As I wrote my review for Dynamite Comics “John Carter Warlord of Mars“, I came to the very profound realization that today is the three year anniversary of Disney’s John Carter. The under performing film opened March 9, 2012 and sadly did not find the mass audience it had hoped for. Luckily, I was in the theater that night and would not let March 9, 2012 go unforgotten as most unassuming days of the year disappear into the recesses of our mind.
Three years ago I desperately made plans to see Disney’s John Carter with my friends. After the first teaser, set to the haunting Peter Gabriel cover of “My Body is a Cage”, I knew I was hooked. I spent much of summer 2011 readying myself for the film by reading Marvel’s “John Carter Warlord of Mars” series during my lunch break. So, months later and 20+ issues in, I was ready to see the Andrew Stanton directed film. I recall that day vividly as my friend who lived well out in the island planned on meeting me at a theater closer to where she lived. Me, being a boy of not yet 23, only had enough money to pay for a car ride from Queens to Farmingdale and not for a movie ticket. What was I going to do? Ask her to pay? I instead politely, but sadly opted out and resolved to stay home and miss the event movie I had been waiting for. A few hours later, I got a call from one of my friends who was surprised to hear I cancelled. I told him the reality of the situation and, gallantly as ever, offered to give me a ride. I jumped at the chance and the rest was history. I’ll never forget the excitement I had for sitting in that movie theater, waiting for John Carter to begin.
Fast forward a few hours later and a Michael Giacchino score imprinted onto my being, I remember not being as excited leaving a movie theater since probably 1999’s “The Mummy.” Many would argue that John Carter was is a flawed movie and that my tastes in quality film making are quite low, but I would debate that in a heart beat. The Andrew Stanton picture is a beautiful and wonderful homage to the romance of movies. It’s a stirring adventure/romance/fantasy that is almost certain to bring a smile and tear to your face. The Disney movie, based on the stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs, has predated “Star Wars” and James Cameron’s “Avatar” and has been in development for nearly 100 years. (Back in 1931, animator Bob Clampett of Looney Tunes fame attempted to develop Burroughs’ first story “A Princess of Mars” into an animated feature, but unfortunately that would never happen.)
Disney’s John Carter is based largely on Burroughs’ first story. It chronicles the adventures of a former Civil War captain who finds himself in the Arizona territory, “between the Pinaleno mountains and the backside of hell.” He wonders into a cave and soon finds himself on the planet Barsoom (Mars). It is on this planet that he soon becomes an instrumental part in their own civil war of sorts as the city of Helium fights the city of Zodanga. Along the way, he encounters the primal Tharks (the green men of Mars), Dejah Thoris (the Princess of Mars), the monstrous White Apes, and the enigmatic immortals known as The Therns. The film is well-paced as it is charmingly acted and shot, and filled with over 2 hours of a gorgeously orchestrated score. John Carter has plenty of moments that are pulpy, but the material in which it is based on was largely pulp. Andrew Stanton, having directed “Finding Nemo” and “WALL-E”, makes his live-action directorial debut and does a remarkable job in bringing to life characters who have existed for so long in the imaginations of many. His staging of smaller moments in which Carter reflects on his failed life back on Earth to the larger scale battle scenes between Helium and Zodanga all come together flawlessly and never feel like a pale imitation of Lucas’ “Star Wars”.
It’s a rather sad tale that Disney’s John Carter didn’t find the audience that it should have when it opened three years ago. It’s also rather sad that most people now agree that the film was pretty good; it’s only problem was a lack of a strong marketing campaign. It is my sincere hope that John Carter finds its way into your home and heart on a night that you need it the most. Disney’s John Carter is the perfect movie to surrender yourself to as it will bring you to the magical world of Barsoom, introduce you to characters you’ll soon treat as friends, and leave you with a tune you’ll be humming three years from now. With these words “Och Ohem, Och Tay, Wyees Barsoom” leave your troubles behind and go watch John Carter.
Disney’s John Carter gets five out of five stars.