Thursday, May 16, 2013

John Carter (2012): $300 million for ... this?

After reading John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood, a book that went deep into the problems behind the latest cinematic megaflop, I decided it was finally time to sit down and watch John Carter. Given that Disney pretty much set the film up to fail with either too much or not enough control or effort at various stages, I was actually hoping to see a good adaptation of a story I had read a long time ago.

Perhaps that was the problem, as I read the entire eleven-book Barsoom series by Edgar Rice Burroughs one after the other over a period of a week or two. So I think my memories may be a little warped over what happened where. I just started re-reading the series from the first book, A Princess of Mars, from which this movie is supposedly adapted.

To be completely honest, I see very little of that book in this movie. I see very little Burroughs at all, really. I see a lot of Flash Gordon, a lot of  Star Wars and a bit of Dune, all of which can probably claim the influence of John Carter of Mars somewhere in their lineages, but I would've hoped this movie, of the original source material, would've found away to rise above that.

There's a lot of CGI. I assume that's where all the money went. And the Martian Tharks are amazing. The various Martian vistas are truly wondrous to behold, though I'm not exactly sure why Mars has a blue sky when there are no oceans. And you gotta love the babysitter beast, Woola. But not even a Michael Bay movie can get by just on eye candy anymore, and there needs to be a story.

There's some stuff that resembles one in John Carter, but it doesn't always jump out at you. The sound mixing is horrible (at least to me) and I found myself having to go back to see what people said a couple of times because the soundtrack music drowned it out. The mysterious Therns, the inadvertent reason Carter is even on Mars to begin with, are interesting, but they really seem out of place in this movie, as there seems to be enough global political strike on Barsoom that they didn't need to stick their noses in it. The super-high tech that the Therns give the Zodangans is similarly out of place.

The whole concept of the moving city of Zodanga is completely ludicrous. It's like someone had a vaguely interesting steampunk design left over from The Wild Wild West movie and had a little too much beer one night. Sure it looked interesting during Carter's escape, but it makes no logical sense on a world with rapidly depleting resources to move an entire bloody city around the planet.

After reading that book, I was in a very accommodating mood for this movie. It may have been wronged by the morons at Disney, but it also wasn't very good. It was a disservice to long-time fans of the Edgar Rice Burroughs classic, and it certainly wasn't worth $300 million.

There are sometimes when a book really shouldn't be made into a movie. I think John Carter will stand, at least for a few years, as an example to prove that axiom.

Watch the fan trailer and save your Redbox dollar for a Scooby-Doo movie...


By Rich Meyer

This is the quiz e-book for the b-movie fan in everyone! If you liked watching Peter Graves fight giant grasshoppers, Bela Lugosi turn people into Tor Johnson, or giant brains crawling around the countryside, then you'll enjoy these questions (and answers) about the movie era that spawned a thousand chills and a million drive-ins!

1 comment:

  1. You say:
    /I'm not exactly sure why Mars has a blue sky when there are no oceans./

    Our sky isn't blue because we have oceans. Earth's sky is blue because the atmosphere scatters blue light more than red light. If we had no oceans at all, the sky would still be blue.

    Getting true color images of the sky on Mars is actually rather difficult, but in general it's the huge amount of dust in the (largely CO2) Martian atmosphere that turns it butterscotch-colored during the day and pink at sunrise and sunset. In the absence of the dust, however, the sky on Mars would be blue -- a darker blue than ours due to the thinness of the Martian atmosphere, but blue, nonetheless.