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John Carter—\Meh\

Disney spent a ridiculous amount of money on the production and marketing of “John Carter.” Sorry to respond with general indifference. This movie is not horrible, but it reeks of ordinariness.

The things I like about “John Carter”:

  1. The flying machines. Their “steampunk” era design fascinated me. They don’t look like they would be airworthy, but they do look really cool.
  2. The domestic pet creatures on Barsoom (Mars). They have faces and bodies like Jabba the Hutt, but they are extremely fast. They act like dogs, even if they don’t look quite like them.
  3. The language difficulties that result in John Carter repeatedly being called “Virginia.” (Silly, but mildly amusing.)

Things I do not like about “John Carter”:

  1. A lack of charisma by the title character. I had a hard time really caring about him. Not that Taylor Kitsch is a bad actor, but the engagement was not there.
  2. The creatures on Barsoom that are a cross between the Na’vi in “Avatar” and JarJar Binks. The best word to describe them is “derivative.”
  3. A setting and CGI effects that repeatedly make me think of the three recent “Star Wars” movies (Episodes I, II and III).
  4. Lynn Collins as Dejah Thoris as the movie’s designated “babe” is gorgeous, but brings nothing new to the table.
  5. 3-D. Yes, there are a handful of scenes that are enhanced by 3-D, but overall it’s not necessary. (Except to add to box office figures.)

For a movie that had such a huge budget, one would expect something special. For a movie that Disney apparently wants to turn into a franchise, one would expect something mind-blowing.

Expectations are not met with “John Carter.”

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10 responses to “John Carter—\Meh\

  1. The John Carter stories began in 1912 and spanned eleven novels, inventing many of the tropes of sci-fi/fantasy in the process and crafting much of the genre’s basic DNA. Innumerable movies, TV series, comics and books have liberally cribbed from Burroughs’ stories but as of the past thirty-five years or so, much of the audience for this kind of stuff has never read any of the Barsoom novels and therefore are unaware of just how influential they were and still are. When I saw Avatar I was astounded by what a blatant swipe it was of the Barsoom stuff — and to some extent Burroughs’ Carson of Venus stories — and the same can be said of the arena sequence in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, just to name two examples that are still relatively fresh in the moviegoing public’s consciousness. To brand the John Carter film “derivative” is extremely ill-informed/ignorant and I suggest that you read at least the first two of the books to see what I’m talking about. That said, the material is a century old, so it is perhaps easy to forget the quaint template from where its antecedents came.

  2. And I absolutely agree with you on the point of the 3D. Totally unnecessary and not worth paying extra for.

  3. Joe

    What a twit. At least research the material and it’s history before writing a review. The story is 100 years old and has served as the source material for a century’s worth of sci fi, both in film and in literature. What’s derivative are the films you’ve mentioned that have been heavily influenced by ERB’s Barsoom books, a fact that both Lucas, Cameron and even Spielberg have conceded.

    • Mike

      I think that’s a tribute to ERB’s work that all of the basic features of the “Planetary Romance” genre that he created is so recognizable from being borrowed so many times for so many movies that now when we go back to the original, it looks “derivative!”

  4. The “derivative” steampunk were based on the 100 year old book A PRINCESS OF MARS that all sci fi since has been influenced by. Read a book, dude.

  5. My opinion is that some of the content of “John Carter” has been seen onscreen before. That is not a putdown of Burroughs, nor of what he brought to a different medium (writing) decades ago. It is a comment about the movie and the people who made the movie.

    Certainly all popular art is derivative to a degree. Was “Avatar” totally original? Absolutely not. Did Elvis/Beatles/Gaga have predecessors they borrowed from? Of course they did.

    I choose not to compare movies to their source material. Most people who see movies like “The Descendants,” “Hugo,” “The Hunger Games,” etc. will not have read the books. I try to offer my thoughts about the movie as its own separate entity.

    Thanks for you feedback. It is sincerely appreciated!

  6. How can an accurate movie adaptation of the book have ever pleased you, then? What was necessary to meet your expectations, yet keep it true to the original story?

  7. J ⋅

    I agree with the previous posts. If you don’t do your research then you can’t expect your critiques to be anything other than empty. Other projects crib from JC, not the other way around.

    Avatar is one of the most derivative movies ever made. Nothing new there whatsoever. It was executed well but all the tropes come from other places.

  8. Books provide greater character development, more characters and more detailed plot development. Movies have to compress the content of a book and cannot provide the depth.

    Some great movie elements have come from the minds of novelists. Moviemakers owe huge debts (not just dollars) to authors for characters, themes and plots they have created.

    Is it fun to compare one’s imagined image of, say, a character or an event in a Harry Potter book with the depiction in a movie? Yes! But, while moviemakers work to stay faithful to their source material, they must realize that theirs is a very different medium. As they strive to please those who have embraced the book, they also know that a large portion of the audience has not and will not read the book.

  9. As my then-wife and I walked out of the theatre at the end of FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, we heard a handful of kids bitching about how “That movie totally ripped off D&D.”

    This reviewer reminds me of those kids.

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