Yesterday I watched John Carter (2012) and Tomorrowland (2015).
These movies received scores of 50% and 51% on Rotten Tomatoes, considered rotten, but are two of the more adventurous and fun movies from the last few years that didn't come from Marvel. Both of these movies come from former Pixar directors Andrew Stanton for John Carter and Brad Bird for Tomorrowland.
John Carter is a victim of its own marketing that stripped "of Mars" from the title so it wouldn't scare away people who wouldn't want to see a science fiction movie, and alienates the people who just might. At the time of the release it was based on a hundred year old story written by the man who later created Tarzan. John Carter was the inspiration for Superman coming to Earth and having superhuman abilities being on a different planet than the one he was born on, and an inspiration for Star Wars use of royalty in space.
I really enjoy that a lot of John Carter was filmed in Northern Arizona and Utah as well as New Mexico in Monument Valley and shots at Shiprock. The special effects are stunning on Mars and the western scenes in Arizona are funny and playful. The biggest problems in this movie are the silly terminology and names on Mars and that the leads weren't household names when the movie came out to draw in an audience.
Oddly, when I bought the blu-ray for this, I also bought X-Men Origins: Wolverine that also features the two leads of John Carter, Taylor Kitsch ad Lynn Collins. I don't think I had noticed either of them in other works before those two movies.
John Carter didn't do so great domestically, but at the time it was released it somehow became the all-time top grossing opening weekend in Russia according to wikipedia. It's a fun movie with some great sci-fi action and humor but as big of a production it was, it was a bit of a mystery for American movie-goers. I had no idea what it was when it came out and only knew it was getting bad reviews and not making any money. I was told by a law school classmate that it was worth a look and one rental won me over to seek out buying the blu-ray.
This movie was mocked pretty early on for its optimism. It was said to be a movie for a generation that has aged out of watching PG movies and expressed a hopefulness of a generation that doesn't have the snark of online communities.
It's an imaginative movie that does have an established cast lead by George Clooney, but also has a few really impressive young actors I hadn't seen before, namely Raffey Cassidy who plays a robot child. Cassidy was 12 or 13 years old when the movie came out and her performance is shockingly good as she plays both a character much older than she looks and an artificial person.
The scenery in this movie is impressive and the message is one that might be more needed today than when it was scoffed at just a year ago. I wouldn't be surprised if Tomorrowland and John Carter caught on with kids and will be thought of fondly in popular culture ten to fifteen years down the road. Tomorrowland may come out to be a movie appreciated for its optimistic spirit that could echo a voice of younger generations who would rather imagine a greater world than live in fear.