SF Signal
SF Signal
A community for science fiction fans!
;'John Carter'

A film directed by Andrew Stanton Loosely based on the character by Edgar Rice Burroughs

< read all 12 reviews

JOHN CARTER: Great Film, But Horribly Mismanaged Property

  • May 9, 2012
  • by
As one of the internet’s resident scribes on all things movie, I’ll not be the first – nor certainly the last – to lambast the treatment JOHN CARTER received at the box office.  The short version of this sad history is that JOHN CARTER was the perfect popcorn flick that deserved better – better from fans, better from the studio who made the film, and (far, far) better from the critical community that mostly drubbed it a ‘disaster’ for all the wrong reasons – and, hopefully, it will get better at some point because, arguably, there’s no better inspiration for science fiction and fantasy than Edgar Rice Burroughs’ 1917 novel that started the craze.
Others have already gone to great lengths to dissect precisely how badly conceived was Walt Disney’s marketing scheme for the picture, but, to be honest, I think the failings of the film to garner the success it deserved from the box office goes much deeper.  How do you take a book titled “A Princess of Mars” and, then, make a film that goes through so many name changes that it ends up with something as simple as JOHN CARTER?  Not even JOHN CARTER OF MARS, as it was briefly called by some executive who, at least, realized it might be worthwhile to reference Burroughs’ original material?  I think a strong case could be made – and probably will be made in some astute article some day by a film scholar – that the property was put in the hands of folks who didn’t quite know what to do with it.  Is it STAR WARS?  Is it CONAN, THE BARBARIAN?  Is it STAR TREK?
In short, JOHN CARTER was based on the best example of pulp fiction available to all of mankind.  Burroughs’ original classic served as an inspiration to not only the best writers in the science fiction & fantasy field, but it led folks like George Lucas and Steven Spielberg to want to make movies in their respective universes.  Burroughs’ prose has even been cited as an inspiration to Carl Sagan and even astronaut Terrence Wilcutt.  While the question will remain for ages why the film wasn’t as successful as it deserved to be, it stands to reason that the original creation will continue to inspire countless folks in the years ahead.
Taylor Kitsch does an admirable job bringing the principle character of Carter to life on the silver screen, and the lovely Lynn Collins steals every young boy’s heart as the princess herself, Dejah Thoris.  The film was heavily supported by special effects, as many of the inhabitants of Mars had to be mastered with CGI.  Willem Dafoe was the most noticeable voice talent as Tars Tarkas, while James Purefoy performed respectably as Kantos Kan.  The effects were all top-notch – though a handful of sequences appeared a bit too elementary for my tastes – and they were integrated fairly seamlessly with the live action.
While much could be made about the ineffective marketing by Disney’s usually stellar advertising staff, I tend to think that the confusion over the property itself – just who is this John Carter character? – really killed any momentum the picture could’ve achieved.  In fact, the film never tracked all the well in the lead-up to its release, and if that doesn’t indicate some fault on the part of the advertisers then I don’t know who to blame.  Clearly, Burroughs’ creation has an audience.  Disney never quite tapped into it, and that’s probably because no one involved in drafting a marketing plan was even familiar with the franchise.  Instead, they relied on the picture – which dabbled liberally in the adventures on Barsoom (aka Mars) – and they were undone as a consequence.
Having read most of the first novel, I can say that the story that made it to the silver screen is a respectful adaptation, but it strayed from the source material like any adaption does.  There was so much more to these various tribes and cultures in the book that may’ve made for a greater plot – not to mention the depth of characters that were reduced to general devices instead of fully fleshed creations – and, audience attention span being what it is, I can understand why some folks may’ve struggled a bit to grasp it all.  The central good-versus-evil story could’ve used a bit more beefing up, but, at the end of the day, I can’t help but wonder how much of it seemed a bit too much like ‘fluff’ for kids (not that there’s anything wrong with that!).
Lastly, I thought the pacing of the film suffered a bit in the middle third of the picture.  There’s a fair amount of set-up that occupies the first third, and, where most second acts build on the drama and mystery of these introductions, JOHN CARTER sort of struggled and groped around a bit to find the story it wanted to tell.  The third act is, mostly, a traditional adventure picture, and it works very well on that level … but the uneven presentation of that second act may’ve helped stifle strong word-of-mouth from audience members mostly unfamiliar with the material.  I can remember thinking that, after I saw the film, the story as presented might worked better had it been expanded to either two or three films; the end result of this would’ve been to give storytellers more space to work with fleshing out the people, places, and history of Barsoom – much in the same way Peter Jackson did with THE LORD OF THE RINGS films – but, alas, it wasn’t meant to be.
With as much as Disney spent on JOHN CARTER, it’ll always remain a bit of a mystery as to why the finished product wasn’t as successful as it could’ve been.  I think we’ll be debating it for the ages, but, in the meantime, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying the film as is: a rip-roaring return to old school entertainment … where men are men … dogs are, well, big dogs … and there’s a princess and a bunch of rather obvious villains thrown into the mix.  While it only hints at the magic from the original STAR WARS trilogy, JOHN CARTER will hopefully continue to be discovered and rediscovered in the generations yet to experience it.
JOHN CARTER: Great Film, But Horribly Mismanaged Property

