On Viewing: I had no need to justify spending thirty bucks on two 3D tickets to see John Carter. The movie was fun, funny at times, not overly sappy, and had great action scenes. The aliens looked cool, the monsters were well done, and you could really see where the money went. The action was fun, the plot worked, and I never felt bored.
Reaction to the Reaction: John Carter‘s box office success, or lack thereof, became a self-fulfilling prophecy.* People worried about the cost of the m0vie before it debuted, and then flamed it hard when the movie failed to earn back all 250 million dollars in the first weekend. Unless you happen to be a studio exec, box office numbers should never determine the quality of a movie.** Ahem, Titanic, cough.*** People started crowing about how no one was going out to see the movie, and crowds stayed away. I forget sometimes that people are people, and have this stupid tendency to forget to act as persons. “If no one else is seeing that movie, then I won’t see it either because if it were good, then people would be paying to see it.”
We’ve seen this before in political reporting. If a candidate falls behind in fundraising, that becomes the story of the campaign until people are walking away from their preferred candidate because they are being told that candidate isn’t raising enough money. I’ve seen a similar phenomenon happen in guild recruiting for online games.
I am not a rabid Burroughs fanboy, I would be surprised if that was even a group larger than ten, but I liked this movie. I have never read the original books, and have been failing to find them for months in used book stores, but I have known of them for years. I don’t know where I first saw some artist’s vision of Dejah Thoris, but it was probably a Boris Vallejo picture in Dragon Magazine.****
David Denby of the New Yorker spends the first paragraph of his review asking all the wrong questions:
…a battle between two warring cities populated by humanoid figures, the gentle Heliumites and the nasty Zodangans. Immediately, we’re lost. Who are these people? Why do the warriors fight with swords while winged battle cruisers, looking like oversized mosquitos, rain down death from above? Is this an advanced civilization or a primitive one? All right, it’s both, but how do the two fit together?
To use a tired but effective example, I will substitute information for Star Wars and we will see if these questions are valid:
…a battle between two warring political groups populated by humanoid figures, the good Rebels and the evil Imperials. Immediately, we’re lost. Who are these people? Why do the warriors fight with laser swords while winged battle cruisers, looking like oversized pizza slices, rain down death from above? Is this an advanced civilization or a primitive one? All right, it’s both, but how do the two fit together?
Your review is bad, and you should feel bad, David Denby. These questions are all answered within the frame of the movie, and you shouldn’t require the plot to be laid out for you in the first two minutes. Plots unfold, like flowers in spring or a woman’s clothing after a great date. Yes, on the internet you can see pictures of flowers, and women, and skip ahead to read all the spoilers you want, but that is your choice and the director is not required to lay it all out for you in the first thirty seconds.
One paragraph in the six you wrote reviewing this movie was spent in truly reviewing it. Your first paragraph asks stupid questions, your second complains about the look of the aliens and being confused about the rather simple war at the center of the plot, your third seems to be a complaint that the film is science fiction and not a lame romantic comedy (Of fucking course the two heroes approach each other warily, they have no reason to trust anyone and every reason to suspect everyone.), your fourth paragraph is a complaint about the source material and the fact that only men seem to like making movies about stuff they liked as children (So fucking what? Maybe movies would be better with Penny Marshall directing a Wonder Woman movie.), your fifth paragraph finally talks about the movie itself, and your final complaint focuses on the fact that the movie may rake in cash overseas like the most recent Pirates of the Caribbean movie. As much as I want the Pirates movies to go to hell with a quickness, I hope that John Carter does well enough to spite you and everyone else who panned it. I liked it, and I want to see more.
John Carter’s numbers from IMDB.
Final Words: John Carter is a fun movie that science fiction fans will be sad that they didn’t see in the theaters, and others will live their lives breathing through their mouths while lining up to see fucking Titanic. AGAIN.
*There are no other kinds of prophecy, but clarity is paramount.
**If you do happen to be a studio exec, go borrow George Lucas’ rusty pinecone.
***Titanic was the biggest earning, utterly pandering, boringly predictable movie ever made, until Avatar.
****Frank Cho makes no apologies for anything.