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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

John Carter

The movie was, as I had expected, a great deal of fun. It was also worlds better than the also admittedly fun comics based movies that have become so popular. It was Science Fiction of the Golden Age, swords and ray guns and a gorgeous and scantily clad Martian princess… what is there not to like?

There are two technical issues I had, which are perhaps more due to being true to Edgar Rice Burroughs than to being careless. The two moons of Mars are in very different orbits and do not appear that large and in any case Deimos is not quite round. Also, with 1/3 Earth gravity, you would indeed be able to do some rather amazing leaps, but not quite the altitudes and distances John made in his regular rescues of the Princess. Again, to be fair, even I could probably make a standing jump to a window on the second level of a building; an Olympic high jumper could probably make the roof of a 3 story building.

I loved their Dejah Thoris. She was everything you could imagine in a Burroughs Martian Princess. Drop dead gorgeous, athletic, a deadly swords-woman and a voice like Bettany Hughes. The more I think about it, Bettany would make a rather good Dejah in real life. I wonder what she is like with a sword?

I thought it appropriate that a true Southern man like John Carter quickly got himself a dawg. And not just any dawg, but the god damndest ugliest old houndog you ever did see.

So lets see: great CGI? check. Beautiful, scantily clad warrior Princess? check. Heroic and dashing hero who just wants to stay out of other people’s fights but can’t? check. Great action scenes? check. Swords, Ray guns and supertechnology? check. An ancient race of super-scientists trying to run worlds? check. Touching love story? check. Brilliant panoramas? check. An Edgar Rice Burroughs plot and adventure with interesting characters? check. Fascinating and alien aliens? Yep.

So why the hell do the reviewers hate it? Is it a statement about their lack of education beyond feminist studies, Foucaultian historical and Marxist Class Analysis? Do they actually teach anything useful in colleges these days?

43 comments to John Carter

  • greg

    They just never read for fun.

  • Works for me.

    So why the hell do the reviewers hate it?

    Because they tend to be worthless PoMo whingers?

  • Frederick Davies

    So why the hell do the reviewers hate it?

    Beats me too; it was a good film and lots of fun…
    Pity that all the bad reviews are going to make it lose money and there will be no more.


  • Dale Amon

    That’s it in a nutshell. I would *love* to see the entire rest of the Burrough’s series on the screen. What a wondrous collection that would make!

  • Bob

    Because while John Carter is a good film, there is nothing that stands out about it because everything that was amazing about the film had been done before by it’s bastard children*

    – Big gladiatorial arena filled with aliens – Star Wars Ep II
    – Awesome flying vehicles through desert landscape – Star Wars Ep I
    – Meagre human man in romance with hot alien princess – Avatar

    There were a few negatives about it; they tried to cram parts of three of the Barsoom books into the film, this meant that some characters (the Thenns**) not getting the screen time needed to make them the real villains, for that matter, there wasn’t much tension with any of the bad guys.

    * If you take the Barsoom books as THE ORIGINAL adventure sci-fi then they were a large part of the inspiration for 90% of all sci-fi that followed.

    ** The film also seemed to make out that they aren’t Martians (even mention that they travel around the universe messing up planets because they can), not sure if/how that’ll be resolved.

  • Alisa

    Actually, A.O. Scott liked it. I knew there was a reason why the NYT is the only movie-review section that I read (needless to addd, that is also the only NYT section that I read).

  • Alisa

    BTW, Frederick: audiences do not necessarily follow reviews, as Tomatometer consistently shows.

  • Hmm

    Thanks for the review Dale, I’ve been meaning to go see this – I’ll have to make sure I do now… if it’s still on anywhere!

  • llamas

    It’s not the reviewers that hate it – it’s the ticket-buying public.

    Reviews are mixed – ticket sales are not.

    I can’t imagine why Disney greenlighted this bloated epic based on a 100+-year-old sci-fi story that’s known to only a tiny subset of die-hard fans – and I have a pre-disposition to look favourably upon the original works. I think most people saw the uninformative poster at the multiplex or the frankly incomprehensible high-concept TV trailers and just went ‘huh?’. And then bought a ticket to ‘The Hunger Games’, which has a guaranteed audience of about 28 bazillion teens.

