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Seriously, haven’t we?

I haven’t seen the new Spider-Man yet, but I’m calling it. John Carter is my vote for best all-around geek movie of the year.


Prometheus and Dark Knight Rises have better individual moments, but they’ve each got a walk-in freezer’s worth of fridge moments.I enjoyed John Carter pretty much all the way through. You have to wade through three beginnings before it starts, but then it pretty much keeps moving.

I’d like to go and re-read the book, but I’d say most of the deviations from the book changed the story. It’s also interesting that many of the changes mirrored the changes made in the Asylum Princess of Mars version. Again, they greatly shortened the faux Indian captivity narrative and gave the piece an actual villain.

It’d also be neat to see a side-by-side comparison of Taylor Kitsch and Antonio Sabato Jr. Taylor Kitsch plays Carter as a reluctant antihero, which is pretty much the opposite of Burroughs’ fighting man from Virginia, but that may be what you get when you hire Taylor Kitsch. ASII brings a little more machismo, but Kitsch has a bit more gallantry and a much better southern accent.

Dejah Thoris was never the helpless damsel in distress she might appear, but making her a brilliant scientist turned into a good move. I never expected Tars Tarkas to be funny, but that worked, too.

I’m sorry this piece didn’t get a little more love at the box office, but I’ve definitely got the DVD on my Christmas list.


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21 Responses to “Have we not talked about John Carter yet?”

  • Tom WIlliams says:

    Well I hope the new John Carter is better than the Sabato Jr. train wreck.

  • Tony Goins says:

    Gotta say, I expected some more pushback on this one. Apparently I’m the only one who saw John Carter.

  • sterg says:

    I saw it, and honestly I am surprised it tanked as much as it did. I enjoyed the movie, and I agree with you that the changes made for a different but still enjoyable plot. It’s not the novels, but could you really get away with being utterly faithful to them and not seeming like you were making Birth of a Nation II in this day and age?

    I really liked the eye candy aspect of the movie, seeing the buildings, technologies, and landscapes was a big part of my enjoyment.

  • craig b says:

    I haven’t seen the movie, but I will say that’s magnificent hair in the picture above.

  • Tony Goins says:

    Birth of a Nation II: Birth of Barsoom.

    I’ve seen parts of Birth of a Nation, and it’s way more racist than John Carter of Mars. John Carter has a lot of noble savages, and even the bad races will have one or two good people in them.

    The visual look of John Carter was nothing like what I pictured in my head, but it was way better.

  • Matt Kish says:

    A well earned “Spla-DOW” to Mr. Bogart.

  • Dara says:

    I haven’t seen it either, but eventually will. I never read the books, so I won’t have a reference to the source material, and that’s ok. And honestly, unless it’s Independence Day II: John Carter, I can’t imagine the movie being as bad as many reviews made it out to be.

    ID is my barometer for worthless big-budget action movies.

  • Matt Kish says:

    I am constantly amused by the fact that everywhere I look, the best that people can muster about this film is a general “It wasn’t that bad.” As if somehow that should convince to waste…er, spend a few hours of my life and $20.

  • Tony Goins says:

    If you look up the thread, you’ll see two people who saw it and liked it. Everyone I know who actually saw it says it’s underrated.

  • Matt Kish says:

    If you look around on the internet, especially on The Beat, you’ll also see a lot of exactly what I mentioned.

    Also, in this thread, I counted two others who have not yet seen it, and that’s more or less exactly what I mean. Neither Tom nor Dara has seen it, and although they both intend to and will both probably enjoy watching the DVD in the comfort of their homes, I think that’s part of the problem. Blame Disney, blame title changes, blame marketing, whatever, but this movie just didn’t generate a whole lot of excitement when it was in the theaters and I don’t see it generating a whole lot of excitement now. It’s solid. Serviceable. Nothing wrong with that.

    The DVD thing is kind of like a parallel to the “wait for the trade” behavior in comics.

  • Tony Goins says:

    I really hate that about the internet. Everyone I know who saw it, liked it. But it’s got this bad buzz, so people just snark on it.

  • Matt Kish says:

    In this case though, I don’t really think it’s being snarky. Even I wasn’t being snarky (and I usually am a totally pretentious snarky asshole), unless it’s been decided that everything that is NOT a positive opinion is snark. I really think that this movie, for whatever reasons (and opinions vary on these reasons) just didn’t excite the target audience enough to put asses in seats.

    If anything, I am as much the target audience as you or anyone else on this blog. I read and love comics, I read and love classic fantasy. I have a huge stack of paperbacks by Moorcock, Howard, Tolkien, Peake, Lewis, Donaldson and more. I OWN the John Carter, Warlord of Mars Omnibus that Marvel put out. And yet, I had no real desire to see this movie and word of mouth after it was released sealed the deal for me.

    Moving on from me though, since I am not an objective example, let’s look at Tom and Dara. (Sorry to drag you in, fellas). They, too, are the perfect target market for this film. Men, ages 18 to 35, with a heavy interest in comics, fantasy and science fiction. They didn’t see it in the theaters. It’s been out on DVD for over 2 months and they STILL haven’t seen it.

