Per the title of this post, I come not to bury John Carter (the piss poor marketing already did that)… But to PRAISE it.
I’m sure most of the IMJ Nation™ movie hounds have already read many columns dissecting John Carter… If they haven’t taken the leap and viewed it themselves. For those that haven’t dared go anywhere near this film, I aim to change that over the next few paragraphs.
As is often the case with spectacular monetary film failures, there seems to be no limit to those willing to play the Hollywood Blame Game™ when John Carter is mentioned. Many people lost their jobs over this movie. Others have suffered major career blows or, at the very least, badly tarnished reputations. Some just keep pointing fingers and scream like the pod people from Invasion of the Body Snatchers– hoping their din of BS excuses will keep their names off various studio’s infamous (but unspoken) Shit Lists.
Here’s what I know: I watched John Carter for the first time last night and I decided a third of the way through that it’s a very good film… Even epic in parts. Taylor Kitsch (Hwood’s new whipping boy after also starring in Battleship) is spot on as the title character. Lynn Collins kicks ass as Princess Dejah Thoris. Willem Dafoe is pitch perfect as the voice of multi-armed green Jeddak Thark Tas Tarkus… And so on.
Reviews for this film would be hilarious for their inanity– if not for how damaging they were to the film as a whole. “Critiques” ranged from the downright stupid to the amazingly imbecilic “We’ve already seen all this originally done better in Star Wars.” Really? Really? Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter A Princess of Mars (the first novel in a series of five) was a major influence on Star Wars… Not the other way around, chump critics.
I should probably preface all this with the fact that I’ve always really liked John Carter, the fictional character… Much more so than Burroughs’ most famous creation, Tarzan. I also loved Marvel Comics version (as drawn by Gil Kane). (And yes, I did buy the recent Omnibus collecting the classic Marvel comic book tales.)
Was John Carter the greatest movie I’ve ever seen? No. Was it the worst film I have ever seen? Hell No– not by a mile.
So, if I am such a big fan– why wasn’t I first in line at midnight? Or, at least, why didn’t I bother to go see the film in a theater? Well, I could cite my horrible work schedule… But that would be disingenuous. I am ashamed to say I fell for all the bad comments and criticism– just like most of the Free World.
It’s the sad state of movie-making economics today that a movie– having grossed over $282 Million Dollars worldwide (as of 6.14.12)– will not be profitable. Given the film’s $250 Million dollar shooting budget + tens of millions in Publicity & Advertising expenditures– initial loss estimates ranged from $185 Million to $53 Million.
I’ll tell you what really didn’t help the film’s viability in an ever fickle marketplace: Disney releasing a statement noting the company would take a $200 Million Dollar write-down (loss) on John Carter only TEN DAYS after the film’s Stateside release. Flops are flops… But when a Studio makes a damning statement like this in the infancy of a film’s release– they all but guarantee a disaster of mythic proportions.
I’m not going to use this space to dissect the bullshit politics and minutiae of why studios do what they do. The motives of various Studio Suits are varied, usually 100% political– and frankly, boring. JC’s Director Andrew Stanton is not without blame here… Especially if he did spearhead the effort (as has been rumored) to keep the film under complete wraps for as long as Disney did.
But a director attempting to keep his secrets secret is truly a miniscule problem– specifically when everything about this movie was horribly marketed… Right down to the selection of the film’s final title. Who in the hell makes a $250 Million Dollar movie and calls it something as bland as John Carter? I can understand their hesitancy for using John Carter – A Princess of Mars… And the cross-dressing fantasies that title might conjure in some homophobic film patrons. But what in the hell would have been wrong with John Carter – Warlord of Mars?
Hell, if Marvel Comics could figure all this out in the 1970s, you’d think some overpaid Studio Suit could steal it in the 21st Century.
When I decided to watch John Carter last night– I was amazingly still suffering from jet lag and feeling grumpy. I was certain, if the majority of the reviews were remotely correct– that I would be falling asleep and turning my TV off a third of the way through in disgust… Allowing Amazon to eat my $4.99 HD Movie Rental Fee.
Instead, with each passing scene I found myself sitting up a little straighter. Halfway through, I was wondering where all the “corny dialogue” was (something so many reviewers complained about). Two-thirds in, I started wondering aloud about the character/motives of the “critics” who panned this film. By the end of it, I wanted to slap somebody.
John Carter is a good, fun film. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. Don’t believe me? Let Amazon’s consumer-based rating system give up the proof: Everyday moviegoers (hundreds as of last night) had gone out of their way to rate the film 4 1/2 out of 5 Stars.
In an anonymous rating system that would seem to favor those with negative reactions or some silly axe to grind, that’s a pretty resounding answer to the question, “I wonder if John Carter is any good?”