Jim Reviews John Carter

John Carter


At some point people began caring about how much money a movie made or lost. Once upon a time it was OK for a movie to be good or bad. Then it became a race for the biggest movie of the year. Then the biggest opening weekend. Then the biggest movie in the US. Then the biggest movie in the world. I don't know when it happened, but it did.

Does it really matter? I know it can be fun, and as someone who hosts a http://www.summermovieleague.com/ league (go to the link and find The Film Thugs Movie Show contest and join in the fun) I realize that, but I also admit that it has no connection to the quality of the film. In fact, it kind of frustrates me.

What is more important, that "The Avengers" made all the money in the world... or that it's actually a really good movie? I maintain that had it made $10 it would have been a success because what was on screen was so good. But for some reason the money dominates.

My attitude, unless you are getting paid a dividend or are trying to win something, like the summer movie league, then there is no reason to care about or to discuss the amount of money they make.

But when you are talking about a massive hit or a massive flop, it's kind of hard not to.

For a while, "John Carter" held the distinction of being the biggest box office flop in history. And for a while it was. But remember, you are talking about studios here, so there is flop and then there is "financial quarter flop." Yes, "John Carter" was a flop, costing the studio about $200,000,000... for a quarter. After the quarter ended it kept making money. Thanks to Europe the movie now sits at a $32,000,000 profit. Not a massive return, but it's in the black, so there.

But this was a movie that generated a mind blowing loss. Hell, you could have produced "The Hurt Locker" 13 times over with the money this movie LOST and you still would have had $6,000,000 left over. Since we are living in an age where people Tweet about how much money a move made in a weekend and act like its some sort of personal victory it is impossible for such a massive loss to not become part of the movies narrative.

Somewhere in all of this, the movie itself is forgotten.

I was skeptical about "John Carter" for much the same reason many other people were. The ad campaign made it look awful. Now, I know you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover but when you are talking about such an inescapable carpet bombing campaign it is hard not to have your judgment clouded.

Let me be clear up front. The ad campaign for this movie SUCKED. It was objectively awful. If you had no idea what the source material was it looked like a guy in a furry cock sock jumping really high around a bunch of alien looking creatures in the desert. I knew a little more about the source material than most people and even I couldn't make sense of it.

The movie is based on Edgar Rice Burroughs's "Barsoom" books which began with as a serialized publication, "Under the Moons of Mars," and was later compiled into a series of novels beginning with "A Princess of Mars."

I contend that a lot of the problems with the film's performance could have been fixed by changing the title to either, "John Carter of Mars," or "John Carter and The Princess of Mars." Then the jumping, the aliens, and the barren landscape would have made sense, but as it was... it didn't.

It's not like this was a rushed production. The first attempt to make this began in 1931 and test footage was shown to exhibitors in 1936. Disney has been working on this version on and off since the early 80's. So why go through that massive effort just to cock it up at the end. Sadly, we shall never know.

So, all that being said, what is my take on this film?

First off, it's much better than I thought it would be. But that's not saying much as my expectations were as low as possible.

All in all I thought it was decent. Not great, not terrible, just decent. The action was solid, the performances were very good, and the story was solid if a bit busy.

The entire film is framed as a journal written by John Carter and read his nephew Edgar Rice Burroughs after Carter's rather mysterious death. Basically, Carter was prospecting for gold when he accidentally kills an alien man who appears out of thin air. As the man dies he hands Carter a medallion and says the word "Barsoom." Carter repeats it and is transported immediately to Mars.

Granted, it takes him a while to figure out where he is, but in the meantime he is taken in by a nomadic tribe due to the heightened physical abilities he now has as a result of Mars's low gravity.

There is a lot going on plot wise. You have war, a love story, political intrigue, technologically advanced aliens aiding the different factions. It's a lot to take in.

So far as big, dumb, fun summer movies go this holds its own. It has a compelling protagonist with a definite set of problems to overcome, a beautiful female lead who is as strong as she is sexy, and a bad guy who twirls the mustache just enough.

Yeah, the dialogue is a bit corny and the characters are a bit broadly drawn at times, but it's a damned pulp serial, what the hell do you expect. If you are buying in enough to watch it, then you need to understand the nature of what you are seeing and accept it for what it is.

Taylor Kitsch is fantastic in it. If you are a fan of "Friday Night Lights," then you know this. If you aren't... why the hell not? It's great and you should watch it. The kid has skills. Hell, he's Canadian and he got my Texas ass to buy him as a Texan, and that's no small task (Derek Phillips, who played his brother, is from Florida and was just as convincing, but he went to Baylor so he has some background. Oh, and yeah, I'm name dropping because we were in our freshman acting classes together.).


I'm the tall one. Derek has the sword. I don't remember who the guy in the hat is.

One of the only problems I have with the film is Mark Strong. Not that he wasn't great, which he was. He is a fantastic actor, but he has kind of been typecast. I really want to see him do more, but hey, if they gonna pay a man to growl and be menacing, then that man should be paid for growling and being menacing.

There is a lot to like in this movie, and not a lot to really hate.

I know that there has been a lot of flack flying about how people ruined this movie by word of mouth without having seen it, but I don't think that was the case. Disney shot itself square in the foot on this one. This should, and could, have been huge. It's a family friendly sci-fi epic that does exactly what it sets out to do. But, no matter how good what you've made is, people don't know that until they see it, and if you are giving them little, or to be honest no reason, to go... then they won't.


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