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…