Posted by Jerry | Filed under Random
“John Carter”: The World’s Most Expensive Cult Movie – By Allan Ross
So I saw “John Carter” opening night, IMAX, 3D, and I loved every eye-popping second of it. Great action, engaging story, attractive leads who can act their way out of a paper bag—basically everything a space opera should be.
Of course, the big story about this movie is how Disney’s marketing department screwed the pooch (admission: I love the movie and I STILL can’t make heads or tails of the moody trailers and ugly posters). It is absolutely true that they mismanaged selling this to the public and unwisely gave a first-time live-action director carte blanche on a risky venture, allowing the budget ballooned to over $250 million. That’s right–a quarter of a BILLION dollars. Seriously?! I can’t tell the difference between a $100 million movie and a $200 million one–can you?
And now both sides are slinging shit: the naysayers who point to the derivative nature (“It’s a knockoff of “Avatar!”), and the lovers (like me) who think it’s the great American sci-fi spectacle.Haters will hate—it’s human nature. And it’s OK if you saw it, genuinely didn’t like it and can give well-argued reasons why—that’s the nature of subjective art, such as film. But it’s the passionate fans of “JohnCarter” who are actually annoying the shit out of me. They heap praise, bash haters, and vocally demand a sequel. This, however, is where I choose to splinter away from these folks.
Art, especially challenging art, is supposed be polarizing. Example: I hated “Hugo,” most everyone else loved it—I get it. I wrote about why I hated it, and those who humored me by allowing me to rage on were treated to full-on vivisection of a “harmless kids movie.” Yeah, I felt like a bully telling people why they should hate it so I eventually dialed it back a little. But you know what? I really, really hate being bullied by fans of shitty filmmakers (cough cough, Michael Bay) who shower money at mindless insults to their own intelligences, and apologize for their inanity (“It’s not supposed to be ‘Casablanca’–it’s giant robots fighting each other.’”). I argue that you can have intelligent, fantastical action movies, and “John Carter” is your proof.
Why do I call it bullying? Because it’s easier than calling it what it really is: “pop culture colonialism.” Example: I have no choice but to know everything about the “Transformers” and “Twilight” and “Final Destination” movies (and “Jersey Shore,” and “The Bachelor” and “American Idol,” for that matter) simply by being someone who reads Entertainment Weekly and visits entertainment blogs like Cinemablend.com. It’s not fair that I should know that much about stuff. Those movies are diluting art and asking us to demand less from our entertainment, paving the way for could-have-been-awesome movies like “Hugo” which wind up being (personally, artistically and critically speaking) steaming pieces of shit. But that doesn’t necessarily make the opposite true.
The vocal minority “John Carter” fans are missing the point, which is simply this: a major motion picture studio made “John Carter” for us. Read that again…THEY MADE THIS MOVIE FOR US!—people who enjoy eye candy but insist it have both heart and brains. It’s as close a perfect movie as you can get: an intelligent, boldly original epic loaded with imagination and utilizing cutting-edge technology to bring modern literature’s seminal sci-fi story to life. It was everything the “Star Wars” prequels, “Transformers” movies and “Avatar”(which, it should be loudly noted, borrowed liberally from the “John Carter”books) could have been but were not. This is “our” movie…there’s no sense in trying to make everyone else see how awesome it is.
Think about it this way: if “Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl” had bombed, there would be no shitty sequels to retroactively detract from the original…and we wouldn’t have three Jack Sparrows at every Halloween party. The film would still be awesome and you wouldn’t have to apologize to yourself for liking it. Cut to “John Carter”: Taylor Kitsch’s squinty-eyed, He-Man-physiqued, escape artist-cum-superhero was a fantastic match of actor to character, much as Johnny Depp was to Sparrow. The script is a lean, linear story propelled by the protagonist’s desire to just…go….home. The 3D didn’t feel gimicky; it helped you feel as though you were inhabiting the same space as Carter on an alien world, forging an empathetic bond with him, which culminated in a scene when Carter vanquishes one of his foes, holds his sword high and gives his victory speech. In that moment, opening night on the IMAX screen, I would have followed John Carter to the gates of Zodanga myself.
Now, I am going to regret not seeing the sequels as much as anyone, but these petitions and Facebook groups letting Disney know that we love it and are clamoring for more is just a waste of time and resources. At least there will be nothing to take away from this film: no shitty merch, no pop culture overload, no inferior sequels dominated by the studio to introduce as many characters and set pieces as possible. This is something we can quote to each other for years to come—a test, if you will, to see if the person you’re talking to really “gets”a good movie. So hold off joining that “We Want a John Carter Sequel” march. Grassroots fan campaigns have proved to fail fail fail. (Anyone remember the “Jericho,” “Firefly” or “Snakes on a Plane” catastrophes? They were all the products of rabid online fanbases that produced a lot of viral attention, but refused to show themselves either in ratings or box office dollars.)
No, instead we have now have a movie like “The Princess Bride,” “Starship Troopers,” “The Big Lebowski,” “Army of Darkness,” and “UHF” to be able to distinguish cool people from the almost-cool. We have “John Carter,” the most expensive cult movie ever.
One Response to “Movie Review for a Movie that came out 2 Months ago – Episode 2”
April 5th, 2012 at 8:32 am
I never saw Transformers b/c I missed it as a kid and felt no nostalgic pull drawing me toward it (if they make a live action Thundercats movie, I will be all over that shit). However, I have watched a lot of Gundam (both the various series and movie spin-offs) over the years, so I know that it’s possible to have movies about giant robots fighting and still have good plot advancement and character development. To be fair, Gundam has an edge over the Transformers b/c were the former was developed from the outset as a story to be told, the latter was developed as a 30 min commercial for the toys they were going to be selling. If the situation were reversed, Gundam would probably not be as acclaimed as it is now.