March 26th, 2012 by J.A. Pitts
Hey, wait.  I liked that movie.  Why does it suck again?

Went to see the movie John Carter Saturday with my good buddy, Jay Lake.  I loved the movie.  I’ve read some reviews where people were disappointed, but that’s okay.  I don’t go to the movies to look for critical approval or even correct grammar.  I go to the movies to be entertained.  Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t Star Wars or anything, but I found echoes there.  I doubt a generation of new science fiction fans will count this movie as a life changing event.  But I think it is a damn fine way to spend a couple of hours.

What I don’t understand is why this huge pulp/space-opera is doing so poorly at the box office.  Some folks have mentioned a rather odd and awkward ad campaign, which I can sort of agree with.  Some blame it on Disney, and others seem to be apologetic for the fact it’s a huge, pulp/space-opera.

I find this amusing.  It’s got action, it’s got adventure and it’s got romance.  what more could you want?  We go to movies to be entertained, do we not?  I’m not in college anymore where I need to write a critical analysis and earn a grade.  My goal is to settle into a comfy seat, hunker down in the dark and let my mind be taken over by an amazing story.  John Carter did that for me.

When I was in the third grade my grandmother handed me the entire Burroughs John Carter of Mars series and promised me that it would change my life.

And she was correct.  I devoured those books, learning that sleep is for sissies when you have a great book to read.

I knew they had flaws, even at a young age, but I fell in love with the characters, the adventure and the story.  That’s what I’m in it for.

So when I watched John Carter I went in with the expectation of being entertained, wowed by the special affects and stunned by the beauty playing Dejah Thoris.

Afterwards I got to thinking about the value of success and critical acclaim.  As an author, I want nothing more than to connect with readers and sell a lot of books, maybe get a movie deal somewhere and become a full-time writer without losing my house or family along the way.

I find the movie John Carter to be an excellent metaphor here.  I loved the movie, others didn’t.  The sales are not what the studio or the media pundits thought was good enough for the blockbuster budget this film had.  But I know several people who have already seen this movie in the theaters two or more times.  I plan to go see it again, paying the stupid price for the 3D and loving every minute of it.

I’ve seen many reviews that talk about how this movie was true to the books, and true to the Edgar Rice Burroughs vision of the characters, the world and the story.

So is it a  success or not?  I’m sure the film-maker is delighted with his product and perplexed why it isn’t being received better.  And here is a very important lesson for authors.  We cannot control what the audience does.  We cannot control sales, marketing and most of us don’t get a vote on the cover art of our novels.  We may truly love the work we’ve produced, have good art, great editorial support and still the books are not overnight sensations.

Hunger Games is in the theaters now.  I’m sure it is going to break some records, earn some amazing box office numbers —  similar to Harry Potter before it.  But we can’t all get struck by lightning.  We don’t all get to ride at the head of the parade with the prom queen and smile while adoring fans throw roses.

What we get to do is produce another work that shows our obvious love for what we do.  Then we can send it out into the world and hope that there will be people who will fall in love with those things we love.

I’ll buy John Carter on Blue Ray when it comes out.  I’ll also go back and buy another set of the Mars books to read again.  I’ll always love those stories as they formed the foundation of my own journey into becoming an author.

But when I start to worry about whether or not my books are selling well enough, or see a review by someone who didn’t care for my style, I’ll look back on the movie John Carter and remember that we don’t always love the same things.  Nor do we always meet the expectations of others.  In the end, we have to entertain ourselves, pour our heart and souls into our work, and trust that someday we’ll reach a reader and change their lives the way Mr. Burroughs changed mine.

Besides, what do critics know?


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10 comments to “Hey, wait. I liked that movie. Why does it suck again?”

  1. Sasha White
     · March 26th, 2012 at 11:35 am · Link

    I went and saw it when it first came out, and will likely see again as well. I haven’t read the books, but I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, and hope they do more.

    I’d say it was a success, and screw the critics. :mrgreen:

  2. Cathryn Cade
     · March 26th, 2012 at 3:36 pm · Link

    😉 Thanks for this splendid blog post. You truly made my day.

    My new series just debuted, and the first review was … not at all negative. The reviewer just didn’t seem to like the book all that well.

    I need to remind myself that I 1. poured my heart and soul into the book 2. had an absolute blast writing it and 3. would write it again even if I knew it would receive that review, and others like it.

    Of course, 4. I’m busy trying to make the next book in the series better, but it has a very different kind of hero than the first book, so who knows? Maybe some readers will like the first book better.

    All I can do is write romances I’d love to read. And continue to improve my craft.

    PS, I always love movies the critics bash, and usually don’t care to depress myself with the ‘literary’ gems over which they swoon. Personal choice is a wonderful thing, even for reviewers!


  3. Widdershins
     · March 26th, 2012 at 3:46 pm · Link

    I agree with you about the movie. It was a wonderful swashbucklers in space kinda experience … silly critics!

  4. Cathryn Cade
     · March 26th, 2012 at 4:18 pm · Link


    We def need more swashbucklers in space–love ’em!

    :mrgreen: Cathryn

  5. Julianna
     · March 26th, 2012 at 11:49 pm · Link

    Great post, Mr. Pitts! I heartily concur – what’s not to like? Gorgeous everything (landscapes, flying machines, and oh yeah, people ;), action-packed script, great effects, decent acting, and a nice romance. Woola stole every scene he was in, but then, animals are supposed to do that. 😉 That the critics are all panning it makes me wonder if the few big networks we still have didn’t get their money up front for the positive reviews or something (yeah, jaded I know, but some of the stuff they claim to like is amazingly bad IMHO – and I’m not talking about the art house pieces). I’ll be buying it in Blu-Ray when it comes out – lots of fun and I’m convinced Mr. Burroughs would approve. :)

  6. Thom Marrion
     · March 27th, 2012 at 7:40 am · Link

    Right there with you. I saw it at the Cinerama with members of my writing group and our significant others, and everybody loved it even though only one other person besides myself was familiar with the books (and truthfully, I had forgotten about things like Woola until seeing them on the screen, it had ben so long since I read any of the books). My wife had no previous knowledge of the setting and enjoyed the hell out of the film.

    All I really wanted was to see Tars Tarkus look cool, and as an added bonus we got Julius Caesar an Mark Anthony from HBO’s Rome running around Helium and acting a bit like Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony. How could you not love this movie?

  7. Dale Ivan Smith
     · March 27th, 2012 at 9:08 am · Link

    This post really struck a chord with me. I also loved the film, and loved seeing Barsoom brought to life on the big screen, loved the Tharks, loved seeing Helium, the romance between Carter and Dejah Thoris, the rousing action etc.

    Your point about focusing on writing what we love, what we are passionate about, entertaining ourselves, and letting the chips fall where they may is such an important understanding to the creative process. It fits in perfectly with David Morrell’s advice to be a first rate version of yourself, not a second rate version of someone else, even if that someone else is Suzanne Collins or J.K. Rowling.

  8. Rodney C. Johnson
     · March 27th, 2012 at 7:37 pm · Link

    Thank you for this! It helped brighten my day concerning not only “John Carter” but regarding writing as well.

  9. John Young
     · March 28th, 2012 at 12:00 am · Link

    Great post! I was thinking the same thing when I read that it ‘tanked’ at the box office. I havn’t seen the movie yet but couldn’t believe it did so badly when all that I have seen looked amazing!

    I’m sure when I do watch it that Ill love it. However, that will have to wait until it arrives on Bluray. 😥

  10. Buy Burberry
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