circa 1982) and his princess (Lynn Collins) seemed born not to love each other so much as to mud-wrestle each other. At the end, I expected my kid to announce that John Carter was awesome. Instead he said, “That has to go on your worst list.” Out of the mouths of babes (and the target demographic).

Under the John Carter listing, there is a spirited rebuttal from Daria Brooks, who is one of the prominent members of the John Carter Facebook Back to Barsoom Group, and a professional writer of Childrens Books (see Legacy of the Pacific.)

I’ve been preparing for months to spend December doing exactly what I’ve done most of this year: Following around idiotic pundits correcting their ridiculous misconceptions about “John Carter.” I really don’t care what some supposed film critic’s little kid thought of this amazingly creative rendition of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ 100 year old adventure tale “A Princess Of Mars.” (It’s a PG-13 film, by the way, so young children shouldn’t even be viewing it). Until early 2011, this was meant to be the first live-action Pixar film for Disney Studios, but executive in-fighting, stock manipulation, marketing ineptitude and Disney’s own sabotage campaign (ever notice that there were almost no licensing deals for toys–for a Disney flick?!) turned what should have been Taylor Kitsch’s first hit of the year into every copy-cat blogger’s joy. The film broke box office records across Europe, plus remained in US theaters for four months–longer than 70% of other film releases this year. It went straight to No.1 on DVD/Blu-ray on June 5 . . . . The lesson: Stop relying on the opinions of people who write reviews based upon the quality of the press junkets and the gift bags they receive. “John Carter” is a fabulous paean to the movie serials of the 1930s and a great adventure outing indeed–see it!

One thing that resonates for me in what Daria Brooks says — and this comes after reading and rereading thousands of articles as I was researching and writing JCGOH, is the number of reviews which acknowledge that the reviewer carried with them into their viewing of John Carter a rather heavy load of negative preconceptions . . . and who then write a review that shows a very limited effort to engage with the movie.   I’m not talking about serious reviews in which the reviewer really gave the movie a chance, didn’t like it, and wrote convincingly as to why.  I’m talking about reviews that barely qualify as such, and which demonstrate an attitude in which the reviewer is basically seeking confirmation of the negative impression generated in the media.
This is not a problem unique to John Carter — it happens to any film that somehow gets sideways with the media.  But the degree to which it was present with John Carter is exceptional.
Anyway, I’m sure there will be plenty of more “Worst Movies” lists coming out.  We’ll be sure to log them in, along with any positivity as well.




  • Wow!
    Got some serious fans here? 🙂

    I’m not sure where the marketing went wrong with this Disney movie, but… I remember seeing commercials/trailers for it quite a bit up here in Alaska.

    Didn’t see it on every single channel, but… I do watch SportsCenter quite a bit, and… They showed the trailer quite a bit on there.

    Those 1st 3 or 4 comments up above were pretty funny, somebody trying to compare the Tark’s to Jar Jar Binks.
    To steal a line from The Cable Guy, “I don’t care who you are, that’s funny right there!”. (Or something similar to)

  • I dont care what you think about the film, but comparing the tharks in any way to Jar Jar binks is so utterly ridiculous that if you do it you need to be slapped in the face.

    they were not as good as they were in the books, but for heavens sake they are 12 foot tall space monsters that torture people, and kill babies.

    these are things they do in the film, they torture people . . .and kill babies.

    Jar Jar binks stepped in poo, Tharks kill unborn babies.

    there is a huge gap here.

  • “To hear this talk of overly long battles is more than a bit off. Every Star wars film had far longer and far more boring battle scenes (in the first Star Wars even the skirmish when they first escape the Death Star puts me to sleep), ALL OF THEM.”

    Yes and John Carter was such a prime example of action scenes done right. What’s the emoticon for sarcasm? Yeah once you get past the poorly staged sword fight scenes, the badly edited and staged wedding finale and stealing the entire speeder bike sequence from Return of the Jedi. No John Carter is a prime example of why letting a guy whose previous action scenes was a fat guy fighting a steering wheel try to do them was another one in a long line of bad decisions for this movie.

    “Tell me if they thought the chemistry between Dejah and Carter didn’t jibe, that FX weren’t as lavish or effective, that the story seemed less than original, whatever”

    Actually most of them did. I guess that got lost in your standard “Bash Star Wars, Praise Stanton” viewpoint. The movie was criticized for a lack of chemistry between Kitsch and Collins (thanks to Saint Andrew’s mucking with their back stories), the comments about the Tharks and Jar Jar? That’s pretty much saying the effects weren’t lavish. As for the story seem less than original, well thank Disney for the botched attempts to better educate the public and the critics about the books and Stanton’s “improvements” making it seem like a cliche fest. The critics did note this as did quite a few audience members. It wasn’t all just about the poor action sequences.

