Why John Carter Is The Best Movie Of 2012

I will begin this post by stating that I had no intention of seeing John Carter after viewing the first awful trailer that Disney posted on IMDB.com. In fact, I don’t think any of their trailers piqued my interest enough to draw me into the theater and spend even a penny on this movie.

It looked strange, nothing made any sense, the movie posters were tacky, and I had better things to spend my time and money on. That is, until I saw this:

And then it all came together. Never mind the rest of the trailer after the initial text. John Carter was written in 1912? It inspired the creative minds of George Lucas, James Cameron, et al? Now I must know more. A quick Google search informed me that there are 11 books in the John Carter series, with the Disney movie being an adaptation of “A Princess of Mars”(which, had they named it that, I might have been more inclined to see it).

So, nearly one month after its debut, I made the 9.5 minute trip to my local theater and purchased a ticket. I wasn’t surprised to find myself the only patron in the John Carter screening, especially after reading about the nasty reception it debuted to. There was a fellow from the previous screening, and I’d guess his age to be somewhere in between 55-60. I asked him what he thought of the movie, and he said he’d enjoyed it quite a bit. He told me that he’d read the book series as a kid, and that the Disney version lived up to his expectations and beyond. Now my confidence in this movie was beginning to grow.

It also helped that the end credits were rolling, and Michael Giacchino’s beautiful soundtrack was in full swing, putting a slight smile on my face. I’m a sucker for classical music and soundtracks, and I made a mental note to purchase the John Carter OST from Amazon after the feature, whether I enjoyed the movie or not.

Finally, it’s time for my showing. The lights dim, the Disney intro plays, and my anticipation has now created a multitude of butterflies in my stomach. 2 hours 13 minutes later and I am beside myself with excitement. What a movie! What a ride!

Andrew Stanton deserves more than he received for this epic take on a classic novel. He perfectly understood and captures the essence of every(most) little boy’s dreams: which is to discover a new world, fight an evil power, and rescue a damsel in distress. I cannot tell you how many times during childhood that I’d envisioned myself as a character similar to Taylor Kitsch’s John Carter, and the very fact that I had the opportunity to witness a childhood fantasy come to life on the big screen was worth the price of admission alone.

I laughed, I cried, and I never wanted the film to end. Where are the other 10 movie adaptations? Let’s see them now! I went home and downloaded the Kindle version of “A Princess of Mars”, and read it in one sitting. To my delight, the Disney version was a near replica of the book. I added the movie to my list of great book-movie adaptations(it’s a small list, unfortunately), and marked my calendar for a future screening of John Carter at the secondhand theater 45 minutes away.

So what makes this Disney movie the greatest of 2012? Notice that I don’t say the greatest so far. Prometheus was fantastic, The Avengers wowed, Moonrise Kingdom was brilliant, and I’m sure The Dark Knight Rises will be a blockbuster. But none of these movies came from a 100 year old book.

It’s not so much that Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote a book with a wonderful science fiction plot, but that he wrote a terrific book with a wonderful science fiction plot that inspired almost all of the greatest sci-fi minds of our time. Not only that, but he created something that would soon become the subject of children’s fantasy the world over, and that’s what John Carter has above every movie slated to come out in 2012, The Hobbit included.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Peter Jackson, and I know he’ll do a great job with the franchise. But John Carter made me happier than I can ever remember feeling during a movie. I was drawn in to the screen, as if I was beside he and the princess the entire film. Her beauty, his unusual strength, their love, his conviction, the well-sequenced action scenes, Woola the lizard dog, and Willem Dafoe as Tars Tarkas all fit together in this wonderful film.

I blame Disney for the disastrous reception critics gave John Carter. Their awful marketing campaign kept everyone away from this film, and those who saw it expected perhaps something else entirely, I know I did. Almost every scene in the trailer had such a minor role in the film that I wonder if the person editing the trailer even watched the whole movie, or just skipped to the parts filled with CGI.

If I had to rate the movie, I’d give it a 4/5, simply because there were a few parts that were drawn out just a bit too long. But for the story, the acting, the soundtrack, the visual effects, and the fact that this book inspired my favorite directors, I give it a 5/5. If I become rich someday, I will rent out a theater screen every month, and have a John Carter party. Such is my dedication to this film and hopefully future adaptations, if others in Hollywood agree with me…

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28 thoughts on “Why John Carter Is The Best Movie Of 2012

  1. Couldn’t agree more! Saw it 4 times in the theater, tried to get all of my friends to come with me but it was like pulling teeth. Made me feel like a kid again. Made me feel like I wanted to feel watching Episode 1.

