This is a review which caught my attention because of it’s reference to Steve Jobs comment about dividing the world into those that “get it” and those that are “bozos” — with the reviewer reaching the conclusion that John Carter is a “perfect bozo-meter”. There are some other good thoughts in here as well. Thanks to Debbie Banway for flagging this one for JCF:
REVIEW: JOHN CARTER
by Dave Jutsum from Dave Jutsum’s Blog
Synopsis: JCM is the pinnacle of campy cool sci-fi wonderment. If you missed it and you are at all the kind of person who likes classic tales for boys or science fiction, you should go out of your way to see it. You won’t be disappointed.
A Little Backstory
I went into John Carter of Mars fully expecting it to live up to its reputation in the press as the “biggest flop of all time”. I left the theater walking on air. Few films have ever left me with such a tangible ebullient rush. The thrill of youth– of imaginative immersion– is palpable.
My wife and I were the only people in the theater who made it to the end of the credits. As we cavorted out down the aisle, both of us wished that there were a sequel on the way. That seems unlikely given the reported performance of the film thus far. Still, I admire the courage of the Disney executives who green-lighted such an ambitious project and who have stood behind it as losses have mounted. It reaffirms my faith in the creative spirit.
A Little Tangent
When I was younger, I had this feeling that there would be a threshold which, once reached, would mean that I had “made it”. Not in the sense of being successful or wealthy, but in the sense of getting handed the reigns of the culture.
To my mind, it was not a finish line, but rather a coming of age. Much as in fairy tales, the prince dreams of inheriting his kingdom without realizing the responsibility that comes with the chair and the hat, I always thought that, one day, my generation would finally be the ones being catered to by mass media.
Before ascending to this hallowed position, I imagined it would mean that all of the things which we collectively loved as youngsters would gain the cultural seal of approval™ (guaranteed to seal in freshness). There would be great Star Wars movies. Great Indy movies. Who could say? Maybe even the Lord of the Rings would be adapted.
I learned upon usurping the throne from the first vanguard of Gen X what it really meant to have power. For them it had meant a Brady Bunch movie. For them, it was a CGI Scooby Doo. [As an aside, did you know that Scooby Doo got his name from the end of Frank Sinatra’s “Strangers in the Night”? Neither did I. Thanks, Jimmy Wales!] For us, it meant reboots of GI Joe and Transformers. It meant watching all of the stars that I grew up loving gracelessly age into lackluster B roles. It meant Jar Jar. [I swear, if I had known in 1997 what I know now in 2012, I might have committed suicide. I was a rash youth.] The farther I ascend up the cultural food chain, the more I realize how little value most of the “art” produced in reverence to the bottom line really has.
Primordial Soup for the Adventurous Soul
Much of my fantasy world as a seven-year-old was formed by mass market forces outside of my consciousness at the time. I thoughtlessly lapped up series after series of TV animation designed solely as 23-minute commercials to sell the latest Hasbro, Kenner, and Mattel lines. Unquestioning, I gobbled down bowls of delicious Super Sugar Crisp (later rechristened Super Golden Crisp), believing that it was “vitamin powered” because that’s what Sugar Bear’s t-shirt told me. [Okay, I didn’t really ever believe that. It’s called hyperbole.] Large swaths of my imaginary landscape were made up of primitive vector graphics as seen in the openings for M.A.S.K. and TRON. And laser tag guns.
Robotech taught me that the F-14 was the coolest machine of all time. It didn’t matter that it was a Frankenstein’s monster of three unrelated series disparately stitched together, because it was on so early in the morning that I couldn’t ever manage to catch more than two shows in a row. The thing that stuck with me was the underlying brutality of its dystopia. Rick was shocked. So was I.
Looking back now, I brought most of the value to the table. All of those stale stories burned with a sacred fire in my imaginary realms. This is the source of my disdain for the reboot, for the world of soylent green-lighting projects reconstituted from beaten dead horses.
A New Kind of Old Movie
Enter John Carter. Unapologetically campy, beautifully paced, wonderfully realized John Carter of Mars. O, John Carter, with your framing story, your carefully crafted plot, your lovingly realized animation! You are a diamond in the rough! Watching the movie, it’s clear that Andrew Stanton and Michael Chabon were motivated by a sincere love for the material. There is such a disregard for convention. Choices are motivated by a mixture of whimsey and unquenchable romanticism. It’s a glory to behold.
The movie is the most animated live action film I’ve ever seen. Stanton does creative things with the cuts. I don’t think it gives away too much to say that John Carter can leap. Superman could leap, too, before he could fly, as anyone who’s read Chabon’s sublime The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay will doubtless recall. Clearly, he inherited it from John Carter. The joy of it comes in watching how gracefully he does so. There’s no question that it’s a little goofy. The brilliance of it is that they don’t care. In fact, they embrace it. They are pro-goofy .
The army of alien creatures have far more life behind their eyes than the cast of the Star Wars Prequels. There is a joy to the motion that bespeaks animation. The canvas is vast and gorgeous, and the set pieces are superb. But it’s not the kind of film in which you’ll find yourself noting such things. Once you are on the ride, there’s no looking back.
Here’s to the Crazy Ones
The movie is dedicated to the memory of Stephen P. Jobs. Jobs was famous for his binary view of the world. You were either someone who “got it”, or you were a “bozo”. This movie is the perfect bozo-meter.
Indeed, watching the press descend on it has been much like following coverage of Apple. People condemn what they do not understand. Especially the bozos.
If the film is a gem, the advertising has been lackluster. True, the piece doesn’t lend itself to simple tag lines. It doesn’t fit the pat image in the hive mind of pop culture. Watching the dialog get spliced into one liners is torturous. Allow me, then, to step in and attempt to do what the marketing muscle of Disney could not. and tell you again. Follow your heart. Watch this film.
Read the rest on Dave Jutsum’s Blog