    What this film deperately needed was a good dose of Don LaFontaine, MHRIP. As it was, it was just this decade’s version of ‘Dune’ – a failed attempt to make a mass-market movie about a tale of incredible complexity and (frankly) a certain degree of incomprehensibility. Burroughs was/is not an easy read at the best of times, and if you want to sell blockbuster volumes of movie tickets, you have to tell a story that’s comprehensible to the great majority, most of them products of the public education system.

    JMHO, your mileage will vary.



  • Alisa

    Speaking of HG: anyone saw it?

  • Curmudgeon Geographer

    I’ve been trying to get people who have read the reviews and decided to not see it to change their mind. The movie is fun as hell and worth seeing.

    I believe the people who green lit the movie at Disney are all gone and there was no one left to champion the movie. Notice there was no video game or toy tie in? Blockbuster sci-fi movies nearly always have tie-ins with games and toys that helps earn the budget.

    With no one at the studio to care about the movie, it was left to die on the vine. You can bet with Hollywood financing John Carter will be the vehicle other “losses” are shuffled into.

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    Some reviewers are saying that Disney screwed up the use of the name ‘Mars’, with its’ earlier ‘Mars needs Moms’ flop, so they got rid of that from the name. That lack might have lost 50% of interest, right there!

  • The Wobbly Guy

    I enjoyed John Carter a few weeks back. But then again, I’m an atypical nerd with some knowledge of the historical context that enabled me to better understand Carter’s war-torn psyche. And what science geek wouldn’t enjoy the fictitious Martian landscape? My gf was more blah about it. She said it was ‘okay’.

    We watched Hunger Games just a few days ago. It was excellent. No over-elaborate stuff, just solid acting and limited effects. Even a few days after the movie, my gf said she was still disturbed and affected by it.

    This showed that it made audiences think. The conspicuous consumption of the Capitol, the futility of hope, the blatant manipulation of the masses. It’s not just entertainment fodder. There’s a deeply moral story behind it, one that I think will slowly emerge in the sequels – Catching Fire and Mockingjay.

    For those reasons, Hunger Games is a cut above Twilight and Harry Potter.

    Also, the ending credit song Abraham’s Daughter is as fine a song for defiance against cruel authority as I have ever heard.

  • I must admit, i saw “Disney” and then thought “meh”.
    And I’m still not sure now if i want to see it.

  • All the other liberties taken to one side, even the premature introduction and unnecessary redesign of the Therns, what I want to know is why Captain John Carter of Virginia spoke with a mid Atlantic accent.

    Imagine if he had been played as the true Southern gentleman he was?

  • Alisa

    Thanks TWG, I’ll check it out.

  • ThePresentOccupier

    I’d come across mentions of John Carter in Heinlein, but I’ve only just this past week discovered that the ERB books are available over on Project Gutenberg – in Kindle formats amongst others. Should keep me quiet for a wee while at least.

  • Michael Lorrey

    I started reading the John Carter (as well as the Carson of Venus series) after I saw them mentioned in Heinlein novels, as well. Friends who have seen it but are ignorant of history thought it was “a rip-off of star wars”, which is too bad, Disney should have made more of the fact that this is the story that all other scifi movies are based on, and I think the chosen title was stupid, they should have made it “A Princess of Mars” and people would have come in droves. And I’m not surprised the postmodernist movie reviewers hate it, they’re all feminazis and emasculated men.

  • Having read all of both John Carter and Tarzan by my early teens, but none since, I grabbed this:

    John Carter of Mars Complete Collection and Tarzan Complete Collection – Masterpiece by Edgar Rice Burroughs(Link)

    at a price of just $2.99 a week ago.

  • The Jannie

    I am not a scifi buff and thought the incredibly profitable Avatar was awful for the ten minutes I bothered to watch. I thought at the trailer, though, that John Carter looked like lots of fun. Loss maker or not, I still want to see it.

  • Alisa

    “Avatar” was a tremendous piece crap, in a very fancy package.