  2. Pingback: Zack Wall: How the Heritage Trailer made a difference on one viewer | thejohncarterfiles.com

  3. I couldnt have agreed more my friend. I wrote something very similar in portuguese in my blog also.
    And that fan trailer is one of the best movie trailers ever made in my opinion.

  4. Great review – you captured my feelings about this movie exactly! I only wish that I had ignored all the critics and actually seen it in the theater. I bought it on iTunes and have probably watched it a dozen times. The Soundtrack and CGI integration with live characters was amazing – I hope the techies get a ton of positive recognition. This is one of those feel good movies that I’ll watch over and over. It’s up there with the original Star Wars trilogy, Groundhog Day, and Star Trek reboot. I actually prefer it to Avatar.

  5. I’ve been finding out that those people who enjoyed John Carter are a very fine example of Homo Sapiens! Wise to the Max! 🙂

  6. I could not agree with you more Zack. I have re-posted this to my Facebook page, and I hope many others follow suit. I could have been that dude you talked to in the theater-same age, same life-changing experience as a kid when I read the books. What a shame Disney screwed up the marketing of this movie so completely. The movie was so well done, and needed a marketing campaign of equal care and craft to go with it. Bravo!

  7. The ending to this movie is one of the best ever. Think Ghost or even Gone with the Wind. Disney did a shocking job with promotion. Go to Facebook to support the quest for sequels.

  8. Great read, it’s always good to hear other people understanding what makes this particular modern Hollywood blockbuster different from the others. I think that people with an interest in or a love for science-fiction are the ones most likely to “get” the film. I’ve seen the movie countless times now, including three times in the theater because I knew it needed to be experienced in one, but I will always remember that first screening, as the movie neared its conclusion and everything about it was so perfectly wrapped up while making me particularly anxious that we might never get to see the rest of the story because of obvious and unfortunate marketing and financial issues. The theater was packed and the film was working so well on them too; I knew the audience was impressed.

    But anyway, it’s great to at least have had one film, and with large 3D HDTVs, a great quality blu-ray and today’s sound quality offered by some home installations, seeing it at home can be really impressive as well. Still, I hope the film will be shown down the line in some local theaters every once in a while, and I think it will be, since the people that really loved the film are pretty vocal about it. It’s nice to not be the only ones feeling this way about John Carter.

  9. Thanks for this. You expressed EXACTLY how I feel but better worded. I am one of those ’55-60′ guys who read Burroughs (all of Burroughs-Carter, Tarzan, Pellucidar…) as a young teen. Stanton got it exactly right. And so did you. Thanks again

  10. Great review! I also loved this movie. It felt new and familiar at the same time – like someone took all the coolest elements from my favorite sci-fi and fantasy films as a kid and combined them seamlessly, but with much better effects. It was really fun to see the story that started it all up on the screen. I sure hope they make sequels, and I know I’m not alone. http://www.johncartertwo.com

  11. Well said Zack. Hopefully the rest of America wakes up and buys/rents JOHN CARTER on DVD/Blu-ray/VOD/iTunes/etc and then we get the sequel(s) that this excellent film so richly deserves. Best film of 2012 and the past, heck, 10 years or so.

    I’m very open-minded when it comes to films, and I’m a huge fan of sci-fi/fantasy and comic book films, but the majority of the 2012 crop has left me feeling cold. Why is that? Why is the hype always so so wrong? John Carter got anti-hyped and trashed and the critics had it DEAD wrong! John Carter was the first big budget film out of the gate this year and just got so much RIGHT that the rest just feel like shallow, cynical exercises in mass-market entertainment. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed myself at most of the films I’ve seen – but none of them STICK WITH YOU like JOHN CARTER does. This is a film for the kid in me and the adult in me – it’s THAT kind of film. It’s in the same league as RAIDERS, A NEW HOPE and BACK TO THE FUTURE. If you like those films, than you get where I’m coming from.

    Tell me this – What film in the past 10-20 years makes you look up at the stars at night after viewing it and have HOPE and a sense of grand adventure like you felt as a kid? JOHN CARTER. That’s it. It’s that good folks.

    Google what the writers, director and actors have all said in support of this film. Usually Hollywood types are the first to distance themselves from a “failure”. Didn’t happen this time. That should tell you something.

    Google or Facebook search “Take Me Back to Barsoom” to join other like-minding fans like me pushing for a sequel. We will make a sequel happen! It’s already made $280+million in box office, plus another $40 million in DVD/Blu-Ray sales. And that was going UPHILL against the critical attacks and troll-mongering all over the net. Just imagine how grateful and eager the growing fanbase will be when the sequels eventually hit. Who knows, Disney might even try marketing the thing the second time around. Imagine that. I can see my Tars Tarkas action figure and Woola Slurpee cup like they’re already there. Disney, wake up and ADMIT your mistakes. Stop trying to blame its US box office failure on anything but your own HORRIBLE (and mostly absent) marketing and promotion of it.

