Monday, March 12, 2012

At the Movies: John Carter


It saddens me to mention that “John Carter” will likely go down as one of the biggest box office flops of the year, the $250-million-plus "John Carter" debuted with a disappointing $30.6 million this weekend. It’s funny that last weekend's No. 1 film, "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax," claimed the top box office spot again. That animated tale collected an additional $39.1 million and has now grossed a robust $122 million in just 10 days of release. [Current domestic total: $122 million. Current international total: $1.8 million.] By contrast, “John Carter” earned a $30.6 million domestically and an additional $70.6 million overseas in 55 foreign markets in its opening weekend; so only Hollywood-style math can determine that a new release is already a “failure” with such a small overall margin difference. Of the two films based on popular literary icons, “Carter” is the most clearly faithful of the pair, with “Lorax” diverging most from the simple story it adapts, with tons of padding to flesh it out for the big screen. Go figure?

Fanboys supposedly failed to gravitate towards Walt Disney Studios' "John Carter," a fantasy epic that has been plagued by bad buzz for months. Based on a century-old character created by author Edgar Rice Burroughs, "John Carter," is about a Civil War veteran who is transported to Mars. Whether "John Carter" was meant to appeal to young males or not, it appears that an older crowd of “fanboys” actually turned up to see the movie this weekend, as 59% of the audience was over age 25 and those who saw the film - a 64% male contingent - assigned it an overall positive rating. The film was doomed to fight an uphill battle after most recognized genre properties strip-mined the original ERB source material over the last seventy years. Many critics and the general audience were highly likely to assume that they had seen this all before. That simply proves the efficacy of stealing/borrowing/mimicking the best. Bias of select critics is also on display, when director Andrew Stanton is justifiably praised for his previous Pixar efforts “Finding Nemo” and “Wall*E”, but not so much here. Look, his fine storytelling strengths are definitely on full view in “John Carter”, it is a clearly delineated action epic with spot on dialogue delivered by a topnotch cast, backed by outstanding production values, awesome special effects, a strong music score, and again an exceptionally well chosen cast. “John Carter” may ultimately receive less real dollars than some shit on a shingle pabulum like "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island", but in hindsight “Carter” will most likely be viewed as nothing less than a triumph. I didn’t just like “John Carter”, I loved it. Its eventual Blu-Ray release is pre-sold to me, even if the larger audience weaned on dozens of ongoing reality TV clones, and moronic cable fare didn’t respect it enough to view this terrific genre flick over their soporific “happy meal” staples.

In simpler terms, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND “John Carter”, and hope that some of you will give it a chance. I give much respect to director/writer Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrew & Michael Chabon for an excellent screenplay adaptation, the amazing cast of Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins (totally love her as Dejah Thoris), Mark Strong, Ciarán Hinds, Dominic West, Willem Dafoe, Thomas Haden Church, Samantha Morton, James Purefoy, Bryan Cranston, Polly Walker and Daryl Sabara; and all the Disney team for realizing this long hoped for movie-going experience. Ignore the critics folks, decide for yourself, and go see this great movie!

18 comments:

Jeff Overturf said...

What a world, when a lousy $30 million dollars in a weekend means failure.

I'll definitely check it out as I'm a long time fan of the Barsoom stuff, and I'm glad you liked it enough to recommend it. I am not much of a "go the the movie theater" guy though, I prefer to see it at home.

Mikeyboy said...

I agree with you Jeff...some films that open with 30 mil ticket sales are the leaders onn those weekends. The reason the perception that it's a loss or a flop is because the film...cost so damned much. 30 mil is respectable IMHO. But the cost of the film is irrelevant and should not be considered into the equation...simply because...it's not the movie goers faults how much the film cost. But people went...to the tune of 30 million dollars. Lets average that down to 15 bucks a ticket...how many people is that? Take that into consideration. See what the total is after 3 weeks...if they don't pull it. But ...I know they were expecting it to open to 100 mil....but there was no advertising for the film...so how can you seriously expect that?
I loved the movie and plan to see it again and will buy the disc when released for retail....But simply...the general moral of the story is...out of the General movie going public , who the hell knows who John Carter is? Fans of ERB know him and ignorant uneducated tunnel visioned toward the X-men comic geeks know him from a comic book Marvel published in the 70's...BUT that's it....not everyone knows he is the ORIGINAL adventure sci fi fantasy hero. I do....screw everyone else...right?

