John Carter - quite good

Last updated 10:42 01/08/2012

Lowered expectations can be a good thing.

If you watch a film expecting very little it can often be a rewarding experience. It is always a nice surprise when a box office flop that was panned by critics turns out to be a very enjoyable film.

So, I finally caught up with John Carter last night. The advantage of a film bombing at the cinema is that it comes out on DVD in a matter of months.

And John Carter sank at the box office without much of a trace. I'm not even sure it made it out of the first week.

I didn't catch it at the cinema. That title, news it was over two hours long and a bit of a critical drubbing took the shine off it for me. I was wrong.

If you're not familiar with John Carter, it is an expansive, slightly cheesy space opera adapted from the pulp fiction of Tarzan author Edgar Rice Burroughs. The first John Carter book was written in 1912 and the last in the 1940s.

The film follows Civil War veteran John Carter as he is inadvertently transported to Mars and caught up in the planet's politics and civil war. There are big green, four-armed Tharks, pug-faced, six-legged dogs that can run really fast, flying barges, walking cities and sweeping Western landscapes.

It is a film irmly planted in the traditions of pulp fiction. You know that strangely pleasing smell when you open a musty old secondhand book? This film smells like that.

A disadvantage of adapting a 100-year-old piece of pulp fiction is that it has been so thoroughly plundered by Hollywood for years that the ideas now seem ironically derivative of films like Dune, the 1970s Flash Gordon and Star Wars.

But this did not spoil my enjoyment. I think its a shame that John Carter didn't find a bigger audience. There is spectacle, action, humour, strong characters and a great cast.

Spectacle is perhaps the highest priority on that list. Mars, or Barsoom as it is known by its residents, is rendered in glorious photorealistic detail. The creatures, flying ships, cities and people of Mars are all part of the film's fun.

And the running time of two hours and 20 minutes wasn't much of a problem either. It never felt particularly bloated or boring. There was always plenty going on. There were not the long, boring dialogue scenes full of impossibly named characters and places that I was expecting. OK, maybe there were a couple.

The title, however, is still a problem. Who would want to see a film called John Carter? A movie title is supposed to create a little world in your head and make you want to know more. For example, Star Wars or Escape from New York. But John Carter just makes me think of Michael Clayton and that just makes me think: Boooooring.

And John Carter is far from boring. I can recommend it for a good DVD night.

Just don't expect too much.

Anyone else seen John Carter? I know there aren't many of us, but now it is out on DVD it is definitely worth a watch. What did you think?

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Hayley   #1   10:53 am Aug 01 2012

Actually watched this on Sunday, what a coincidence. And thought the same thing. We'd heard it was a flop so had no expectations... but were then pleasantly surprised!

BP   #2   10:54 am Aug 01 2012

Visually impressive, but that was about it. Massive holes in the story. Oh you drank a magic potion and can now understand the aliens....huh?

Saw it   #3   10:57 am Aug 01 2012

I saw this at the movies. Very enjoyable movie. It got totally abandoned by Disney. They changed the title - It was originally supposed to be John Carter and The Princess of Mars. Long title sure but not as bad as four Pirate films from the house of the mouse.

They cut bad trailers - showing the arena sequence with the apes just screamed Attack of the clones, yet that was a blatant rip off of JC. Avatar, Star Wars, etc they've all pinched concepts from those books, after all it was THE original sci fi.

Overseas it did 'ok'.

I bet people that shunned this on movie release will be saying the same as Charlie right about now.

comrademojo   #4   11:00 am Aug 01 2012

I watched JC at the theaters first off and wasn't disappointed. Sure it is not the _best_ action movie out there but I found it enjoyable none the less.

I actually went and obtained the source material (free or next to nothing on the net), I must say the movie really handled it quite well.

Khanada Taylor   #5   11:01 am Aug 01 2012

I saw John Carter several times at the theater. I really loved it, obviously. :). It struck something in me that I got to craving between viewings. And the more times I saw it, the better it got. I'm going to share your post with the Beac to Barsoom group I'm admin for. We are working to promote the film on DVD and hopefully turn the tide enough to get the sequels originally planned. :). Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

LBarlow   #6   11:06 am Aug 01 2012

Didn't expect much and enjoyed it too! Very cheesy and pulpy but great to look at. Interesting thinking about the age/ideas in which it was first written (the redskins of Mars !) - yes a pioneer in fantasy writing.

FredM   #7   11:07 am Aug 01 2012

I quite agree. I watched this last week and thoroughly enjoyed this light entertainment - making me think .....exactly who are these film critics?

Ant Towler   #8   11:12 am Aug 01 2012

Yup I saw John Carter twice actually (once in Imax at the reduced rate) it was great to see where all of those ideas came from I have it on Blu Ray now at home. What swung it for me was Peter Travers review in Rolling Stone. He did point out all the flaws in it. But he also spoke of the spirit of it and did point out that it was still better then everything else out at the time. I think it's a lot of fun and I hope it (like John Carpenters films) finds an audience in dvd and Blu.

pepperann   #9   11:21 am Aug 01 2012

I watched this with my 11yo son this past weekend and we had low to no expectations whatsoever - thought it was pretty good, definite 6/10 for me and 8/10 for him. Nice to be able to watch a movie with a bit of action adventure etc, without all the bad language and full-on blood and guts (not that there's anything wrong with violence and sexual content but it means it's not suitable for family viewing).

chap   #10   11:30 am Aug 01 2012

Generic, formulaic, 'it takes an American to show the natives how to stand up for themselves' snoozefest. Default VFX. Avoid.

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