  • Laird

    “what I want to know is why Captain John Carter of Virginia spoke with a mid Atlantic accent.”

    Umm, Cats, Virginia is the definition of “mid-Atlantic”. You would perhaps have preferred that he spoke with an Alabama drawl?

  • Paul Marks

    Is not “Hunger Games” just another the-rich-are-evil flick?

    Hollywood has been producing films like this (and little else) for decades. They “make people think” – but always the same thoughts.

    And with a teen angle…. oh no.

    As for John Carter.

    I almost watched it in Israel – but it was on a bit late in the evening.

    It is still on in the United Kingdom.

    I will try and see it here.

    Perhaps tomorrow.

  • Alisa

    Is not “Hunger Games” just another the-rich-are-evil flick?

    What makes you think so, Paul?

  • Laird,

    He came across as a yankee. Most disappointing.

  • Jerry

    ‘I loved their Dejah Thoris. She was everything ….. Drop dead gorgeous, athletic, a deadly swords-woman and a voice like Bettany Hughes. The more I think about it,….
    I wonder what she is like with a sword?

    I wonder what she is like with a sword? ???????????

    What ????

    Dale if that’s your first ‘wonder’ you REALLY need to get out more !!!!!! 😉

  • Russ

    The Hunger Games isn’t going to stand up as an eternal classic, but it is FAR more than simply a “the rich are awful” screed….enough so that reading it brought back an awful lot of unpleasant memories about the eastern half of Europe. It’s definitely not rich-poor, by tyranny/manipulation that’s the fundamental axis.

    Also, one of the best portrayals of PTSD I’ve ever seen.

  • Mike Giles

    John Carter is a southerner from the era of the Civil War. According to the leftist film critics who infest our media outlets, he could be nothing more than an evil slave owner. Their politics leak into everything they do or say. On another note, at this point we are well aware of what Mars is really like, something that wasn’t true when ERB first wrote the books. If anything I would have added a line or two that had Carter traveling across time as well as space. Say looking through a telescope and wondering why the middle of North America was covered by an ocean. Or wondering why all the Northern continents were covered in ice.

  • Alisa

    Jerry, does the word ‘foreplay’ ring a bell, or are you a male?;-P

  • The Wobbly Guy

    Paul, if you are observe closely, you’ll notice the parallels between the Capitol in the Hunger Games and a place in the real world. A strong central government with immense coercive strength, using that strength to oppress the other parts of the country.

    Reminds me of a certain capital in North America. Nah, it’s just my imagination. :p

  • LCB

    RE: Hunger Games.
    I’ve seen Dems and Repubs both state that the Capitol in Hunger Games is obviously what happens when the other party gains complete control. That tells me the movie got the balance just right. Unfettered government, which is what both parties want, eventually leads to something like what is seen in Hunger Games.

    I, too, thought it was a very good movie. And I’m no teen at 52! 🙂

  • Rick Tucker

    I disagree with the general take that the audience as a whole is mixed in their opinions. I DO think there are some genuine sour grapes but I won’t get in to two big reasons (some hate anything romantic and others being purists who wanted closer ties to the books hate any change to fundamental lore in the original tales), but everyone I’ve recommended the film to see who went not only liked it it but loved it. This is a new thing for me because I run with a diverse set of friends from those with long military careers to unabashed geeks. Not one I recommended it to did not like it and one friend who is almost always at cross opinions to my own regarding movies even liked it.

  • Jake

    The reviews were no worse than what a typical genre film like this receives. In fact, John Carter’s 50% RT score is about 20% higher than the average.

    The film’s real problem was buzz, or lack thereof. Perception is everything in the internet age and most moviegoers had written this off as a generic dud long before the film ever opened. It was a marketing problem much like the one Conan the Barbarian faced last August.

    However, unlike Conan, John Carter is actually a well-crafted film. I’d even go so far as to say it’s better than modern box office triumphs like the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels, the Transformers trilogy, G.I. Joe, Clash of the Titans, and even the Star Wars prequels.

    Where John Carter shines is in its ability to reproduce the kind of old-fashioned, pulp spirit that made the original Star Wars films such a revelation. It’s not a perfect film, but it is a great deal of fun that will likely be looked back upon fondly years from now.

