John Carter (2012), directed by Andrew Stanton
Can someone please tell me what there is not to love about John Carter?
Mars setting! Willem Dafoe as a nine foot green alien! Tim Riggins jumping hundreds of feet in the air! Gratuitous shots of Lynn Collins’ inner thighs! Jimmy McNulty with an English accent and sword! A giant pet six-legged monster dog named Woola!
I mean, this has to be a classic right? Right? Nobody?
John Carter is probably the first big movie of 2012, but most people won’t even know that. Why? Because everyone, critics and audiences alike, wrote the darn thing off before any of them had seen it. Everyone hated the trailer. I’m not sure why. Probably because it didn’t explain every little detail about the movie and ruin it like every other trailer does. It went for, you know, atmosphere and intrigue instead. But whatever. And they hated the movie’s title. Not sure why. If you think about it Star Wars is a pretty dumb name for a movie too.
Also outside of a handful of us people who know what’s what (or just watch way too much TV) people probably didn’t get too excited about the prospect of seeing Taylor Kitsch in a major blockbuster film. For those of us OBSESSED with Friday Night Lights, however, that is newsworthy. Also you get to see him fight Dominic “The Wire” West over which is the better drama series of the last decade (Friday Night Lights by a hair, for the record).
People also seem really unwilling to spend money on a movie about a character they’ve never heard of. I’m not going to lie to you and say that I had heard of John Carter before. I hadn’t. He’s a character in a series of stories written a century ago by the same fellow who brought the world Tarzan. As a hundred year old sci-fi concept, John Carter probably seemed hokey to some, but I think mainly the adverse reaction is because we’re so force-fed prequels, sequels and reboots these days that we have little patience for wrapping our minds around anything new. Even if it is old. You know what I mean.
Does all this lead up into me defending John Carter as a misunderstood masterpiece of movie magic? Despite my love of alliteration, no. What I am going to say though is that it’s not nearly as bad as it could have been and that Disney should at least be marginally applauded for taking a chance, even if its marketing department might have killed the whole project before a single person saw it.
I really liked that I didn’t know this character before. It was fun and oh so refreshing to be told a story that I didn’t already know and be introduced to a character who I haven’t seen in five other movies already. I’m not a huge sci-fi fan by any definition, especially fantastical sci-fi like this, but even I enjoyed being taken to this far off world where green aliens stage gladiatorial matches against sightless giant white gorillas (true story). It was fresh and new and somewhat fun.
Maybe I just go for the underdog, although how a $350 million movie ever became an underdog is a little confusing. John Carter is not a great movie. It might not be a particularly good movie. It’s far too long and a little dull at times and maybe even a little too “out there” for its own good. I watched it kind of wide eyed, feeling like I was playing catchup for much of the film.
But you know what? I thought about it after I saw it. I tried to figure out what I liked and didn’t like about it. Some of the characters and images stuck with me. It took me into a world that I hadn’t been in before. That’s a lot more then I can say about most of the rehashed Hollywood blockbusters that have come out lately.
So this is by no means an overwhelmingly positive review. John Carter is a flawed, experiment of a movie. But I thought Kitsch showed real strength as a leading man. I thought the special effects were notably good. I admired that the film took a chance by bringing a new story and character to the screen and that it had more going for it then just familiarity.
What a shame that John Carter made less money in its opening weekend then the universally panned The Lorax made in its second weekend. Oh well.
John Carter is in theatres now.