    I understand your pain. It sucks when you (or me or anyone) really digs something and you (or me or anyone) feels like it doesn’t get a fair shake. Or it gets shit on. I don’t know what to say beyond that. Something failed with John Carter, and I don’t think it can all be blamed on internet snarkers with a jones for shitting on people.

  • Jamie says:

    It was a textbook case of how a poorly planned and mismanaged marketing strategy could kill what could’ve been – and, I believe, should’ve been – a sensationally successful hit film. Some critics smelled blood in the water early on and a negative vibe, mostly online, got rolling that was impossible to stop (“Disney spent how much on this thing?” [rubbing hands in glee]).

    I’m a fan of the books and I rather liked what they did to update the story and characters for a modern audience. I’ll admit it, I saw the movie three times with my kids, and they loved it too.

    It’s a rompin’, stompin’ old-school pulp SF-adventure extravaganza that’s a bit more demanding of one’s wit and attention than the average blockbuster. But Disney just had no idea how to market it. Time and hindsight, hopefully, will be kinder.

  • Tony Goins says:

    Jeez, Matt, I’m not trying to make it about you personally.

    I don’t have a good way to estimate how much of the bad “buzz” can be blamed on snarky internet folks, poor marketing, and people’s honest assessments of the movie’s quality.

    All I can say is that — having seen it — it’s terribly underrated.

  • Matt Kish says:

    I’m curious, and I’m not trying to be an asshole here, this is a serious and I think legitimate question. Exactly HOW did Disney poorly plan and mismanage the marketing? What did they do wrong, and what did they NOT do that they should have done? I have no idea, I’m not a marketer. I know I saw quite a few commercials for the movie before it opened, and they looked like they were hitting all the right notes in terms of big sci-fi action movies. So what specifically were the mistakes made?

  • Matt Kish says:

    Also, some interesting points from this article:


    “The acclaimed director had never made a live-action movie before.”

    “And the source material, written beginning a century ago by Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs, had already been so picked over by its admirers that critics and audiences found the film hackneyed and stale.”

    “Zemeckis, a friend of”Star Wars” creator George Lucas, read the material and, Jacks says, told him, ‘I don’t think so. George has really plundered these books.'”

    Lending credence to Jamie’s thoughts, “By the time ‘John Carter’ started filming in January 2010, however, Cook had been replaced by Rich Ross, a television executive who had never overseen a film of this scope. Ross named as president of production Sean Bailey, a movie producer who lacked experience as a studio executive, then installed MT Carney, an outsider from the New York advertising world who’d never worked at a studio, as marketing chief.” Still no indication of exactly WHAT was mismanaged, but I’ll take some of that at face value.

    More: “One industry veteran said the fundamental problem with ‘John Carter’ had less to do with budget than with cognitive dissonance: The action plays out on Mars (known as Barsoom in the books and the film), a planet that contemporary audiences know is barren and uninhabited. That creates a formidable, elephant-in-the-room challenge for the movie’s marketers.”

  • Matt Kish says:

    Admittedly, and importantly, some of those critiques are very subjective. I can see how some of that cognitive dissonance and the idea that the source material has been thoroughly picked over and scavenged created in me, as in others, a real lack of desire to see the film. But I can also understand how others would feel very differently about this, being excited by the idea of Burroughs’ stories on the big screen. It’s entirely a matter of personal preference so there’s nothing to be gained by arguing which point of view is more valid.

    Interestingly, and perhaps this does point to a failure in marketing and even pitching, if the fanbase that may have been excited by Barsoom on the big screen is smaller than the crowd of those who might feel that the material is “picked over” or nonsensical, shouldn’t this have been figured out before hundreds of millions were spent filming? It does seem like a lot of balls were dropped along the way, and by a lot of people outside the marketing department.

  • Dara says:

    I don’t have a horse in this race, but I should just say that I’m a terrible barometer of “hotly anticipated movie,” as these days I just don’t go to the movies that often. Heck, I only just got around to seeing the latest Batman movie last night. And if it wasn’t for Hanna really wanting to see The Avengers, I probably would have waited for the dollar theater. I also haven’t seen the new Conan (though, on that particular flick, I have a feeling the negative reviews are spot on).

  • Tom Williams says:

    It’s the kind of movie I prefer to check out first in the theater. It wasn’t for not wanting to see it. I couldn’t find the time to see it.

  • Tony Goins says:

    The pre-release buzz I saw seemed to be based around people’s reactions to the marketing, rather than their estimates of whether they’d actually enjoy the movie. That’s just weird to me.

    Making John Carter was a calculated risk, especially three years after James Cameron’s version. It could have been another Phantom, it could have been another LOTR. I would not have bet against Andrew Stanton, given his track record. And I’ve never seen a movie fail because its premise was too hackneyed.

    I think the marketing is an interesting case study, but there’s nothing I can do about it. All I can do is sit at my blog and say “Hey, geek people, here’s a good movie you might like.”

  • sterg says:

    I also think this movie suffered from being based on a source text for so much other work, including just about any piece of outer space sci-fi, to the point where people viewed it more as derivative than fresh or original. People that are not familiar with the books, etc. looked at it as an Avatar retread instead of vice versa.

    Having read the books, I thought the scenery and imagery was fantastic. Definitely the kind of movie I think works best in a big theater setting. I’d be interested to hear how Dara regards the movie without knowing the books.


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