John Carter of Mars

I’ve read some positive things around the web. No official reviews yet.

Saw it tonight in 3D. I have not read the books, but I thought it was really good. Absolutely an epic adventure movie.

That may be the only thing that hurts it really… people don’t know what it’s about, and there are a lot of characters in this entirely foreign world to keep up with, but I think Stanton balances it out pretty well, and adds in enough humor and action to keep it moving.

Honestly I felt like it could’ve been longer, but you can’t have a 3 hour movie. I want to say I enjoyed it more than Avatar, but it’s probably too early to make a judgment like that. Not sure it’s worth seeing in 3D though, but I’m not really a 3D fan.


If you are interested in the history, much of it is recounted in a new chapter of the revised edition of THE GREATEST SCI-FI MOVES NEVER MADE. It is a very entertaining and fascinating book if you haven’t read it.

Back in the present day, I was not enthused with what I was seeing about JOHN CARTER OF MARS. First, they hired Taylor Kitch, who I was not impressed with as Gambit in the woeful WOLVERINE. Then they excised Mars from the title of the film, which I still find both wrong-headed and, as an astronomer, offensive. Others were grumbling about the redness of the “red men” or the size of the Tharks, but I could care less about that.

What I found troubling was that none of the ads made me interested in the film at all — it seemed like some of the worst parts of STAR WARS, EPISODE 2 in man-panties. I didn’t care for that soulless CG supposed-love story, so why would I want to see this? And worse, outside of some hardcore geeks, the film was not registering *at all.* Astronomers are usually pretty seriously into science fiction, and I’ve probably asked about a dozen people around the office if they are going to see the movie, and I don’t think a single one has had any idea what I’m talking about.

All this is a long way of saying that I was curious enough about JOHN CARTER to ask Geoff Boucher of the LA Times Hero Complex blog to get me into his 3D IMAX screening last night, with Andrew Stanton in attendance, because I figured it would be at least intellectually interesting to see what decisions they made about Mars and about adapting the material. But as for the quality of the film, I was expecting something between diverting, but forgettable, and train wreck. You know, KRULL.

Boy was I wrong. JOHN CARTER was amazing! I have not felt so genuinely surprised in a movie theater since seeing the original MATRIX. I saw STAR WARS through JEDI in their original runs at their formative ages of 4-10, and I lost my damn fool mind.

Kids today will be doing the same thing for JOHN CARTER. This is their STAR WARS. Twelve year olds will lose their shit. That isn’t to say that this film is only for kids. But kids are hardwired for the spirit of wonder and adventure. We’ve all got it deep down, even if we’ve become jaded and cynical adults.

I didn’t know I still had an inner 12 year old in me, but there he was at the JOHN CARTER screening, hepped up on crack. At most screenings these days the knowledge I have as an adult gets in the way of that pure sense of glee and discovery: I’ve seen the plot before, I’m unconvinced by the actors or the effects, or I’ve followed the development of the film so closely on the internet, or it is so spoiled in the trailer, that I know what’s coming. All that melted away in JOHN CARTER, and I was just right there on Mars discovering aliens, leaping around another planet, and getting into adventures.


Now, there can never be another STAR WARS, or EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, at least not for me. But JOHN CARTER is a hell of a lot better than the STAR WARS prequels. I kept thinking during the screening, *this* is what the prequels should have been!

Everything that was wrong with them: thin characters, bad dialog, wooden acting, and obtrusive CG, is fixed here. Even though the Tharks are CG, Andrew Stanton had the actors on set, on stilts, just to give the other actors the correct eye line, and something to act off of. It makes all the difference. And even though he was starting with pretty thin characters from the source material, they have a lot more substance here.

Two reviews

The film is at its most fun when Carter is in the company of the Tharks, who are generally pretty terrific. As a rule, the more Tharks on the screen the better the sequence,

Their first mistake was truncating the title to "John Carter." A girl I work with asked, "Isn’t that the guy from Terminator?" Haha.

Mistaking John Carter for John Connor is about as dumb as mistaking John Carter for Jimmy Carter.

I read the books and was disappointed. Too many plot changes. And I didn’t like the lead either.
Best part, seeing calots and thoats and green men.

Would have been better if HBO had made it with Dejah Thoris topless.

the lead was sorely miscast … there’s no hope after that

you’ve sold me. this is clearly the greatest casting job ever. you know nothing about what makes good anything.

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