    Can anyone honestly say the same about Clash of the Titans or Transformers 2?

  • Hmm

    Well, I finally went to see “John Carter” tonight. There was only me and one other person there… and my honest best description of it must be = it was EXCELLENT… the CGI was the best I’ve seen, the Tharks and in fact all the “Barsoomian” creatures were easily the most realistic of CGI to date.., they were very believable. They even acted well!

    It was fun and reasonably well thought out. No major plot hiccups. also it was enjoyably “social agenda” free!!!… it is so nice to see a film without crappy politics woven into it, but rather sad to consider that thought.

    Damn, i wish there were a lot more films like this. Pure enjoyable escapism. Where men are men – Women look as good as they fight and aliens that are believable within the film context.

    I feel sorry for anyone that listened to the naysaying reviewers and didn’t go to see it. That is one film I didn’t begrudge paying to view.

    Just plain good fun – I hope it turns into a cult feature 🙂

    Please Film makers – make more like this – this is the way films should be…. just get the damn advertising right next time.

    And Dale – thanks for reminding me – I’m glad I got to see it on the big screen in 3D.

  • Mendicant

    Q: What do they call Hunger Games in Japan?
    A: Battle Royale with Cheese.

    Disney’s marketing of John Carter was terrible (John Carter sounds like the title of an art-house movie); calling it John Carter of Mars would have made more sense.
    Releasing the movie well into the summer would have made more sense as well.
    Contrast Disney’s lame marketing of John Carter with Marvel’s promotion of The Avengers and Fox’s promotion of Prometheus.

    Regarding Transformers, the fan-made adaptation of Simon Furman’s Transformers: The War Within is a thousand times better than Michael Bay’s moronic “movies”. Bay and Spielberg seem to be oblivious to the fact the Transformers are meant to have personalities, meaning there’s no need for human characters to be at the centre of everything, or indeed present at all.
    Furman should have been involved with the movies, with Brad Bird directing.

  • Paul Marks

    Alisa and the others.

    What makes me wary of the politics of Hunger Games?

    Errrr – many years of Hollywood product.

    Many times I have seen shows and films that are supposedly “very libertarian” and nearly always (not quite always) the bad guys turn out to be “the rich” or “corporations”.

    On this matter I suspect that Mendicant I correct – it is going to be another “Battle Royale”.

    I remember that film – the surviving chilren become a People’s Resistance and describe the AK47 (in reality the principle rifle of the forces of collectivism for 60 years) as the weapon of freedom.

    It was this film that showed me that the modern Japanese entertainment world is just as much under the control of the left as the entertainment world of America is.

    Indeed (come to think of it) it was only after I watched this film that I predicted that Japan would go into decline.

    When the culture collapses – everything else, eventually, follows.

    Karl Popper note.

    What I say above can be refuted.

    Show me a politician bad guy in Hunger Games talking, with approval, about “Social Justice”.

    Or some other language of the left.

    By the way people….

    Spare me the “both parties are the same” or “if either side got all the power” stuff.

  • Alisa

    I’m sorry we didn’t wait to see John Carter, Paul – it sounds like fun

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    Whilst the show is fun, it is more science fantasy than anything else. Why didn’t he spread diseases, and come down with Martian illnesses, whilst he was there? And the moons of Mars are more like asteroids! And how come Martian languages sound like mixtures of Latin and Greek, mixed up?

  • Paul Marks

    I next have some free time on Monday Alisa.

    I may see John Carter then.

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    And, I will add, for a Yankee film, it has a very low level of Brit-bashing. Whilst all the villains sounded British, so did most other Martians, really. (Couldn’t the Tharns, with their belief in science and their own racial superiority, have had a slight germanic accent?)

  • So why the hell do the reviewers hate it?

    Probably because there wasn’t a leftist progressive “moral” or “lesson” and the villains weren’t identifiably conservative.

  • Laird

    Nuke, Americans generally love Brits, especially their accents. Why would you expect to see “Brit-bashing”?

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    In a lot of Hollywood films, Britains are the villains of choice- or people who sound educated!