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Posts Tagged ‘disappointment’

Get Carter

March 14th, 2012 No comments

Look, I get it. My tastes and yours rarely overlap. Your eyes glazed over for Speed Racer. When Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow premiered, you said that you were washing your cat. And you don’t even own a cat. So I wasn’t surprised that you didn’t even meet the film industry’s tragically lowered expectations for the opening weekend of John Carter. But, really. Fewer of you showed up for the first-ever film adaptation of the century-old, seminal work of sci-fi adventure than did for Battle: Los Angeles10,000 B.C. or Cowboys & Aliens. Cowboys. And. Aliens.

I’m ashamed of you.

Oh, we can blame Disney’s marketing department for not understanding how to sell you on it. They went so far as to castrate John Carter of Mars to plain ol’ John Carter after they concluded that you avoided last year’s expensive boondoggle Mars Needs Moms because of the word “Mars.” (Instead of the more likely offender, “Moms.”)

We can also look at the disappointing history of films that appealed first and foremost to hardcore geeks. But heck, even Watchmen nearly doubled John Carter‘s $30 million weekend. You really, really didn’t want to see this one.

What truly gets me are the reviews, many of which are as scorching as the desert wastes of Barsoom. I feel as if you didn’t even see the same film I did, that perhaps the theater accidentally screened some early ’80s leftover starring Reb Brown. Because while I won’t claim that John Carter was Raiders of the Lost Ark, it wasn’t Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull either.

What I saw was a good-humored adventure with visual spectacle, a scantily-clad and muscular cast, plenty of PG-13 bloodletting and an adorable slug-puppy companion that should have been the Breakout Animated Character of 2012.

I’ll grant you that it has a slow build in the way that action films once did before Steven Spielberg strapped them to the front of a runaway mine car. It takes a while to get to the action, but once John Carter, sword in hand, begins leaping Martian airships in a single bound*, the movie becomes giddy fun.

I feel that John Carter is perhaps the purest distillation of early pulp sci-fi we’re likely to see. It even works in some of the quirkiness of author Edgar Rice Burroughs’ fantasy worlds. We all know Burroughs from Tarzan, but his other series–such as those set in the inner world of Pellucidar or the prehistoric island of Caprona–have some very weird shit going on.  You get a taste of that in this film, what the mysterious energy source of the “Ninth Ray” and the hyper-advanced Therns who use its power to shape the development of civilization on Mars (and beyond).

The brutal criticism and–more importantly–your apathetic response have pretty much scuttled any hope of a follow-up, and will probably send former Pixar director Andrew Stanton back to making features about animated dustmops, but you can’t take this film away from me.

*While the influence of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Martian stories on Star Wars and Avatar is obvious, I previously hadn’t given much thought to the connection between John Carter and the original incarnation of Superman. They even have the same rationale for their strength and super-jumping ability: the relatively lower gravity of their adoptive worlds.



Categories: Movies Tags: ,


April 4th, 2005 No comments

Last Friday was a big night for me: a performance by Jon Stewart, followed by the Star Wars toy-buying frenzy dubbed “Midnight Madness.” One of these turned out to be a bit underwhelming.

Jon Stewart was very, very funny. At first, I was concerned that he was simply regurgitating Daily Show material, as some of his opening, more timely jokes were similar to remarks I’d already heard on TV. But then he got into the meat of his act, and the laughs were fresh, frequent and hearty. At one point–describing a cat in heat and suggesting that it would not be a good idea for women to try to pick up guys in a similar manner–Vicky got in such a laughing fit that I was concerned she’d pass out.

It helped my own appreciation that Stewart’s political views so closely mirror mine, though he’s more critical of cloning. The audience skewed young and progressive, and the one guy who hooted in favor of the Republicans was loudly booed. Honestly, I thought that was unnecessary. Stewart may be left of center, but he’s just as disdainful of extremists on either side of the aisle.

The show let out before 9:00 pm, which gave us plenty of time to drive home from Chicago before the beginning of Midnight Madness. I went to the Wal-Mart on Prospect, where I’d had a lot of fun three years ago prior to the release of Star Wars Episode II.

As I suggested earlier, it wasn’t so hot. It’s not that there weren’t plenty of toys; in fact, I got very nearly everything I’d hoped to find on my initial run. And it wasn’t that there weren’t rabid geeks haunting the aisle, waiting for midnight. It’s just that everyone seemed so blase about it. Last time, when midnight hit, we all started diving into box after box, gleefully pulling out our prizes and even helping to stock the leftovers. This time, we all shuffled aimlessly around until I impatiently noted that it was already past midnight, and proceeded to quietly fill my cart, unimpeded by fellow fans. The stockers even took the rest of the pallet back to storage, even though it was likely we would make a significant dent in their display.

Meijer–which had also advertised that toys would be available at midnight–was worse. There were only two people there by the time I arrived (some stragglers from Wal-Mart arrived later), and there was no new product in sight. The stock person had been delayed, I was told, and was pulling a cart from the back. Indeed, she came out a few minutes later, and began to slooooooowly put the action figures on the pegs, one…by…one.

I started to take one down to purchase, but she told me, “I have to count these first.” She continued to unenthusiastically, mechanically unpack the toys one at a time. Now, never mind that one could easily tally the items by taking the count on the side of the freshly-opened packing case and multiply it by the number of boxes. She would not be deterred, even when I said, “Look, I’m only going to buy this one.” Finally, when I’d decided that I’d had enough and walked away, she realized that she could keep my one purchase in mind when she finished stocking.

I zipped over to the Wal-Mart in Savoy in hopes of finding Grievous’ Bodyguards and the Star Wars Risk board game. It appeared that perhaps a little more hoopla had occurred there, as the sole remaining shopper was sporting a special Star Wars button. We had a nice, long talk while I pawed through the pegs, ultimately snagging two Bodyguards and no Risk game. (I did find the latter the following day at Target.)

All in all, it was pretty unexciting, though I did pick up about 15 different, nifty figures, plus the thing I’d wanted most, the Star Wars Mr. Potato Head known as “Darth Tater.” The advertised “48 Hours of the Force” never happened at our local Wal-Marts. No giveaways, no character appearances, no nothing. It wasn’t Midnight Madness…more of a mild fever.

Season’s Greetings

December 23rd, 2004 No comments

Happy Festivus!

You are a great disappointment to me.