I've made it my new year's resolution to go and review all sorts of movies that were either famous box office or critical bombs. I'm doing it because so many people talk about what Waterworld, Heaven's Gate or Ishtar are like in conversation without ever seeing them. And I think it's only fair to make a judgement on these films rather than relying on 2nd hand judgements.
So, I started with the 2012 blockbuster swashbuckler John Carter. There's all sorts of things that are known about this film - how it cost $250m dollars, how the "of Mars" got dropped off the end from the original Edgar Rice Burroughs book, how the marketing was confusing and how the director got a lot of power in terms of the final film.
Having watched it, I think that all that background production stuff seeped into the critical faculties of the reviewers who generally panned it. And none of that should matter. The cost of a movie only matters to the people who backed it. For me, I just care if I got my £9 cinema ticket or £3.50 DVD rental's worth from the movie. Someone wants to subsidise my viewing? Thanks, please call again.
In brief, John Carter is about a civil war veteran who gets transported off to Mars and gets involved in a war between two countries. It's an action fantasy, and despite being very high tech in terms of the use of CG, in terms of story and characters and dialogue, it actually feels quite old-fashioned in that it plays it quite straight. Where the Indiana Jones or Pirates of the Caribbean series have their tongue in their cheek, and are made for a more knowing audience, John Carter doesn't. It plays it's genre straight, and is like watching an old swords and mythology films like Jason and the Argonauts or the old series of Flash Gordon. Except that you now have 21st century special effects rather than 1963 special effects (as a child, Jason and the Argonauts was simply the best thing ever, until Star Wars - which is itself a swords and sorcery epic), and unlike many films that tried to blend CG creatures with humans, it's quite seemless here and the action sequences are pretty good.
That's not to say that I think it's a masterpiece - the plot gets a bit flabby and meanders in places, but I certainly don't think it's the disaster that it's been painted as (and compared to Prince of Persia, the Star Wars prequels or Clash of the Titans, it is a masterpiece). If you grew up on Jason and the Argonauts and Star Wars, you'll probably really like it, and as you can get it for about £4 on Amazon second-hand, it's worth a shot.