John Carter isn’t nearly as terrible as everyone made it sound. I was pretty disappointed about that.

There might be spoilers in this review/coping mechanism to get me through the movie. You’ll only feel that they spoil the movie if a) you ever plan to see it and b) you’ve never seen a movie and c) you enjoy unexpected and fairly pointless scenes of alien baby-creatures covered in viscous mucous but prefer being pleasantly surprised by their inclusion in the movie.

If you were going to choose answer “c” I guess I already ruined it for you, so you might as well keep reading.

The movie just suffers from lack of a clear audience and characters you don’t care much about because of their flat affectation. But not that Wes Anderson-esque lack of affectation that’s minty-hipster-fresh, just…a dullness that suggests they’re all depressed to have to be in this movie but had no choice because their agents are doing a significant amount of gambling in riverboat casinos and can stop at any time, but so far, have chosen not to.

When I wrote the 1st draft, I had no idea that Wes Anderson is the great-grandson of John Carter’s creator. I read it on wikipedia so it must be true.

A Civil War vet named John Carter dies, leaving his nephew a journal that details the weekend he spent drinking slivovitz, a 100 proof damson plum brandy that he probably shouldn’t have been alternating with absinthe. In his defense, he just needed to take the edge off all that opium.

None of that is true, except the nephew and the journal, but it’s a slightly better movie if you believe that.

Carter kills an alien dude in a cave. The dude looks humanoid for whatever reason. Then we’re on Mars.

The lack of a clear intended audience leads to confusingly conflicting elements. John Carter has a gleeful and wacky leaping session in the weak gravity, and that scene really ought to be accompanied by a nose harp soundtrack and a couple of juvenile jokes, perhaps about nose-picking or how girls are icky or whatever else entertains 8 year olds. Then there’s a scene of a teenage girl being branded for misbehaving. A green, alien, teenage daughter, so it’s okay, I guess, but rationalizing the violence as being against a non-human Other doesn’t make it less incongruous when juxtaposed with the low-G frolicking.

When one of my ex-coworkers was a child, her family lived next door to Edgar Rice Burroughs. Storytime after tea was pretty cool. But not William S. Burroughs, because that would not be cool if you were a little girl.

I had some Gungan jokes about the aliens, but this movie wasn’t nerdtastic enough to deserve them. Even Michael Chabon as screenwriter wasn’t enough to salvage this thing from a vista of mediocrity so far and wide that, if you stare at it too hard, you’ll feel like you’re looking out a plane window while flying across west Texas. How did this happen?

The main problem with this movie is that it’s not bad enough to be funny, not good enough to be Bad. What it needs is Liam Neesen. We all know how well that turns out.