Saturday, June 16, 2012

John Carter: Underpromoted By The Mouse

Kaor, Jasoomians!

Doggone it, if Walt's kids were gonna bother to make the film, why didn't they promote it worth a damn?

I watched John Carter on the Roku this afternoon.

While they rearranged the plot (or plots) of A Princess of Mars somewhat -- looks like they were after sharpening the conflict and playing up the wheels-within-wheels aspects Burroughs developed -- they treated the original characters with respect. Sadly, if you didn't already know Kantos Kan, as cheerfully go-to-hell a warrior as any before or since, you might overlook him and the complex personality of Tars Tarkas isn't given as much attention as I would have liked. (Some people have complained there were too many Tharks. I dunno; you do need enough to maintain a viable breeding population.) The original story has a kind of Victorian/Edwardian feel and ethos and it probably should have been treated as even more of a period piece than it was -- in this context, read "period piece" as "wholesome adventure," in which mad notions like Honor, Duty, Square Dealing and True Love drive the story. Captain John Carter of Virginia may be tormented but he's not angsty.

The Martian "dog" is a spot-on bit of Burroughs business, froggy face and all. --Wide shots of ancient, ruined Mars (whoa, is that a cliff or a building?) capture very much the sense of the planet I picked up from the books and Helium is plausible -- I'm not so sure about the crawling predator city of Zodanga, which I think gets more screen time than it merits. On the other hand, Dejah Thoris looks just about exactly as I pictured her. John Carter? Not as experienced-looking as he ought to be but the actor did his best; it's not the poor guy's fault nothing's uglied him up any.

But a better film than its box-office returns implied and a real treat for anyone familiar with the books. Sadly, we're not likely to get any more, at least this go-round. A lot of the blame for that has to go to Disney, which had changes at the top between approving the film and releasing it, and which seems to have shied away from spending very much to tell people about it.

...Dammit, it's Barsoom. How could they have treated this film like a red-headed stepchild? Yet they did; it's on pay-per-view now and will be at your local or online video store shortly. Buy it. Watch it. It's two and a quarter hours of good entertainment.


Brandoch Daha said...

Can't have to many Tharks. That's like too many kittens.

Well, not *exactly* like.

kishnevi said...

It's already out--I've seen it in the bins at Barnes and Noble.

Dave H said...

I've seen a lot of fingers pointed over John Carter. As near as I can tell Andy Stanton was given the leeway to go full-on fanboy (you can tell he loved the books), and Disney didn't put anyone in place who could rein him in when he started pushing his marketing ideas. I've seen several sources take shots at him for using "Kashmir" in the trailers. Although I loved it myself, that's not the way to draw the average moviegoer whose parents barely remember the song.

All of which is a bloomin' shame, because Disney could have milked that series for at least 2 more movies.

Roberta X said...

What marketing? The Mouse barely admitted the film was in theaters!

wolfwalker said...

When was the last time the Mouse House did a good job of marketing any of its live-action movies?

mikelaforge said...

Old Yeller, wolfwalker.

wolfwalker said...

65 years .. yeah, that's probably about right.

wolfwalker said...

oops, make that 55 years. Small math error.

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

"What marketing? The Mouse barely admitted the film was in theaters!"

This. Plus, what little marketing they did do was... sadly lacking in information. If the name "John Carter" didn't already conjure up images of Tharks and ancient cities in your head, then you didn't get a clue what the movie was about when you did see any of the trailers. It came across as a clone of any of the other "Clash of the Titans"/"Conan remake"/etc. style movies that were also being advertised around that time, which probably kicked it into the "same old, same old" category for a lot of people, who then immediately lost interest.

I don't even recall seeing "Edgar Rice Burroughs" mentioned at all in any of the few ads I saw.

perlhaqr said...

I have to admit, I've not read the books, though I know who John Carter and Deja Thoris are courtesy of RAH. The commercials and trailers I saw looked interesting, but, I have to admit I didn't go see it in the theater. I was going to, but it had already been pulled by the time I knew it was there. Ah well. Netflix!

Stranger said...

Sadly, Walt's "clean entertainment for the masses" has gone by the wayside as the studios make the sort of films the people in charge like to watch. Even as ticket buyers stay away from their violent and implausible T&A extravaganzas in droves.

There will be no more Fantasias until the studios start making films for people instead of - well!


Stephanie Belser said...

Considering that they spent something on the order of two hundred million dollars to make the movie, one would surmise that they'd at least spend a little on marketing.

Nowhere did I see, for instance, a commercial that said "from the creator of Tarzan".

Roberta X said...

Yeah, I kind of get the impression there was some dead-guy ego going on: they didn't want to give up even a smidgen of WD's thunder to ERB.

...Come to think of it, how'd they treat the creators of Pooh, Mowgil, Huckleberry Finn and Tarzan in credits and promotion?

Google search says: Walt is named above the title in every case. Author's name? Nowhere to be seen. But at least they promoted those movies.

Anonymous said...

Stranger--they produced Fantasia 2000 with shticky narration by Steve Martin and others, and music provided by the CSO with James Levine. It's nothing near as good as the original, of course.


Anonymous said...

Yep! Watched it on Father's day at my house. Very nice movie.

I would have marketed the heck our of it:

"Before Tarzan, Edgar Rice Burroughs created BARSOOM. His astonishing books like "Under the Moons of Mars" are now brought to life...."