John Carter (2012)

Despite all the hoopla about this flick being a financial disaster on near ‘Howard the Duck’ scale proportions, it’s really not fair to allow that unfortunate element to brand this large-scale fantasy sci-fi as a BAD MOVIE. It’s not. It’s actually quite inventive and mostly fun. In fact, I’d wager that the lore of the disastrous financial ‘returns’ actually helped me enjoy it more, as it became apparent that SOMETIMES it’s not fair to judge a movie’s overall ‘worth’ on how much money went back to the moneymen that run the show. Based on the ‘Barsoom’ book series by Edgar Rice Burroughs (started in 1911), this story follows former calvaryman-turned-rebellious fortune hunter John Carter who, while making a last stand against a war party of Apaches, finds himself thrown across the gulf of space to the very scientifically inaccurate planet of Mars. Through a series of circumstances, he is caught in the middle of a 3-way civil war that threatens to engulf the indigenious societies of the planet. What follows is quite fun to watch. While the large aerial battles and gravity-defying stunts are entertainingly spectacular, there is a nice helping of light humor scattered throughout also. The humorous aspects work largely because they don’t call obvious attention to themselves. A good chunk is derived from the expected ‘fish out of water’ theme, as well as from one of the funnier sidekick animals I’ve seen in a while. After watching this, I now want to add a massive, lightning-fast dino dog that consists mostly of MOUTH…and likes to play, to my pet collection. I also enjoyed the clever inclusion of a version of Edgar RIce Burroughs himself actually factoring into the story as a relative to the John Carter character. The cast in is surprisingly ‘upper tier’, with a lot of familiar, dignified thespians turning up to help the fantastical story along. I feel that it’s fair to say that the dismal box office failure of John Carter should not be heaped on the shoulders of the filmmakers/actors themselves. They certainly put out the effort to deliver some decent entertainment. No, I feel the the advertising department at Disney should be lowering their heads in shame. The movie simply wasn’t marketed correctly. Mistake No.1 was removing the ‘…of Mars’ from the films name (despite using it for the end credit title). Doing that just ‘blanded’ the marketing campaign right up. Very rarely does merely a persons name alone as the title inspire curiousity and excitement in prospective viewers. Potential audiences now should really just cast that ‘John Carter Movie Failure’ stigma aside and accept the flick for what it is and what it’s intended to be. And what it is, is a well-executed (but not perfect) fantasy/science fiction adventure that boasts some cool visuals and well-timed humor, with a good cast and nice pacing. I liked it…you might too.

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