John Who? / by Josh Trudell

Sweeping sci-fi action movie. Oscar-winning director, coming off a game-changing film. Huge powerhouse studio sinking tons of money into it.

Sounds like the kind of movie that rakes in more money that most third-world countries produce in a year, doesn’t it?

Instead, it’s the “monument to excess”  (and it took one glimpse of the price tag for critics to dust that phrase off) called John Carter.

Now, I admit - this kind of film is my raison d’etre when it comes to summer movies, so I’m inclined to like it if at all possible. The Superwife and I both chew up the epic blockbusters like Girl Scout cookies. We’re right in the heart of the nerdcore that this movie should have been aimed at.

The problem I saw was – well, who WAS this movie aimed at? Or was it aimed at all?

The natural comparison for John Carter is Avatar, the 2009 James Cameron-directed epic. They had many of the same ingredients going in.

When Avatar came out, we were swimming in ads for months, in all forms of media. The marketing campaign was thorough, to say the least. It became an can’t-miss event – the guy who directed Terminator and Titanic is coming out with a big movie! Holy crap, I’ve got to see this!

Do you know the name of the director of John Carter? Do you know what he’s done? Did you hear about it anywhere?

For the record – his name is Andrew Stanton, and he directed Wall-E and Finding Nemo. He’s been a Pixar guy since the beginning.

That might have been good to know, considering the reputation Pixar has crafted.

Disney is Pixar’s parent company now – but based on the storytelling Disney did with the marketing for this movie, Stanton may want to stick with animation.

The story is an old one – based on Edgar Rice Burrough’s novels, the first of which was published in 1912.  So it was the inspiration behind a lot of the minds that came up with films such as Star Wars, and yes, Avatar.

Another point to hammer home, perhaps?

At this point, though, the novels are not widely known. A marketing approach helping people understand what they are in for might have been a good idea. I knew what a Na’vi was for months before one showed up on the big screen – but Jeddaks were a whole new concept.

In short: You’re introducing me to this new world – a new language, new beings, new social structure. In my opinion, it might have been a good approach to give people a Rosetta Stone course before dumping them into this epic tale.

Critics rightfully gave John Carter some lumps, in my mind – it’s a little long, and occasionally a little muddled.

The critics who enjoyed it seemed to have a common theme, though: Embrace it for its innocence. It doesn’t carry most of the heavy messages of Cameron’s Dances with Smurfs – but it’s fun. That’s something that makes it worthwhile all by itself.

I give it three stars out of five for excellent action, a fun storyline and decent chemistry between Taylor Kitsch and Lynn Collins. For more thoughts about the movie's issues and values, I recommend these thoughts from Mr. Beaks at Ain't it Cool News.