Every film should be evaluated on its own merits alone, with no wounds in advance for bad press, no extra credit for source material. Multiple articles have noted that John Carter has been an incalculable influence for modern science fiction and film imagery from Star Wars to Avatar (was this meant to be an insult?), and has been impossible to film when it was created in 1912 due to its setting of a well realized and entirely alien world. Well, it still can’t be filmed since CGI still looks fake and goofy as shit. The story requires Mars to be a place that not only supports life, but a race of intelligent aliens that have awesome technology while still beating the shit out of each other with melee weapons in the name of honor. The world has moved on since samurai ceased to be a romantic idea, although the white guilt earnestness of Avatar would probably argue against that. What John Carter does well is transport you wholly to a place where $250 million buys you a cartoon world less plausible than Bugs Bunny’s attempts to tranny.
But who cares, really? We want a diversion to escape our annoying and pointless lives. And what better way to do that than to hunker down and study a dense backstory that rivals the Bible for sheer complexity? Measurement of a metric tensor is less rigorous, and statistical analysis of the relative risk reduction of multifactorial therapies is less frustrating. The dialogue is crafted of elegant and timeless phrases like “By Isis the Thraks shall phlegm!” This is meant to be an epic tale, and comes off as an amalgam of Delgo and Dune. I could recount the plot for you, but won’t. Fuck that. Things happen, and John Carter makes them happen. Enroute to the conclusion big fuckers hammer each other in ways unseen since maybe last weekend at the movies, or in bars in small towns where the primary sport is trading wives.
Speaking of that, what a way to spend a weekend. Small towns in the middle of nowhere in the dead of winter have the sort of impossibly communal atmosphere that can only exist where boredom and contempt fill every space with lively conversation. From out of town, are you? Welcome to our live show, and let me tell you my side of things before somebody else does, and they will. The beer is cheap, the chatter cheaper, and with no significant past† or hopeful economic future ever likely, there is nothing to do but stab each other in the nuts. Figuratively, usually. The pressure cooker atmosphere intensifies around the holidays as public displays of camaraderie become even more ersatz, and misgivings pile up like dead hobos in a dumpster. Terrible places to live, but for a tourist it beats any sort of theatre. This has nothing to do with John Carter, but it’s what I was thinking when nothing I gave two shits about was busily happening on screen, and continued to happen way longer than nothing should have. The movie just kept going on and on, and I cried myself to sleep.
If you were expecting a review, then you had higher expectations for John Carter than I did. Things happen, you don’t care, and you forget all about it with the speed of a neutrino that drunk drove home only to realize the following morning that it parked in a rush hour tow away zone. The design of the movie is like a child angrily dumping a trunk full of rubber action figures on an upturned camera lens. As it turns out, that is how the upcoming Battleship was filmed, except with a screaming meth addict dumping a crate of auto parts. The future of cinema.