Sunday, March 11, 2012

Mars Needs YOU!

I’ve often noticed with this blog that I only really get to writing quickly and easily when I’ve got something to shit on. I’ll write about TWILIGHT, I’ll write about SUCKER PUNCH, I’ll write about Vin Diesel needing to get outta the FAST franchise already.

But not today. Today, I speak to you, O My Dozens Of Readers, to tell you about JOHN CARTER. You probably haven’t seen it (yet), and that’s okay. Here’s why.


JOHN CARTER is based on a series of early 20th century books by Edgar Rice Burroughs (yeah, Tarzan dude) about a Confederate Civil War veteran transported to Mars where he has crazy adventures with green six-armed monsters and marries a space princess. Now, the first book was called A Princess Of Mars. People have been trying to get a movie made for decades (John McTiernan almost did in the early 90s, and Robert Rodriguez came close in the early 2000s), but the technology was either not yet completely there, or the money fell through.

Now, in 2012, we finally have a 250mil+ adaptation, a scant century after the book was first released. Produced by Disney and directed by Pixar guy Andrew Stanton (FINDING NEMO, WALL*E), the movie that’s in theatres now is a delight. Oh yeah, I can already hear you say, so why haven’t I seen it yet? I can recognize awesome when I see it!

Probably because you have no idea that it is awesome. You see, in 2011, Disney released MARS NEEDS MOMS, an apparently (I haven’t seen it) really shitty CGI cartoon that bombed big time. Shit man, this got suits at Disney to thinkin’. P-people don’t wanna see Mars movies, r-right? It can’t be cuz it was shitty, people watch shitty movies all the time! Yeah, yeah, that’s probably what happened! MOMS just bombed cuz people don’t wanna see Mar… Oh. Shit. We’re making another Mars movie. God, what are we gonna do??? It’s already deep in production! Oh! Oh! Oh! Let’s, like, never mention Mars in the advertising. The title’s gonna have to go too. Psssh, who the fuck wants to see JOHN CARTER OF MARS, right? JOHN CARTER, people will pay for that.

Interestingly enough, the last Mars movie to make decent money was TOTAL RECALL. This was twenty years ago though, and it had no “Mars” in the title, and starred the biggest movie star in the world at that time.

The trailers didn’t help any. By not focusing on “Mars” and strangely enough ignoring the “Civil War veteran” angle as well, people just thought it was a weird, blandly named STAR WARS/AVATAR rip-off. As a friend of mine said:

[JOHN CARTER] sounds like a movie that stars Denzel or Cage, but one of those movies that you always forget they made when you’re naming movies they starred in, you know?

Initial reports of box office showings have already been pretty bad, with CARTER’s US debut barely beating out last week’s winner THE LORAX for the number 1 spot. But you know what, that’s fine. When a movie underperforms in its first week, but sorta comes back in subsequent weeks, that’s what gets interpreted as good word-of-mouth. If you’re gonna see CARTER, it’s best that you give Disney the impression you heard from someone who saw it that it was actually pretty good, and that was what swayed you, not the shitty marketing campaign.

Why the fuck would I go and see it though brah?


  • JOHN CARTER is an earnest movie with lots of heart. It’s never winking at the audience, and the jokes it makes are jokes made by characters. No one ever comments on how dumb the situation is, or how silly an outlandish character looks. The movie just goes with its silly premise. When two green, tusked aliens get mad at each other, they literally go GRRR GRRR and butt heads and clank tusks together like mad elephants (scene pictured above). It looks silly as fuck, and my audience was giggling, but the music was telling us it was GRAVE and OMINOUS. I love that!

  • JOHN CARTER is the anti-“STAR WARS prequel”. The acting in JC is broad, over-the-top, passionate; in short, perfect for such a big story. It is literally the opposite of the STAR WARS we’ve known for the past ten years, with emotionless robots reading boring lines. People yell and laugh and scream and hug and slap each other on the head for being dumbshits.

  • JOHN CARTER’s effects work has CGI and mo-cap complementing amazing location shooting. Even though much of Mars, or Barsoom, as the natives call it, is desert-y, there’s constantly a sense of discovery, wonder and awe at seeing/learning new things about the place.

  • JOHN CARTER stars Lynn Collins as Dejah Thoris, the aforementioned space princess. She is a woman in her early thirties with the tiniest bit of belly fat. She’s also absolutely gorgeous, and it’s kinda sad that this is a Thing That Should Be Remarked Upon. But good on you, Disney, for not casting a skinny 21-year-old in what I assume you wanted to be a franchise starter.

  • JOHN CARTER is the kind of movie where a planet’s centuries-long civil war can be totally resolved by a Guy That Can Jump Real Far And Punch Things Good. Also, the bad guys were winning because GHOSTLY Mark Strong gave Barbarian King Dominic West a way awesome blue space laser that West mounts on his arm and shoots people with from his ship.

  • JOHN CARTER is a bit slow to get going (in fact, I’d have scrapped the opening scene on Mars altogether), but it really excels at character relationships. The movie looks and sounds good, but unlike AVATAR, it actually makes you care about all of its principal characters the way any (good) Pixar movie would. Carter himself needs to shake off his BROKEN MAN VETERAN thing throughout the movie, and becomes pretty badass gradually. Dejah is smart, capable, sexy, and (dare I say it) someone little girls should find pretty cool. Tars Tarkas and Sola, Carter’s two green Thark friends have their own little personal subplot that resonates quite well with not much time devoted to it. And then there’s Woola. Pretty impossible not to love him.

I could go on, but this is already one of my longer entries. Point is, if you like movies like STAR WARS (you know, how it used to be) or INDIANA JONES (you know, before…), you will absolutely love JOHN CARTER. It’s a story seemingly belonging to another time and place, like its ‘”Suthun gennuwmun” main character. A story of adventure and discovery and chivalry and romance and six-legged dogs with top speeds of 250 mph.

“Evangelical” is not a mode I often assume when talking about a movie, but I, for one, would love to revisit Barsoom with the same people in front of and most definitely behind the camera. I hope I’ve managed to convince you as well.

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