John Small said...

I don't care what the critics and other naysayers think; I thought it was a GREAT movie! It's a pity it is being viewed as a "bomb" because everyone I know who saw it loved it. The problem is that you've got a couple of generations of dimbulb "fanboys" who think this is a ripoff of Avatar and who knows how many other stories when in fact they are the ones who borrowed or stole from this storyline. There's just no justice in this universe...

Anonymous said...

I agree with your assessment completely. This is the adaptation of A Princess of Mars that I've ben dreaming about since I was a kid in the 70's. I felt the changes to the story worked, but the essence of Burroughs is intact.

James Chatterton

Fritz "Doc" Freakenstein said...

Chuck,

I agree with you 100% that John Carter was a magnificent adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs “A Princess of Mars” that I too feel will eventually be looked upon as a classic retrospectively by science -fiction fans and non-fan alike. Unfortunately, the “bad buzz” you speak of can in part be blamed on Disney for the way in which to film was marketed. They did not promote it as science fiction or as a classic novel by E. R. Burroughs “the creator of Tarzan” or even mention that it takes place on Mars!

I saw this on a Sunday afternoon and most everyone in the theater was over forty and most importantly of all… there were no teenagers or kids in the theater; despite the PG-13 rating! No wonder it only made a piddling 30 million dollars. Disney only has itself to blame for John Carter’s (why not call it John Carter of Mars?) financial failure. They should have released John Carter in the summer months and promoted it as a sci-fi adventure (which it is!), instead of dumping it in early March. What a shame as this is the most fun I’ve had at the theater in years!

Anonymous said...

And here's what I have to say...
JOHN CARTER WAS GREAT...........
................................
.........here it comes..........
................................
................................
and THE LORAX can blow me. Also, any critic that panned it can blow
my a-hole. That's mean, I know, but seriously any critic that panned it can blow my a-hole.

Adornment Fine Jewelry said...

Did we see the same movie? What part was "great"? The casting was good I suppose, but the dialouge was laughable, and the delivery annoying. The story itself was a rehash of everything we have seen before (oh wait - a gladiator-esque fight scene in an arena against alien beast - that has NEVER been done before.)The only enjoyable scene was the last one - where the switch happened to get him back to Mars. The first two hours and ten minutes were dull, dull, dull. Sorry, I have to disagree - this was a forgetable story.

Anonymous said...

This movie is the first since LOTR to make me want to BE THERE.
Secondly, I want to go see it again. Thirdly, any critic that panned this movie can blow my a-hole.
I'm sorry I mentioned that again but... I mean seriously, the film critic (douchbag) from USA TODAY that gave Stanton high marks for his animation work but thinks he is in over his head on this one can
just shut her piehole and that's right... say it with me "BLOW MY A-HOLE!"

Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

This one will be like 'The Rocketeer'. It will only become more popular over time. They took a familar story and did a faithful classic adaptation. I loved it too.

Chuck Wells said...

Oh, well. Four-color language certainly has its place (trust me on this, because I'm particularly skilled in wielding profanity), but we can all effectively disagree with simpleton critics without inviting them to blow our behinds.

As for the jewelry person who didn't like the movie, I wish you the best in Never-Never Land (but I hope the croc swallows you all the same).

Tony Laplume, Scouring Monk said...

I saw the movie today, and have to agree that it was pretty fantastic. I think if a studio other than Disney had released it, not only could the few flaws have been ironed out, but it probably would have been taken more seriously.

