Saturday, 28 April 2012

John Carter

 Rating: ★★★½

I had to do a review of John Carter and I think we all know why - unless you've been living under a rock recently - it's been declared one of the biggest flops in movie history, alongside such anti-classics as The Adventures of Pluto Nash, Cutthroat Island, Heaven's Gate and Disney's own Mars Needs Moms! Ever heard of any of those? No! What a surprise.

So, now for the burning question. Is John Carter really as bad as its box-office performance? Short answer. No. But Disney did make a lot of mistakes along the way...

The film is based on a series of books by Tarzan author Edgar Rice Burroughs about an American Civil War soldier who gets transplanted to the planet Mars - a bit like ET or Superman, but in reverse. I would say Disney's first mistake was not to market the film in a way that makes it clear that it's the human who is the alien this time, because this was mostly what the story was about and also its most original feature. Even though the book was one of the first sci-fi adventures, many of the other things that happen in the book have become sci-fi movie clichés, and audiences won't realise they were first used by Burroughs.

Disney's next mistake, and probably their biggest, was to name the film John Carter, instead of John Carter of Mars, which was Burroughs original title and is much cooler. When I found out they'd changed the name I shouted out "What are you doing?" This decision alienated the film from its core audience, namely sci-fi fans, not to mention fans of the books, and also made it sound like a spin-off film about one of the characters from Happy Days or something.

The last and probably biggest mistake was letting the budget grow to around a massive $250 million! No wonder it didn't make a profit. With costs like that any film would have had a tough time breaking even.

'But why is it a good film?' I hear you ask. Well I'll tell you — first of all it has everything you would look for in an action/sci-fi film, great fight scenes, beautiful actors, amazing landscapes and even a little romance and comedy. The majority of the film was very exciting and enjoyable. Its design and characters would have been a good contender to the Star Wars crown if it wasn't for the publicity mishaps. John played by Tayor Kitsch was oftern very funny and relatable even though he was a soldier sent to Mars. His pet was also very funny. In fact a lot of people's favourite part was the comical CGI alien dog that followed John Carter around. I thought of that as a sign that Andrew Stanton should stick to animated Pixar films in future. He was obviously in his element when working on the dog's scenes.

I think a female audience might have been turned off beause Lynn Collins's alien princess character was dressed like a bit of a sex object. But she was actually very strong, brave and smart which is normally a selling point for women. Sadly she was hardly in the poster or the trailer so how was anyone to know she was such a cool girl. Maybe Disney was hoping women would come to see Taylor, who was also dressed in S&M gear.

John Carter has some really cool, clever action scenes. My favorite was the battle at the wedding. Although the film should have ended soon after that scene and didn't.

The plot over all was a bit too complicated and started to drag at the end. Maybe I should have read the books first. It was still very entertaining and definitely didn't deserve to be crowned biggest flop of all time.

That said, I don't think Disney will be going back to Mars anytime soon!

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