Review: John Carter

My roommate has a friend who has a fast car and (apparently) too much free time, so the two of them and myself and my other roommate and another friend who was visiting went off last weekend to see John Carter at a movie theater farther from where I live than was strictly necessary.  In case you have not heard yet, John Carter is a terrible movie (this is objectively true) based on the first of Edgar Rice Burroughs' badly dated books (this is my opinion), A Princess of Mars, about John Carter (surprise?) and his adventures mostly on Mars.

There were things I liked about the movie anyway.  The visual character and setting design was mostly well done - and shamelessly true to the spirit of the book, for whatever that is worth.  The alien aliens, not to be confused with the aliens-who-are-actually-human-(sort of) are also done reasonably well.  In fact, for about the first half hour, I admit I was thinking, "Huh, this might actually be better than the original book."

That feeling did not last, and the many reasons why can be summed up by saying that the filmmakers have no idea how to tell a story - specifically, no one told them that trying to tell two types of story in the same movie takes serious skill and is incredibly hard.  On the one hand, the story is one more variation on Rescue the Maiden Fair; on the other hand, the villains are being egged on - even controlled - by the Ancient Conspiracy.  It is clear that someone involved knew this was not going to work, because while the first plot is resolved the second plot (er, ha) is neither explained in terms of character (any apparent motivation on the part of the behind-the-scenes schemers is nonexistent) or resolved in terms of story.  And yet they are still there - maybe it was somebody's pet brainstorm.  As far as I can tell, the second angle exists only as a sequel hook, but a word to the wise: sequel hooks are bad ideas if the movie is terrible.  (On the other hand, if they had removed the characters in the Big Bad Conspiracy from the movie, but left the Superweapon they give the bad guys, the movie would have been about 500% better and it would have a sequel hook.  Did no one suggest this?)

The end result is a chaotic mess: the moral of this review is not to see John Carter, if it is even still playing in a theater near you (it was a flop and will almost certainly end up losing money, so I suspect it may be out of many theaters, especially with that other movie everybody is talking about...)


  1. I actually just wanted the movie to be as badly dated as the book. Like, what made the books entertaining was the fact that they really are puerile adolescent fantasies, complete with a super-powerful manly man having to mow down waves of enemies to rescue the hot girl. Like, you should feel uncomfortable rooting for that hero.

  2. I saw it. I enjoyed it. Commence ad hominem.