Last night I was channel surfing at bedtime and came across John Carter on Starz. First things first — the fact that it’s still playing on Starz is interesting because the original run was supposed to be November 17 through January 31 – so it has been extended and is still getting heavy rotation, which is not bad at all for the biggest flop in cinema history. This link has the schedule. I am also going to paste the upcoming schedule into this post.
Anyway, back to the tale of my unexpected and unplanned viewing of John Carter last night. I’ve seen the movie fifteen or twenty times and over the last several months I’ve given it a rest. A certain amount of “fatigue” had definitely been building up. But last night I found myself feeling curious again, and perhaps because it was so late at night I must have switched off those parts of my brain that tend to rise up and clamor for attention when I watch it — I’m referring, of course to the “ERB fan” parts of my brain that inserts book images in competition with the screen on the one hand, and the filmmaker-writer parts of my brain that questions every decision by the writers and director on the other. This time I left all that at the door. My intention was to just dip into the movie for a few minutes before bedtime. I ended up watching it to the end.
In that kind of relaxed, almost sleepy state, I found what I was seeing to be utterly enchanting in a way that felt like an epiphany that runs like this: This must be what all those fans who stumble across John Carter on Starz and end up loving it are feeling. And there are a lot of those types of people — many of whom find their way here and leave a comment that most of the regulars never see, because they are commenting on deep, buried posts they find when they google “John Carter Sequel”. (I’m sharing some of those comments at the bottom of this post, by the way.)
Let’s forget all of our tired arguments about the character of John Carter and whether he should or should not have a dead wife on Earth and should or should not be a modern damaged goods hero in need of redemption. As a sleepy, non-overthinking viewer I didn’t care – he was fine the way he was. And let’s set aside whether Stanton did enough with the Martian landscape. Or whether he got Tars Tarkas right, or whether moving Zodanga was a good or bad thing, or whether introducing the Therns into the plot of the first movie in the series was a good or bad idea. . . . . In this kind of relaxed, no particular expectation state, none of that mattered.
What did matter? And what felt surprising and enchanting?
Last night, more than any other time, I had a sense of how engaging the story and characters are when you compare them to any other film that compares to John Carter based on the advertising. In other words, last night I came to it with lower expectations (remember I only intended to dip into it for a few minutes) and so when it started working its magic on me, I had more of a sense of that feeling of unexpected pleasure at the complexity and richness of the world (an ERB thing), and I felt the pull of the characters and story twists in a new way (a lot of this is Stanton). I found the scenes with Sola and John Carter and Dejah en route to the River Iss to be far more engaging than is typical for a movie like this — and here’s the big one (MCR, listen please), I was really struck by the fact that John Carter didn’t seem nearly as “mopey” as he is sometimes accused of being. Let’s see if I can remember some specifics to justify this reaction.
First, I started watching during the aerial battle when Sab Than is attacking Dejah Thoris and John Carter intervenes. So in this viewing at least, I didn’t see anything prior to this part of the story. I saw John Carter acting heroically to intervene on behalf of Dejah and there was nothing mopey or grumpy about that. Then he was definitely grumpy — but in an intriguing way (on this viewing)– when he said he didn’t fight for anyone. Part of the reason this worked all right for me was that I was really conscious of the glances and sense of intrigue between John Carter and Dejah Thoris during that scene. I really felt there was an attraction there. Then there was the poignant scene in front of the ruins of the fliers — “War is a terrible thing”, and there was nothing grumpy about Carter here. He was gentle and chivalrous, a true John Carter in this moment.
Then there was the scene where he realizes he’s on Barsoom . . . . no grumpiness there……and there was something about his little smile when he’s talking about “water water everywhere” . . . .I really felt the pull between the two characters, John and Dejah. And it just kept resonating — the scene in the temple is full of terrific sexual tension betwen John Carter and Dejah, and again – he’s not grumpy or mopey. Then the “road scenes” with Dejah — particularly the moment when they see the flier “sailing on light” and share a look that totally says “I’m falling in love with you” — both ways — and again, the small moment at the watering station where Dejah busts John checking her out from behind, and gives a schoolgirl smile.
Watching it and feeling these beats more strongly than in previous viewings, I found myself wondering how I or anyone watching this could feel that the kiss inside the gates of Iss, when it comes, is too sudden, or there hasn’t been enough preparation for it.
Watching it this time I had a feeling similar to what I have sometimes when I watch a golden age movie late at night and am just surprised and impressed at how great the writing and performances are, in that “old Hollywood” way. There was something of that in my unplanned viewing of JC last night.
What does all this mean?
I’m not attempting to draw any grand conclusions — just sharing something that happened that moved the meter a little bit on my understanding of the vexing conundrum that is John Carter, a film that seems completely capable of disappointing on one viewing and bedazzling on another.
But there is some magic there — I’m more convinced of that than ever.
