John Carter (AKA why I think some movie critics should get their panties out of a wad)

I just saw Disney’s John Carter. And you know what? I really liked it. In fact, I had to pee through the last half of the movie and wouldn’t get up because I was afraid I’d miss something. That rarely happens.

But here’s my issue. I almost didn’t see the film because critics have been mercilessly panning it. It only has 50% on Rotten Tomatoes and generally that’s a good sign of a bad film. But then my friends started seeing it and telling me they liked it. So what gives? Why are the critics willing to take a dump all over a movie that is, in its essence, actually pretty darn good?

Maybe it had something to do with that horrible first trailer that was released. Or maybe the movie critics are all having a bad week. Or maybe they’re just so inundated with all of that boring Oscar material that an action-packed adventure like John Carter just feels foreign to them. Whatever it is, I’m going on record to state that I think they are wrong.

I will start my own review by stating that I have not read the books John Carter was based on. However, I am now inspired to do so. Disney created such a great world with wonderful aliens and fantastic characters that I’m fascinated enough to delve further into it.

So what’s it about? It’s about a man who has fought in the American Civil War who stumbles upon an amulet that sends him to Mars, where another sort of civil war is taking place. It’s a Disney movie, so you know this man is flawed and is more anti-hero than hero, but ends up doing the right thing in the end. There is, also, a princess who needs to be saved (although this princess could kick some serious butt), as well as a bad guy that needs to be stopped from destroying the world.

It’s a great plot and it just works on film, as Disney knew it would. Taylor Kitsch, a veritable newcomer, is both charming and rogue-ish as the title character, but how could he not be when surrounded by what feels to be half the cast from HBO’s Rome series? With actors like Samantha Morton, Ciaran Hinds, Dominic West, Willem Dafoe, Thomas Haden Church and James Purefoy hanging about, you better be bringing your A game to set. Lynn Collins is the princess who sort of needs rescuing (although she handles a sword even better than Kitsch) and is just the icing on top of the stellar cake.

What struck me the most about the film, though, was the beauty with which it was shot. Mars is believable as this dusty red planet of a world, but it is the people (and the green Martians) and the colors they wear and their environments that make the planet seem as alive and vibrant as our familiar earth. The city of Helium literally took my breath away. The cinematography is also stunning, so major kudos to the people responsible for that.

There is also non-stop action. Although the film felt long (as anything over two hours ALWAYS feels to me), I couldn’t imagine any part of it being clipped to collect on the editing room floor. I wasn’t kidding about having to pee through the last half, but so much was going on, I just crossed my legs and let the movie carry me away. Which it did. Even a scene that I initially thought might prove to be pointless ended up being a focal turning point in the plot of the story.

There was something original about this film, in the way that it looked and the way it played out, as well. But at the same time, it felt like some familiar favorites. It was Pirates of the Caribbean meets Star Wars meets Avatar (although I will argue that John Carter is the better film) meets the video game Skyrim.  It was that sort of epic adventure that sweeps you off your feet and doesn’t set you down until the film is far from over.

Although I can’t state that John Carter is perfect, at the same time, I cannot come up with a single criticism of it.

Go see John Carter. Ignore those professionals who tell you it’s awful because honestly, I think they’re taking themselves entirely too serious and have forgotten how much fun a movie can actually be.

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