Monday, March 19, 2012

John Carter (Of Mars)

I had intended to write this review last week when I saw the film but I have a day job and a night job so it took a little longer than I had intended. If you follow movie and entertainment news then by now you have read that John Carter is a bonafide flop. Disney released a statement today saying that they were taking a 200 million dollar loss on the film. Wow, and that is after they made over 100 million overseas and about 50 mil domestically for the movie.  So the question is who is to blame? Can we chalk it up to an overzealous director, Andrew Stanton,  in way over his head? Should this fall on the Disney heads who oversaw this massive expenditure, was it the marketing? Or was it just a bad film? After seeing the movie myself, having no real expectation what-so-ever I can say pretty clearly this fuck up is all Disney execs and marketing and it is a damn shame.
John Carter (Taylor Kitsch), Confederate Civil War veteran and explorer finds himself near penniless scratching and clawing at a piece of dirt hoping for gold. I know, what you are thinking, Civil War? I thought this was like Buck Rogers in space or something? But keep watching...So while on the run from a band of Indians he finds himself in an abandoned cave. A cave the Indians won't go near. He runs into a strange monk-like man with a strange device, Carter kills the man in self defense and picks up the device transporting our hero to....wait for it....Mars! For most of the film he's playing the fish out of water scenario as he seems to, due to the heavier gravity on Earth, appears to be stronger and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, sort of like Superman. He crash lands in the middle of another civil war. Between the humanoid Zondangan's and the people of Helium. With the giant multi-armed alien Thurns in the middle.  Of course there is a Princess, Dejah (Lynn Collins) and an evil villain, General Sab Than (Dominic West). Plus you can't have a good sci-fi film without a mysterious shadow character, Matai Shang (Mark Strong) whose motives remain largely unknown through most of the film.
So I know my explanation of the film probably isn't going to make you run out and see the movie. But apparently neither did Disney's. My question to them is if they felt that doing a movie with Mars in the title was such a liability, why do it in the first place? Why not try to cater to some older folk who may know who Edgar Rice Burroughs is. Why not call it John Carter of Mars at least it sounds like a sci/fi film that way and not some Backstreet Boy. I mean this is the guy who also wrote Tarzan, they have adapted both John Carter and Tarzan a billion times over in comics, movies and cartoons. I ask again, HOW DO YOU FUCK THIS UP??? You own a comic book company in Marvel now, there is no excuse for this kind of screw up. There is an audience for these kinds of movies but you have to go the extra mile. The Comic book interstitial would have been a good start. Introduce the world of Barsoon (What the people of Mars call their planet) to young readers so they aren't scratching their heads later. This is a rich fantasy world that, in the proper hands, could have rivaled Pandora in Avatar. 
The movie itself was pretty good honestly, it's a tough sell, I know that. It's kind of like Watchmen it stretches the imagination a bit further and you have to be prepared for what you are seeing. The 3D also was pretty good it had a sense of scale and brought Mars to life in a fun way. I thought all the leads were pretty great and you had some excellent back-up with James Purefoy and Ciaran Hinds. I thought the pacing was solid and considering this was his first time with a live action film, Andrew Stanton did a pretty good job. Yes it was long, yes it was a little absurd, this was a throwback film after all. If you like Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers or even Jules Verne you will enjoy this movie.  My advice is go and see it now before Hunger Games washes it away.
Grade: 3 Buckets

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