  • To hear this talk of overly long battles is more than a bit off. Every Star wars film had far longer and far more boring battle scenes (in the first Star Wars even the skirmish when they first escape the Death Star puts me to sleep), ALL OF THEM.
    For that to be a complaint could only mean critics expected this to a slice of life film drama. The critic comparing the Tharks to Jar Jar Binks and his clan is also preposterous. I’m fine with people not liking the movie but at least be honest about it. Tell me if they thought the chemistry between Dejah and Carter didn’t jibe, that FX weren’t as lavish or effective, that the story seemed less than original, whatever… but the battle scenes were not longer and in all cases shorter than most battle scenes on SF film fare. A little honesty and conviction goes a long. Heck, I’d settle for, “This just wasn’t what I was hoping for”.

  • OK I didn’t mean to imply you were naive Pascalahad. In fact you’ve been one of the smartest people on here and have shown more acceptance than most to opposing viewpoints and a love of ERB.

    As for endorsing these two critics, let me tell a little personal story. Back in college I worked for the college newspaper for a year and a half as the Arts/Entertainment editor and that meant having to see movies, in some cases movies I had no interest in seeing but had to since it was my job. I feel that if they were not being paid I doubt the TIme or EW critic would have even seen John Carter but they had to. And in that respect I can empathize with them since-and I read this a long time back-the average normal film critic (and by normal I mean Roger Ebert, not Aint It Cool News fanboys) see more movies in a whole year than most people see in their entire lifetimes. And in some cases they don’t like them. Also it is an opinion, not the final word on a film. This reminds me of a few months back when the BTBers were getting their underoos in a twist over that review in the Detroit News and I was wondering why since it wasn’t that important.

    Now I do agree that I do want intelligence from film critics but in this day it’s far between since everyone with a blog or web site can be called a critic. Heck I have a blog and I do offer reviews so it has changed from before when most people had just Siskel and Ebert to rely on for opinions about movies. Or Rolling Stone magazine for music reviews.

    I hope that explains what I was meaning. And really? Some guy thought John Carter was this generation’s Star Wars? I can see A Princess of Mars being the Star Wars of 1912 in capturing the public’s imagination and inspiring countless people but does anyone think that Mopey Carter 2012 will have that impact?

  • MCR, you must be joking! Are you seriously telling me that you endorse the two critics I talk about? I would be baffled should it be the case, but you know, I’m of the naive type…

    I expect some intelligence from critics, yes. In spite of your generally agressive tone, I fully comprehend and respect your stance, I hope you know that.

    On the other hand, “Copernicus” on AICN said about John Carter that it was “this generation’s Star Wars”. I don’t agree with that either. What does that makes me? Middle-of-the-road Stantonite?

  • OK Pascalahad, you’re starting to sound like one of those obsessive Stantonites or BTBers who can’t stand that someone didn’t like this movie.

    The whole debate about critics and whether or not they are hypocritical depends on what side you stand on. The reason you’re not liking them is that they didn’t like a movie you liked and therefore they’re “unprofessional” in your eyes. True John Carter did suffer from Heaven’s Gate syndrome where so much of the press was about out of control costs and the director’s ego running out of control but maybe they just didn’t like it. Or were disappointed. I do think it’s interesting that so many of the negative reviews brought up how brilliant the reviewer thought Wall-E or Finding Nemo was and how John Carter failed to live up to those films. I guess that’s why I’ve got tired of the Stantonites and they’re placing Stanton on a pedestal because no one is perfect, not even a “genius” director or an “unprofessional” film critic.

    In reference to the Tharks being compared to Jar Jar Binks the only theories I have there is that a) they thought the CGI effects were not that good and b) if they were following the Heaven’s Gate argument wondering how anyone could spend 250 Million and come out with cheesy looking CG. Especially when you start looking at the low costs but high quality CG in films like District 9 or Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

  • Oh, I have no problem with subjectivity; I have a problem with dishonesty. The unprofessionals are those so called “reviewers” that base their so-called “critics” on not only exaggeration, but on plain hypocrisy.

    That’s right, I exaggerated in suggesting that the first critic hadn’t seen the movie, in appliance of this universal law: “every action has an equal and opposite reaction”. (To be honest this first reaction already went through a diplomatic filter. The initial one was not suited for the website, or only in the adult section) It seemed only fair to me. If it’s not, my bad, I deserve the blame.

    Now please explain to me how, in appearance or behavior, Tharks can be compared to Jar Jar Binks, even on a subjective level.

    Critic #2 is even more laughable: So, Carter is transported “through space and TIME”, really? “Futuristic combat on Barsoom”, with swords and equivalents of muskets?? Carter has just one power, leaping (sure, leaping helps to hurl giant rocks, I always forget about that part)? Tharks as skeletal versions of ET?? (if he saw John Carter, he mostly have to see ET again) A love triangle, where?

    Steve, if you side yourself with those “ critics”, what can I say that you don’t already know… You wrote: “Besides, at least in this particular movies case, you really don’t need to watch it to know that its awful. Watching it just confirms that fact.” Which is a pretty clear stance. Needless to say, we can’t agree on that.

    And on a personal level, what am I supposed to be a professional of? Comments? If that’s so I still have to receive my first pay check.

  • I agree that we shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that someone hasn’t seen the film when they issue an opinion we don’t agree with. But there are, in fact, lots of peeps out there who have in fact done just that — dumped on this particular movie without actually watching it. If somebody really does try to represent that they’ve seen something when they haven’t, they deserve to be called out on it.

    Re the length of the action scenes . . . my sense of it is that they were really quite short, as if Stanton didn’t really have a lot of fascination with, or appreciation for, kinetic action scenes with multiple beats, reversals of fortune, etc. (I don’t consider the opening prologue to be an action scene . . . nor am I a fan of it).

    Just as an example — you won’t find anything in John Carter that even comes close to the kinetic, squirm in your seat action that took place in Avatar in the early scene when Sully is being pursued by a Thanataur . . .

    Stanton just isn’t that kind of film-maker. His head was elsewhere. And I’m sure someone will offer a vivid opinion of where his head was . . . .

  • MCR made the point I was going to: Plan 9 From Outer Space is a cult classic and no one in the entire world would ever suggest that it is a “good” film. (Except Ed Wood and unfortunately we can not reanimate the dead to hear him say it.)

    @pascalahad: lets drop this meaningless and cheap accusation that reviewers who disagree with your view “didn’t see the film”. (Not that they need to – a quick FF through the DVD will tell you that it sucks). Your suggestion is unprofessional, doesn’t add anything to the argument and is being unfairly critical of what can only be a subjective take on the subject. There were “overly long” battles – especially the airship fight at the beginning – in my subjective opinion. Overly long if only because that entire opening scene was ridiculous and should have been unnecessary.
    Besides, at least in this particular movies case, you really don’t need to watch it to know that its awful. Watching it just confirms that fact. (Me – 2x – once in the theater BEFORE I reviewed it, once at home. I’ll watch it again when the DVD drops to the $5 bargain bin at Walmart – but only because I’m a “completist” collector.

  • On the other hand, when you read the full criticism, there’s nothing to write home about. Taylor Kitsch looks “too good”, the only references of the critic are comics, the Tharks all look alike and are dull, Sab Than is “Carter’s rival for Dejah’s affections” (WHAAAAT?? Is there any reference to Dejah feeling anything for the guy, or the reverse??), the CGI is “not integrated”…,,20483133_20567651,00.html

    This text falls under the “everything sucks” category. Definitely the least interesting of criticism. Even in what sometimes appears to me as your most outrageous rants, MCR, that is more arguments than in all this.

  • Hey MCR . . . .do you know who the reviewer was? Just curious . . . . I’ll google it but send a link if you have one. Thanks.

  • Dotar Sojat wrote:

    “Utterly winning cult classic”?

    “Will anyone take the bait?”

    In a Plan 9 from Outer Space way? Sure. In a Blade Runner/The Thing way, no.

    “John Carter” is a fabulous paean to the movie serials of the 1930s and a great adventure outing indeed–see it!”

    Not to disagree with Daria but no this John Carter is not a “fabulous pean to the movie serials of the 1930s.” No one in those serials-and I’ve seen a few-was ever reluctant to help or whined constantly about caves of gold. Buster Crabbe was already to go to Mongo, Mars and Saturn and that was part of the fun-something lacking in Stanton’s movie-a hero ready to go, to face the challenge. If you want to see a recent film that paid homage to the serials it’s not John Carter. It’s Captain America: The First Avenger. It’s Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (which wasn’t flawless but still fun). It’s Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s the first Star Wars. It’s not Mopey Carter.

    Also just FYI for the BTBers-one of the critics at Entertainment Weekly’s web site called John Carter THE worst movie of the year. Just to let you know.

  • Unfortunately, I can’t seem to be able to post comments on theTime Magazine page.

    “with its portentous conversations, native Tharks (who would fit in at a Binks family reunion) and long but passionless battles”

    This just hints that the reviewer indeed didn’t see the movie at all. The Tharks were generally praised, and John Carter was often criticized for having action scenes too short, not too long. Good try, but no.

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