    If you haven’t already, see JOHN CARTER – with unbiased eyes.

  12. I couldn’t agree with you more! I have seen John Carter 7 times in the theater and can’t begin to tell you how many times now that I have it on DVD. It was a wonderful and exceptional story and film that made you want to go back and see it time and time again. The characters were heartwarming and fantastic. The cast – incomparable! The story was beautifully written and directed by Andrew Stanton. There are thousands and thousands of fans from all over the world who love John Carter and are fighting for a Sequel. Now that the DVD has been released (and Number 1 in sales it’s first week!) I hear new fans say everyday that had they seen more advertising of this film by Disney, or had known what John Carter was all about, or had not listened to reviewers of this film, they would have seen it in the theater. I hope many people will do the same and watch John Carter. Please take that chance. Then join the thousands and thousands of fans who want Disney to take them Back To Barsoom!

  13. Zack, you nailed it. I am one of those “older guys” like the one you saw the film with. I have loved ERB since boyhood….many years ago. This movie took me back in time. I saw it in the theater 11 times and enjoyed it more with each viewing. I have the Blu ray and am saving it like a fine wine to view at the proper time. Like you, I realize that it is not a cinematic masterpiece, but it sure is a fine ride. It is definitely my favorite movie of the last 30 years.

  14. Thank you for putting it so well and succinctly! This movie is a treasure, based on a book series that is a treasure. I loved it for the same reasons I originally loved Star Wars: it’s the stuff your childhood dreams are made of, it has heart, adventure, courage, honor, and incredible creativity. It is joy. I hope Disney listens and keeps it going. (Doing a much better job marketing it this time.)

  15. Wholeheartedly agree 100%, and to hell with former Disney exec Rich Ross who also/probably helped tailgun this excellent adaption. I never considered how ineptly edited that trailer might have aided the movies downfall, but you’re right there too! EVERYBODY that I know who say this fine film, and other who I talked into seeing it – loved it – absolutely love it.

  16. I must have been teh old guy you talked to….LOL I read teh books as a kid and have reread them maybe 10 times since. I hope you read the next 2 as they make for one of the greatest adventures / tale of love I have ever read. The hero goes through 2 planets for the woman he loves. everyone who saw it that I have talked to loved it.

  17. While I didn’t think that the original trailers were as bad as all that, I do agree with Zack overall. Out of all the movies I saw this year, John Carter, was the one that left me wanting more. Was it “perfect?” Hardly, but it was more than good enough to satisfy this science fantasy fan who fell in love with Barsoom as a teenager.

  18. I have seen a lot of movie critics here in California and in several other places say that they hated John Carter including the movie critic in my hometown newspaper the Sacramento Bee who said it was one of the worst movies ever made and all i have to say is BS as i thought John Carter was one of the best movies made in the 21th Century.To all the people that might concider watching John Carter dont listen to the movie critics and make up your own mind if you want to watch John Carter.John Carter deserves a sequel or more then one sequel as i think the movie was that good.

  19. For the record, I have read that Andrew Stanton was in charge of the trailer and much of the marketing. He says he designed the trailer with the Star Wars trailer in mind in which you couldn’t tell what the movie was about and so you went to the theater with a clean slate. Why did Disney–which occasionally fails at just about everything except marketing–allow Stanton to direct the marketing? Because he is a Pixar director–and Disney is contractually barred from telling Pixar what movies to create or how. There’s no reason why that right should carry over to non-Pixar movies but I think Disney productions had got into the habit of deferring to Pixar directors.

  20. Thank you all for your wonderful comments! It was my pleasure to write this article, as it is something I believe in wholeheartedly. I appreciate all of you who re-posted this blog on Twitter, Facebook, and other websites. Let’s keep hoping that the “bigwhigs” in Hollywood hear our enthusiasm for more John Carter films, with better marketing next time!

  21. I don’t often get the chance to go to the cinema anymore, but being a fan of the books for a number of years now, I made sure I would see this film. And I took my kids with even though I did wonder if 3 little girls who are usually into Barbie would appreciate. They absolutely adored the film, as did I. In fact one aspect that I appreciated most about the film was that it had provided a little clarity on several points in the book that I found difficult to visualize such as the method by which John Carter arrives on Mars. My kids enjoyed the film so much that when we bought our first 3D bluray movie several months ago, the vote was unanimous that it should be John Carter. Seems this time, as with Blade Runner, the critics got it very wrong.

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