John Carter

March 12, 2012

Ah yes, the movie that took something like 40 years and a dozen scripts to finally make it to the big screen (not counting the SyFy version that aired a couple of years ago, in which John Carter was modemed to Mars from a 16 gig flash drive, or something awful like that.  It starred Traci Lords as Dejah Thoris.  I’m not even making this up.  What people who are pre-bashing the current version are forgetting is that it’s already been as bad as it can get.  Moving on.)

John Carter was good pulpy fun, and I enjoyed it quite a lot.  I’m actually liking it more, the more I think of it, which is a pretty good trick.  I even liked Professor Dejah Thoris, even if she had to be rescued like five times.  Mostly I think this is because she figured out that if John was around, she could jump or fall from tall things with impunity because he would always notice and arrive to catch her.  The dog-thing stole the show, as all good dog-things should.  Unobtrusive effects.  Choppy story, but at least they made the effort to attempt to tell a story.  Very pretty.

But I do have some complaints.

  • This needed some aggressive editing.  Many scenes ran long, by a few seconds or minutes.
  • Three prologues.  THREE.  And it didn’t need a single one of them.  Writing tips:  “In media res” is never wrong; kill your darlings (I loved the airship pirate battle, I really did, but it didn’t need to be there); and trust your audience (I frakking hate opening voice overs with a passion).
  • The soundtrack was offensively mediocre.  At worst, I should not notice a soundtrack at all.  This one…gah.  The movie needed something as edgy and otherworldly as the setting.  Trent Reznor or Tangerine Dream, you know?  That would have been awesome.  Even the cheesetastic choral version of “Kashmir” from the trailer would have been better than what we got, some intrusive symphonic crap that sounded like it came from a 1960’s Disney movie.  I know this is a Disney film, but Disney should have known better — they got Daft Punk for Tron Legacy after all.

Also, I have decided to have a crush on Kantos Kan, just because.


13 Responses to “John Carter”

  1. carriev Says:

    Since people will ask: I saw it in 2-D and it was just fine. As far as I know, this was converted, not filmed in 3-D, and I try to avoid conversions.

  2. missraye Says:

    omg… Kantos Kan… my FAVORITE.. killer lines… soooo very true… i totally agree with your review.. i had other issues as well.. but not many… 😀 still tons of fun 😀

  3. Jakk Says:

    I liked it as well, but i wanted Dejah Thoris more active, less whiny than she was in the this movie. Also, you are correct: The movie dragged in spots and needed some editing. And the movie score was boring enough i just blocked it out like it was Muzak. Worth seeing.

    I really love your reviews, as you explain WHY you like or dislike the movie. And they should of named the dog “Flash”. 🙂

  4. Max Says:

    The soundtrack while he was learning to walk/jump in the less-than-lunar Martian gravity was better suited to “now watch as the frisky chipmunks play in the forest” footage in those 50s disney documentaries. What the HELL were they thinking?

  5. Max Says:

    Also… sadly… no Carthoris egg

  6. carriev Says:

    I really wanted Dajah to present John with an egg at the end. Just for the sheer “Wuh?” it would have elicited from the audience.

  7. David Bowles Says:

    Some stories just don’t update well. I’m thinking this is one of them. Could they have done better? I’m sure, but is there really any way to make this as iconic as “Aliens” or “Star Wars”? That’s what Disney was banking on with the price tag.

    BTW, I saw the syfy version. I’m kinda scarred for life.

  8. It exceeded my expectations a fair bit. I went in to the theater expecting something just a touch better than a made for SyFy channel romp (and I do like those), and got so much more.

    While some scenes were a bit long, and the prologues and related subplots were unnecessary, I was surprised when I walked out of the theater and checked my watch. Only two hours? They packed a fair bit of engaging stuff into those two hours, IMHO.

    I hope it does well enough for a sequel.

    Oh, and the movie folk should make more Mars movies. I’ve this weird Mars thing.

  9. WOW, I am REALLY glad you mentioned the Sci-Fi Channel version of that, because it’s resting comfortably in my Netflix list, waiting to be watched. I knew when I saw Traci Lords what the odds were, but I was willing to give it a chance.

    Guess I’ll have to do so now, but with a Mistie treatment to it. 😉

  10. Wiredwizard Says:

    It wasn’t a bad movie (unlike the SyFy version that lurks somewhere in my collection =shudder=) but it definitely could have used work. Some editing, some trimming here & there and for the love of Cthulhu, for the amount DisCorp forked out on this flick could they not afford to get a decent composer to do the soundtrack?! Yeesh. Maybe not John Williams as he’s getting a bit overdone, but someone of that caliber. It’s not too much to ask…

  11. I agree about the soundtrack, and I had the same thought as Max: the music that plays while he’s bouncing around in his first few minutes on Mars had a much more appropriate feel. On the whole, I just… wasn’t enchanted. I feel like if you’re going to adapt something with as much historical significance as A Princess of Mars, you need to treat it as more than just another throwaway big-budget watch-the-explosions flick. They should have done something really original with it. I also thought that maybe it would have done better if it had all been computer animated, since the alien dog was far and away the best part of the movie. But it was nice watching Taylor Kitsch run around with his shirt off.

  12. Bob Devney Says:

    That SyFy Channel version was by The Asylum, which has become a watchword for good cheap bad but not necessarily terrible flicks. Came out in 2009 as a rip-off rider on the “Avatar” wave. When I first encountered it, the guffaws started with the description: “A Princess of Mars, starring Antonio Sabato Jr.”

    Anyway, about THIS movie: “good pulpy fun” is exactly right, Carrie.

    Totally agree also about the greatness of the movie’s dog-thing. Who, as fans of the book may remember, is named Woola, a pony-sized, kind of lizardly “calot” with 10 legs. I don’t recall that the book gifted him with preternatural speed, but it really works in the flick. Woola contributes quite a few of the movie’s good number of genuine laughs.

    By the way, I recently picked up “Under the Moons of Mars,” a collection of brand-new Barsoom stories edited by John Joseph Adams. Impressive list of good authors writing these things. Noticed that most gave their stories titles such as “The River Gods of Mars,” “Sidekick of Mars,” “The Ape-Man of Mars,” etc. Then, reading down the TOC, comes the inimitable Theodora Goss, who titles her contribution simply, “Woola’s Song.” Zing! Here’s my money, bookseller …

  13. wm.annis Says:

    While I agree with the sentiment on Kantos Kan, I had a brief mind-jolt to see James Purefoy and Ciarán Hinds acting together. I expected to see Dejah Thoris acting out some of Atia’s more lurid scenes from HBO’s Rome — like a taurobolium or something.

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