August 9, 2012

Justify My Netflix: John Carter

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)

John Carter

Today's movie: John Carter, 2012 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because I simply had to see for myself what went wrong with this fabled bomb, given that it combines one of the more well-loved serials of the early 20th century (you know, the books that Edgar Rice Burroughs was writing when he wasn't writing Tarzan novels) with one of the more well-loved genre moviemakers of the early 21st century (Andrew Stanton, that is, making his live-action debut here after being an instrumental part of such Pixar hits as Toy Story, Finding Nemo and WALL-E).

The reality: Not too bad, actually! Because thankfully, unlike a lot of stories of fabled bombs in Hollywood, this one turns out to not have much of a leg to stand on -- made for a budget of $250 million, here just four months later it's now grossed $300 million, with most of its bad reputation picked up merely from industry wags who crowed over the film having a disappointing opening weekend, but with its long-term healthiness turning out to be just fine. But that said, I once again have the same complaint about this as I do about all ridiculously expensive CG-heavy movies, which is that it simply doesn't feel like I'm seeing 250 million dollars' worth of film; because I gotta say, no matter how much Hollywood executives want me to feel differently about it, a cartoon is going to remain a cartoon in my mind no matter how much money it cost to make that cartoon, and I will undoubtedly go to my grave just never able to see a cartoon in the grand, sweeping manner that these Hollywood executives keep telling me I should. That's why it seems that I'm always thinking back to Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" films whenever I see another new expensive genre pic like this, because that's a case where it literally feels like you're seeing hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of preparation and work up there on that screen; and I have to admit, even now a decade since those movies first came out, I still haven't seen anything that comes even close to the breathlessly grand scope of that unforgettable trilogy, profoundly disappointing when you realize that Disney spent a quarter of a billion dollars here on what's essentially a Tom & Jerry cartoon. Enjoyable for what it is, and certainly better than its reputation, it sadly remains a "meh" film when all is said and done; and that's probably the biggest tragedy of all, that the kind of money that could literally eradicate the last cases of polio on this planet, or that could end hunger in several developing nations, was instead spent on a movie that will make most people shrug and mutter, "Well, at least that wasn't as terrible as I thought it was going to be." 250 million dollars is way too much money to spend for a milquetoast reaction like that, which sums up the problem with Hollywood in the 2000s much better than anything else can.

Strangest piece of trivia: With failed adaptation proposals that stretch all the way back to 1931, this production has the longest period of "development hell" in human history.

Worth your time? Meh

Filed by Jason Pettus at 10:27 AM, August 9, 2012. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |