Posted on 3/10/12 07:44 AM
Before I see the movie I thought I would document my journey from novel to big screen. Some years ago when it came out that John Carter of Mars was coming to the big screen I was instantly intrigued. I knew the stories were considered a sci-fi classic so I went out and and bought "Under the Moons of Mars" which put the first three Carter books under one cover.
So I read the books and found them fun, if not dated. I wondered how some of the scenarios of the books would translate on the big screen. First off everyone is basically nude except for straps, buckles and lots of gems. It goes without saying that actors were going to have to wear clothes. Also many of the heroes notions of the world were dated and felt stiff.
So I put the book on the bookshelf and waited for the trailers...
Then the first rumble of confusion appeared. Disney was dropping the "of Mars" from the title leaving just "John Carter". My brain exploded at that point because it became clear right then and there that Disney marketing had all come down with Goofey-itis.
Then the first posters appeared and they were cryptic to say the least. I thought for sure Disney would of come up with some Frezzeta esqe poster to get audiences in the spirit of the story but that was not to be...
Ok so then last year the first teaser trailer was released. I was -very-disappointed. The music was depressing and where was the action? how could a story that was non stop action have a trailer with no action?
Disney has obviously learned nothing from the failed marketing of past films, like say Bridge to Terabithia.
Then the second trailer came out and I was much happier. Ok here was some action, here was some cool music. Yet when I showed the trailer to friends who were not familiar with the story they either went "Meh" or "It looks confusing" or "It looks like Star Wars".
The I began hearing rumbles on the net that audiences who viewed the trailers were having the exact same reaction as my friends. Yet the word from secret screenings was that the movie was great.
It became quite clear to me that Disney marketing had completely dropped the ball. They had failed to frame the story in its historical context (Carter was the inspiration for 100 years of Sci-fi movies) and thus made it seem like John Carter is a rip off of lots of other movies instead of the other way around.
The feverish attempts to overcome the soft tracking for John Carter in the two weeks before release shows how desperate Disney marketing has become and they -still don't get it-. They keep playing up the same scenes that failed to capture the interest of audiences in the year before.
I will be seeing John Carter of course but I have a very sinking feeling that Disney will fail to see the light and realize any short comings in the box office draw are due to their own failure to market this movie correctly...
Last night I saw John Carter, honestly the movie tries very hard to be great but sputters and fails to deliver on most counts. Carters biggest flaw is in its editing, there is enough material presented in the film that 20-30 minutes could of easily been cut and the streamlined story that could of emerged would of aided the movie greatly. Its hard to believe that Stanton, being the Pixar vet that he is let this mishmashed script make the screen but I guess this really proves that Pixar is a team effort and when you have a lot of very good people working a story great things can happen.
To bad they weren't all together here.
Anyway a short story overview. John Carter is a Human who gets swept away to the planet Mars but not the Mars that you and I know, instead it is the Mars right out of the pulp fiction mind of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Mars (or Barsoom as the natives call it) is a dieing world filled with numerous warring tribes and cities states fighting for the remaining resources. Plopped down into the middle of this struggle, John Carter finds that his Earthly body can do super heroish feats in the weaker Martian gravity. Discovered by the brutish native race called "Tharks" Carter finds himself increasingly engaged in the struggles of Barsoom.
Basically that is what we got in the movie but its stitched together in such a way as to often be nonsensical. You may find your self saying "What is going on?". It all bounces around and the viewers is yanked around the story.
Ok so what works in the story? Well for one, the Tharks. Tall, slim and green with a brutish nature, Tharks are the most "alien" of the surface denizens of Barsoom. The movie captures them -perfectly- the viewer learns right away they are no "Navi", these are a people with a harsh point of view that has been forged on a harsh world. The second element that shines is "Woola", ugly and unfailingly loyal, Woola is the Barsoom peer for a dog. Except Woola looks like some kind of love child between a salamander and a Chow dog. I only wish that he had more screen time.
What didn't work? Well most of the rest. As I said above, the editing and basic story needed to be refocused. Because of those basic flaws the relationship between John Carter and everyone he interacts with comes off lackluster at best.
It amazes me that this movie cost over 200 million and I have great doubts that Disney will see their money back and I will be even more surprised if we see a sequel, which is a shame since there is a lot to like in the original material.