I was born in '79. Many of my favorite movies were the obvious ones that a little geek of the time would gravitate towards. Empire Strikes Back. Raiders of the Lost Ark. Willow. Labyrinth. The Neverending Story. Return to Oz. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Back to the Future. For a while there, "sense of wonder" reigned at the box office and certainly reigned in this child's heart. Roguish adventure was in fashion and the stakes were always high.
These things do seem to go in and out of fashion. Dwan and Fairbanks in the 20s. Curtiz and Flynn in the 30s and 40s. The steady stream of matinee idols. Many that I'm surely neglecting. Ford and Lucas and Spielberg and Zemeckis and even Ron Howard all peddled in adventurous wonder in the 80s. It might just be me being a grouch, but I feel like we had a long dry spell of wonder through much of the 90s and into the 00s. What was there was either ploddingly overwrought (the LotR movies) or too ironically self-aware (anything with Brendan Fraser in it) or maybe a bit too stylish and cool (Hellboy, many of the Marvel movies).
Last year, that all changed with Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Once again, I felt like a little boy, mouth agape. And so I feel after spending time on Mars with John Carter.
I went into this knowing that it had received mixed reviews, but not having read much about it. I hope that I'm not raising expectations too high here. Nevertheless, I confess that I was giddy leaving the theatre.
I can't rave enough about how smart this script is, about how lovely the visuals (and effects) are, about how just right the actors are, about how confidently Stanton pulls it all together.
I know that I'm being vague here. I don't want to spoil specifics. What really made the movie for me was how many "apes on horses storming the Golden Gate bridge" moments there were. You'll either smile ear to ear like I did or you'll groan and roll your eyes. I hope that you won't mock the sincerity of Stanton's wondrous worldbuilding.
J.J. Abrams may be posturing as Spielberg's heir. That's all it is: posturing. The real deal has arrived and his name is Andrew Stanton.
I'm really excited about any future Stanton live-action projects. Unfortunately, we probably won't see any Mars sequels.
What's sad is that Disney had such little faith in this film. Why are we not flooded with Thark action figures? Where's my John Carter t-shirt? Where's my super-sized John Carter Burger King collectible cup? Where's my Dejah Thoris Halloween costume?
I'll leave you with the thought of me in that Dejah Thoris Halloween costume.