Released on DVD/Blu-ray & itunes this week is John Carter, an underrated action fantasy romp more known for the fact that it’s the biggest box office bomb of all time, only making back $73 million of its $250 million budget at the U.S. box office.
As a John Cater fan, it is infuriating to live in a world where an epic, well made, old school action adventure movie could not set the box office afire, while junk like Transformers: Dark of the Moon can rake in half a billion bucks from the same target market.
So where did it all go wrong for John Carter? After all, this is a film that is based on the popular “Barsoom” book series written by legendary Edgar Rice Burroughs, is directed by Pixar visionary Andrew Stanton (Wall-E) and stars up and coming leading man Taylor Kitsch.
Unfortunately misleading preconceptions saw John Carter written off as this generation’s Waterworld while it was still in production! By the time John Carter was released in theatres it was staggering from so many puncture wounds (not to mention a terrible marketing campaign that couldn’t sell the films epic scope) that many recoiled from the unjust word of mouth.
Then came the inevitable slaying from critics and bloggers who smelt blood and pounced. Roger Ebert complained the CGI was “too facile and not tactile enough” but then went on to praise “the massive city on legs that stomps across the landscape is well-done.” David Stratton whined that the film “hasn’t been able to bring anything very new to the familiar story of battles among rival forces on another planet” while completely avoiding the fact that the over hundred year old source material created such things. Then there is Mark Kermode who proclaimed the film “boring, boring, boring” yet to this day still defends the Twilight movies from the same charges.
Now that the pile-on has cleared John Carter can now prove itself to those who refused to watch it the first time at theatres, but may let curiosity persuade their wallets to buy it on DVD or Blu-ray.
It’s an investment worth making. Outside of the awesome scope which Stanton has created to tell this tale of a confederate soldier (Kitsch) who is transported to Mars only to find himself in another civil war between warring alien tribes, John Carter espouses a refreshingly vintage message about bravery and standing up for what is right in the face of adversity.
There is no tree hugging philosophising of Avatar or crossover storylines like those featured throughout the Marvel superhero movies (Iron Man, Captain America, etc). John Carter is as pure an action adventure fantasy movie as one could get, made with the best technology that $250 million could buy and in Stanton a truly gifted filmmaker who perfectly blends story with style.
The popular consensus is that box office bomb equals bad movie. Fortunately in the era of DVD, Blu-ray and digital downloads (both legal and illegal) John Carter has the chance to prove such proclamations to be an untruth, with time and clearer heads its best asset in its mission to claim the respect it deserves.