And I’ll close this out by posting some of the recent comments that have come in from people discovering it in much the way my sleepy self “discovered” it last night. These are comments only going back a week or so — i.e. the most recent ones. It’s interesting that they come from both people who knew nothing about John Carter, and people who read the books 40 or 50 years ago (but not since) , and who were perhaps more forgiving of the adaptation in part because they hadn’t re-read it anytime recently.
I had never heard of the character. I never paid any attention to the promotional campaign. I never had any thought about going to see the film. I just happened to catch part of it on Starz, was intrigued enough to set my DVR to record the next showing. After I watched it I ordered the DVD from Amazon and downloaded the book series to my kindle. If it reopened in theaters I would see it on the first day – feeling this is the kind of film that, to do it justice, really needs to be seen on the big screen. If they did do a sequel I’d be there opening night.
By then I probably will have read all 11 books in the series.
Just finished watching John Cater on Starz and was very surprised how much I enjoyed it. Had no idea what it was about going into it, and not expecting much. I had never read the books, but after watching it I went straight to my kindle app and downloaded the first book. I think a sequel would be great, and people like me who didn’t really know what the first movie about, now have seen it and would pay to see the sequel.
I watched this film with a low expectation after reading some of the critics reviews, but I was stunned at how good it was! Sure it had some storytelling issues but overall the two and a bit hours went by quickly, the acting was good, the effects were stunning and I was left wanting to experience more of the adventure by the end, which is surely the sign of a good movie?! I even thought it was far more interesting than Avatar which left me bored by the end!
If Disney are now entirely focused on Star Wars then that is a huge shame. They should rather than selfishly consigning JC to the tomb, allow another studio to have a go at the sequel. There is so much more story to tell! The film world is lacking in decent interesting sci-fi adventure stories and the JC series would bring just that.
I for one, am not at all excited about the prospect of more Star Warts films. After all we have had six films already! Studios the Star Wars story has been drained completely dry! We don’t need or want to know any more! Why not take a risk and create something new that will capture the audiences imagination again?
Just finished the film and I really enjoyed. It was a fantastic swashbuckling sweeping sci fi movie, with good characters, good actors, fantastic special fx and like a previous post said I’m gutted I never went to the cinema. This film deserves to be a trilogy lesser films have become quadrilogies and sagas.
One of the converts that saw it on Starz. I had no clue what the film was about until it started in rotation and I must have watched it a half dozen times since. I figured that this would turn into the next “Cult” flick, so would be pretty happy to see a sequel.
I just watched John Carter again and like the first time I thought it to be the best movie I have ever seen. Now I said to myself maybe I am liking it more because I have been an ERB fan for 50 years, so I spent some time watching my other Fav, movies like Avatar, Clash of the Titans and Wrath of the Titans, also I have recently seen Avengers and Skyfall and then I watched John Carter again and I loved it even more than any of them, mind you they are still all good movies.
After I saw Avatar, I had no desire to see Sci-Fic/ Fantasy films anymore. What a dud, except for the great special effects. Saw the trailer for “John Carter” while at the theater to see “War Horse”. I was stunned and explained to my wife who is John Carter. She did not want to see it and after reading the numerous thumbs down reviews. She felt it had to be a terrible film. I convinced her to see a matinee (cheap) showing. She was truly surprised, among other things, no review mentioned the love story within the film. I understand Disney now has the “Star Wars” franchise. I doubt if they would reconsider a sequel, but I can”t help but wonder who would be cast as Carthoris.
John Carter was such a great story, I don’t know a single person who wasn’t in love with it. So very dissapointing that Disney gave up on it.. But like all big corperations, all they care about is profit. Not the beautiful story or the millions of fans who love it. It could have been so big so like Lord of the Rings!
I knew nothing about John Carter until someone told me about it after they watched it. They described a movie much different than the movie trailers I watched. So, I watched it ,(not knowing anything about the history of John Carter) ,and I loved it!!!! I thought they did a great job with the storline and actors and actresses. The only problem I had were the white apes in the Arena scene, but the rest was fantastic for a Sci-fi fantasy movie.
I bought the DVD and watch it often. It’s a shame Disney blew it on the marketing of this movie. I hope someone can buy the rights from Disney and make a sequel.
I watched John Carter not that long ago, and I had a blast. I was expecting the worst, given the box office numbers, but I put that all aside and had fun with it. While it started slow for me, I was quickly engaged and enjoyed it to the very end. I’ve even been toying with the idea of watching it again, so my wife can see it and I can get a second showing.
I think a major misstep in the marketing of this movie was removing “Mars” from the name. “John Carter” alone doesn’t grab someone, while the real title from the books would definitely pique someone’s interest.
Really enjoyed the movie and bought the DVD. But what do I know, I’m just part of the demographic with disposible income to do such things. Most alluring line in a movie this year: “Back in one zat, John Carter of Earth.
I was captivated with this film. The ending was awesome. I cant understand why it was a box office bomb. This movie took me & my family on a great movie adventure & i hope to be able to continue the adventure with the sequels… As long as they dont change the actors. That would suck .