Friday, March 30, 2012

John Carter mini-review

Honestly, I'm not a good candidate for a movie reviewer. I don't watch enough movies or TV to know which actor is which, I really don't care about the awards and all the hooplah. I just like to watch the occasional good movie. Because I don't want to waste my time or hard-earned money, I don't get out to the movies nearly as often as my friends. I think they enjoy it when they mention a movie for which I haven't seen a preview, then tell me which actors are in it, only to have me stare at them with a blank look on my face. So when I went to see John Carter (of Mars - lest you confuse him with any other John Carter), I was skeptical. I had read the books as a kid and again as an adult, and was excited about the prospect of seeing John Carter on the big screen, but fearful that the sense of adventure and action that I had loved as a child-reader would be muffled by some hidden political message that the screenplay writers and studio would interject in order to make the move "more impactful". Knowing that CGI has come a long way, I had visions in my head of just how good a movie this could be. But I was under no illusions on just how bad this movie could also be. When I first learned of the movie and saw the trailer, I was excited by the prospects. It seemed to be headed in the right direction. My movie-going friends, even those who are self-proclaimed science fiction fans, asked: "Who is John Carter"? After crying inside, I gave them a brief rundown (which I shall not do here). So we, my family and I, went to the local big screen for my 16 year-old's birthday. I watched with guarded, very guarded, optimism. I waited for the blatant environmental theme or the pandering dictum of overcoming differences. Being a liberal, I'm fine with those themes in real life, but I don't go to the movies to enjoy real life. I go for an escape. So as I wound my way through Carter's adventures (notably different from the books in some fundamental ways), I was wary. I simply knew that, just around the corner, some "special" message was waiting for me, telling me how I should or should not do this or that. But the message never came. Sure, there were a couple sidelong glances as environmental issues, but these were not an anachronism. They were tastefully taken from Burrough's work itself, not magnified out of all proportion for a modern audience. And, frankly, John Carter kicked butt. I don't know that I've seen such an over-the-top swashbuckling scene as Carter leaping, alone, into an oncoming wave of martians, carving himself into a crater whose walls were the bodies of his bleeding foes. THAT is what I had come to see! Give me John Carter leaping to impossible heights in Mar's lesser gravity, give me mysterious shape-shifting aliens bent on their own hidden and foul purposes, give me the fighting man John Carter, as precocious and wild on Earth as on Mars, give me ADVENTURE! Kudos to the directors. I'm sure that armchair critics and academics alike will poo-poo the movie as a childish diversion. And you know what? They're right! So right! And I'm fine with that. Besides, I'd like to see them say it to John Carter's face . . .

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