John Carter – Messy but Fun

By Gabrielle Bauman – 

Disney really messed this one up.

John Carter, which appeared in theaters March 9, is the story of a Civil War veteran who is transported to Mars and has general shenanigans with the natives peoples living there. The movie is adapted from A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, a slim novel almost 100 years old.

This movie has been in production, in some way, shape, or form, since the 1920s – E.R. Burroughs himself wanted to see it on the screen. There’s plenty to set it back. Some of the main characters are eleven feet tall, four armed green men. Up until recently, special effects technology hasn’t been up to snuff to give it visual justice. And now technology can.

John Carter has great visuals and every action scene is enjoyable.

John Carter premiered in theaters March 9. Image credit Disney.

The best part of this movie? One word: Woola.

Carter’s massive, bull-dog-meets-komodo-dragon pet. Any scene Woola is in makes this movie better, from the ridiculous speed in running to the adorable/terrifying grin on his face.

The Martian is adorable the same way E.T. is adorable. You aren’t sure why, but he just is.

Unfortunately, there is more than just action.

The dialogue is uninspired, and there are scenes when characters just sit around talking. That’s the best time to go for a bathroom break, because I would have rather gone without having viewed it.

The plot wasn’t particularly too hard to follow, but then again I’ve read the story John Carter was based off of. For the uninitiated, it shall appear to be just what it is: a big incomprehensible mess. And Taylor Kitsch as Carter is as wooden on the Daniel Radcliffe level.

That said: I liked it. I came in expecting to hate this movie, and left the theater wishing for a sequel. It had moments of greatness, but came just shy of the mark. As much as I boo when bad movies get sequels (I’m looking at you, Alvin and the Chipmunks), I would like to see a version of this movie with a good script. A sequel might just be out of reach, however – $30.1 million in the box office out of a $250 million budget will attest to that.

Carter feels like an old sci-fi pulp movie, it’s bizarre and confusing, but somehow it grows on you. I’m not quite sure what moment I decided to like it, most likely when the heroes traveled back and forth and back and forth between all the (pretty) Barsoomian (yeah, that’s what they call it on Mars. Barsoom) cities, looking very epic and sweaty in the process.

Like an old pulp movie, its a bit incomprehensible to fully explain. See, it’s about alien politics, the classic save the princess love story with a touch of Pocahontas, but it’s also about superheroes. That’s right, superheroes.

Even the poster says nothing about the movie. Image credit Disney.

Oh yeah, because of the gravity difference Carter can leap amazing heights, and is much stronger than a normal Barsoomian.

Let me repeat myself.  This series has been around for over a hundred years. It basically kick-started the superhero genre, and film makers have been cherry picking it for decades. James Cameron’s Avatar is a prime example of this.

It’s a shame that this movie came out when it did. It feels like someone is trying to capitalize on an already full genre, when really it’s the opposite.

I feel bad for this movie. I have never seen a worse marketing campaign for any movie than what Disney halfheartedly decided to spew out – one very bad Superbowl spot and no real television presence. Disney has put its weight behind bad movies before, in fact, lots of studios have. Look at that awful Green Lantern movie.

To Disney I ask where’s the limited edition soda? Where are the toys? The merchandise? The television mentions? Not only did Disney give up on the movie before it came out, it also didn’t believe in it from the start.

The title of the book is A Princess of Mars. Why isn’t the movie named that? Because the studio thought that no boys would see the movie. How about John Carter of Mars? The studio thought — and I’m not making this up — that no girls would see it. Hence John Carter.

Now no one will see it, and they ruined their own potential franchise.

A Princess of Mars, the first book in the Barsoom series.

So while I give the film itself 7/10 stars, I have a disclaimer.  If you are willing to stretch your suspension of disbelief, you will like it.

If you like Buck Rogers, Soylent Green, or even Pulp Fiction, you will probably like John Carter.

So please go see it, so I get a sequel.

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