I thought the trailers were all incredibly blah, but I thought "Well, it's the director of FINDING NEMO and WALL-E, so it's probably got to have something going for it.", so when the envelope arrived with the free movie tickets, I thought, "OK, for once, I'll go stand in line for one of these" (Though, god, am I schmuck or what? I shoulda just put the call in, and I totally could have reserved seats to a press screener...)
Also? Took Ben with me -- and he loved it too.
Here's the first thing I'll say? The "Host" of the screener was KOFY TV. They're an independent local station. And when I say "independent", I don't mean "The WB" or something -- seriously, go look at their web site... they host a dance party on air, for god's sake! Actually, I think they're great because how many markets truly have a indy TV station like this any longer? But, from Disney's POV, it's the promotional partner you go to when you're trying to help the movie, but you expect it's just going to die.
The second thing? The theater was like half-empty. Damn, I didn't even need to stand in line, I guess... (oh well, an hour with my boy is an hour with my boy!) -- but clearly, the movie is in trouble, if they can't even get people to see it for FREE.
I'm not sure if I've ever actually read the ERB original (most everything "I remembered", but was it from the prose, or from like an adaptation or pastiche or homage, since there have been so many? If it was the prose, it was when I was maybe 12 or something? I know I didn't read them all), but there is a surprisingly deep world and backstory going on here with three different factions in battle, and another pulling various strings. There's culture and language and all kinds of crazy-ass world-building going on, and yet it's very open and very accessible, and very... mm, what's the right word? "Vital", maybe? I actually began to care about the cultures and the CGI characters inhabiting them, in a way that I very much don't usually get in Science Fiction.
The action is big and grand, the characters vivid, and the world engrossing; it's got a nice light touch for humor as well -- pretty much everything you want from a big Science Fiction movie... and if AVATAR made 2 gajillion dollars, there's no reason this shouldn't make at least a zillion.
I have problems with the movie (when do I not have problems with things?): It is a bit long, and I think that's almost all from the ERB-related wrap-around story that, while charming (IF you already knew that "Ned" was Edgar Rice Burroughs, which I kind of think less than half of the audience understood), it didn't add much to the tale itself. I also thought the flashbacks to pre-War JC didn't fit in the jump-cut way and when they were inserted, but that's small concern.
We saw a 3-D showing, but I didn't think it added anything -- I'd not hesitate to see it in regular old 2-D. In fact, there were maybe 2-3 places where I thought the 3-D made the CGI look really fakey. At least I assume it was the 3-D?
The lead, Taylor Kitsch, was actually quite good, but his look is a little "pretty boy" for me. Dejah Thoris was played by Lynn Collins, and she played both "hot" and "lethal" and "smart" equally well. Dejah kicked ass, and I think would be a good "role model" for girls, for those of you who care about such things.
I took Ben (who is 8 and in third grade), and it's probably a smidge more violent then I should have let him see, BUT virtually all of the blood is blue, so I was ... well, not "OK", but less than "annoyed" about the spurting blood. There wasn't any language stronger than "god damn", that I remembered. His favorite scene was the White Ape fight, and especially the end when JC comes bursting through the monster, sword in hand, which, had it been red, would have been gory and gross, but in blue was actually pretty funny.
The media has it marked as DOA, and the turnout at the theater would seem to indicate the audience doesn't know it wants to see it -- the marketing has been atrocious (and the end credits say that the name of the film is "John Carter of Mars", BTW), and while I don't know that I necessarily have any interest in making Disney profitable, this might really be one of those places where we need a Nerdtervention -- I strongly think you should see it because it's far far better than the trailers would seem to indicate.
Ben gave it a 9 (but, to be fair, he gives anything with a high enough wonder-factor a 9), and I'm quite happy to report that I thought it was VERY GOOD, and you definitely should go give it a see in a movie theater.
I'd ask "what did YOU think"? But it's still like a week from release, sorry.