Thursday, December 13, 2012

John Carter: A Future Cult Classic?


It's Opinion Time! Without Jake the Dog and Finn the Human (or is the other way around?).

With 2012 coming to a close critics left and right have been releasing their best and worst lists of the year and John Carter is making a few. Our pal at The John Carter Files listed two lists that Carter made. It came in number 2 on Time Magazine's worst of movie list but also made Moviefone's list of the 10 Movies Audiences Missed this year, proclaiming it will become a "genuine cult classic." Apparently neither critic is alone. In a case of spilt personality Entertainment Weekly also has Carter on its picks of worst and cult lists, in this case critic Owen Gleiberman called it the worst film of the year while another sides with Moviefone, claiming it's not as bad as its current reputation suggests.

So is John Carter a prime candidate for cult classic status?

I admit that I made a snarky comment on JCF about this, saying that John Carter will become a cult classic the same way that Plan 9 From Outer Space is one, a cult film celebrated not for its brilliance but for everything it got wrong. I know that sounds mean spirited to compare Andrew Stanton's film to Ed Wood's epic but it has to do with the disappointment I feel with the film and the fact that I don't see what the film's defenders see in it.

But it raises a point about cult films. That it takes time for a film to become a cult film, even one like Plan 9. A prime example that many roll out is Ridley Scott's Blade Runner. Now it's seen as a classic, an brilliant study of humanity and Scott's masterpiece. Back in 1982? Mostly it was seen as a downer in the summer of ET, a case of style over substance and audiences had a hard time buying Harrison Ford playing such a conflicted character after Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Over time though its stature grew and the complaints about it at the time fell away. It is possible that in 10, 20 years time the complaints I have about John Carter could disappear, that the initial disappointment and anger I felt over it has vanished and I can look at it fresh.

The bigger question though is will the audience that didn't show up for it, that stayed away, will they join the cult of Woola? Will they be able to overlook the negative press about the budget, its poor box office and mixed critical reaction to see the film unbiased? Recently the restored director's cut of the infamous Heaven's Gate has been making the festival circuit and a Blu-Ray release from the high end Criterion Collection and in a few reviews of it I read the consensus is that while its not some masterpiece it is not the total disaster that its reputation-influenced by the stories of out of control spending and directorial excess similar to the stories that now surround Carter-suggests. Most of that opinion I suspect is that the reviewers are seeing it fresh, without the hoopla attached that was back when it came out. And that might be the way for John Carter to achieve that cult status, to be looked at without the negative stories, articles about box office or old fuddy duddies like me complaining about Stanton's mishandling of Edgar Rice Burroughs.

So we'll see in time. Who knows, maybe in 20 years time I'll like John Carter's dead wife and Shape Shifter Shang. If not, well it can make a great double bill with Plan 9.

1 comment:

Arthur Hansen said...

John Carter is a AAA movie compared to the 2009 Princess of Mar. I think it gets panned badly because it's so cliche is some ways that people don't realize it /made/ those cliches.