Mikeyboy said...

Delete that jewelry one...it's an ad for the crappy jewelery they peddle.

Here is what the voiceover guy should have said in the commercials in the months leading up to the release of JOHN CARTER. " From Edgar Rice Burroughs the creator of TARZAN... ( quick clip of Apes and Thatks ) comes the first science fiction fantasy adventure hero of all time....( Quick clip of Battle scene with the bad Tharks. ) " A stranger"...show John Carter surrounded by Tharks...
" In a strange land " ( Show buildings and aerial shots and mountains )...Then hear the quote..." I knew something good can come to this world...then BAM! The voiceover guy says...JOHN CARTER WARLORD OF MARS! In the intro of the film there could be a little quick BIO about " A princess of Mars being written in 1912 like in the intro to Superman the movie. Then throw in a realease date....but did any of that happen? Nope.
Thats the reason. Anyway....I'm seeing it again and then maybe I'll stay for an encore.

Chuck Wells said...

Mikeyboy, I completely agree that Disney badly mangled the marketing of this film (which has had a huge impact on its perception), but I'm not sure that they even know how to promote stuff they release that isn't intrinsically a "Disney" kind of movie.

It doesn't help that some reviewers didn't do any homework on the context of the literary John Carter and how significant ERB's pulp stories were to genre fiction.

Robert R. Barrett said...

Well, as a long-time Burroughs fan I have waited years for a movie adapted from A PRINCESS OF MARS. My wife and I went to see it yesterday afternoon - we were delighted, mesmerized, entertained, etc. etc. In other words we loved the move. Even the changes to the original didn't bother me. We left the theater remarking that we needed to go see it again! The problem with being adapted from a 100 years old novel is, as you previously wrote, too many movies have mined it to death. Even King Features, who was wooing Burroughs to allow them to produce a JOHN CARTER newspaper strip screwed him, while in talks with him and having J. Allen St. John work up a sample Sunday page, they were developing FLASH GORDON, mining John Carter, and didn't have to pay Burroughs! United Feature Syndicate failed to bring JOHN CARTER to the newspaper strip field, drawn by Austin Briggs. So all of these young kids today are totally unaware that STAR WARS, AVATAR, etc. all used Burroughs' story as source material. And JOHN CARTER is better than any who previously mined the source.

Orlando juegos de vestir said...

I wanna see this movie looks very interesting i like it this kind of movies

HEH said...

I've never read ERB's Mars series and wasn't crazy for the film I saw tonight with my 12-years old son. My reaction confirmed what I felt after seeing the trailers and commercials, but I did enjoy that 10-minute clip on IMDB.
I did enjoy the John Carter and Dejah Thoris actors more than I thought I would.
The action was brief and at times, confusing.
Heck, the storyline and the Therns were confusing
I did love everything to do with the Tharks' culture, but was confused by the Tharks John Carter slaughtered by the dozens. Were they of the same tribe as Tars Tarkas? They appeared more brutal and deadlier than Tars' tribesmen.
That speeding bulldog was bizarre. John carter leaping about, a small dot on the movie screen was underwhelming.

I supposed I liked it on this rainy night, but I can't really recommend it to anyone without knowledge of the ERB series.

Chuck Wells said...

HEH, some of the elements that you cite were actually lifted from later John Carter stories and incorporated into Disney's adaptation of "A Princess of Mars" (Woola & the Therns, for instance).

Jay said...

I loved this movie! The hero looked great...Like a Frazetta drawing come to life and Dejah Thoris? Smokin' Hot! I loved the "far and away" look of the locations, the design, the tattoos on Dejah (a brilliant concept - keeping her from being too alien-looking to be a love interest but still exotic), the lovable Woola, the loyal Tars...Everything! I can't believe it failed. Man, we're just too cynical. I'm going to buy the DVD this week and enjoy it again. Thank yous to Disney for making it and Director Stanton for helming.