After having tried to write my thoughts about the JOHN CARTER movie, I’ve about given up. There is so much already out there on the web in the way of comment, most over the top both good and bad, and a lot less with anything really perceptive to say. Michael Sellers’ site, thejohncarterfiles.com, is probably the best place overall for a balanced view. His recent three-part series, soon to be an e-book, goes in-depth on the missteps and unfortunate decisions that were made concerning the marketing of the movie and why it was, in all likelihood, allowed to sink on its own by Disney’s promotions department.
Michael knows Hollywood, being an independent filmmaker himself, and he also has a strong love for the Burroughs canon. He manages to maintain enthusiasm for the movie while disagreeing about some of the structural components and creative decisions that drove it to its final form. I’d recommend that anyone so interested hie themselves over to http://thejohncarterfiles.com/2012/04/analysis-john-carter-the-flop-that-wasnt-a-turkey-how-did-it-happen-part-1/ and read Parts 1 & 2 of his article. Part 3 is there too, but it has been truncated by the fact that Michael decided to publish the e-book.
Sellers deals with the corporate take on the project quite well, and he’s very tolerant of Stanton’s creative impetus, saying, in answer to a number of comments, that some of the decisions were not the ones he would have made, but he respects Stanton’s right to make them. Many others are not so forgiving about the whole thing. I know that many, many fans saw the film, loved it, enjoyed it and want more of it. Then there are a wide range of fans who were disappointed, some virulently so, not just about changes to the story, but the misplaced emphasis on certain elements and the almost total disregard of others. Part of this anger comes, I think, from the realization that a movie like this, intended to be the flagship of a franchise, that does badly at the box office and is denigrated critically, has very little chance, if any, of ever seeing the big screen again. It’s frustrating to wait 40 years for film technology to develop to the point where it is possible to depict a living, breathing Barsoom, and then have it miss the mark.
Of course, supporters of the film will say that it didn’t miss the mark at all, and the disappointed will say that maybe half a loaf is better than nothing. And the vicious, who love to splatter their opinion everywhere they go will continue to clothe their, very often completely accurate, points in a language that will only infuriate and alienate their readers so much that all that can come out of any discussion is a rabid polarization of the “no, it doesn’t, yes, it does” third-grader argument variety. It would be nice if we could get beyond that someday, but the Popular Culture sites are still very juvenile, dominated by people who are much too enamored of their own cleverness or their own forcefulness. It happens on both sides and little but steam and vapor is generated by it.
In any case, all the criticism is out there: the medallion business is a senseless MacGuffin; Carter’s backstory and personality were shoehorned into the plot; a planet-crawling Zodanga was unnecessary and badly realized; super villain Therns cause more plot problems than they solve; the romance was stunted; and the search for the Gate of Issus was a showstopper, wasting time that could have been used on more dramatic and character-driven elements. That’s just some of them.
On the other hand: the production values were first-rate; the CGI of the Tharks was wonderful; the fliers were beautiful; the costuming was good…
The movie’s supporters say, “sit back and enjoy it! It’s a fun sci-fi romp!”
Its detractors say, “If only…!”