What did you think of this review?

Fun to Read
Post a Comment
More John Carter reviews
review by . March 10, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
The Coming of
Perhaps I should have revisited Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “A Princess of Mars”, the first novel that featured his character John Carter before I saw this film. 2012‘s “John Carter“ is very loosely based on that first novel and the first live action film by Andrew Stanton who made his directorial debut with Pixar‘s “Finding Nemo“. Burroughs’ creations are indeed a great work of pulp; and his greatest creation may indeed be “John Carter” …
review by . July 04, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
I know what you're thinking: John Carter was a freaking nuclear bomb. You know that, and so, like most people you're automatically associating the movie's puny monetary takeback with an especially rotten stench. Frankly, that's being pretty harsh, for one thing; between production, advertising, and every other expense filmmaking tends to incur, some financial whizzes got together and concluded that John Carter wouldn't have broken even without an intake of around $700 million. It's Disney's fault …
review by . September 28, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
I bought a ticket to another movie, but had to wait an hour, so I thought I would pass time watching John Carter.    As JC began I became swiftly swept up in it, forgetting the other movie entirely, as I was so transported.    If you're like me and like movies such Star Wars, I think you will love this movie. I'm not suggesting that it's better than Star Wars, but I certainly enjoyed it than some Star Wars movies.    Like many movies our …
review by . March 07, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Different planet, same contrived plot points
JOHN CARTER Written by Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews and Michael Chabon Directed by Andrew Stanton Starring Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Samantha Morton, Willem Dafoe and Mark Strong   Introduction: Mars - So you name it and think you know it.   In all honesty, there are only two reasons I wanted to see JOHN CARTER. The first was to see the live-action debut from Andrew Stanton, a director who has given me two of my favorite films, FINDING NEMO and WALL-E, and who has established …
review by . March 17, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
George Lucas in his creation of STAR WARS, James Cameron in his creation of AVATAR, the creators of Buck Rogers, the creators of Flash Gordon, and countless other writers and film directors for almost a century owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to Edgar Rice Burroughs and his Barsoom Chronicles (beginning with A PRINCESS OF MARS, first published as a short story under a different title in 1912). Burroughs is best known for creating Tarzan. However, Burroughs dabbled in several different genres, …
review by . March 08, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
'John Carter' 'Two Jews On Film' Are World's Apart On This SciFi 3D Adventure (Video)
            By Joan Alperin Schwartz   Okay, so first I have to say that I loved 'John Carter', the Disney 3D SciFi adventure film directed by Andrew Stanton (WALL-E)...      The plot can seem slightly more complicated than it is...so I'll just give you the main points.       First, there's John Carter (the very handsome, Taylor Kitsch) a post Civil War Veteran who's absolutely …
review by . March 09, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         Like all good space operas, John Carter relinquishes virtually all restraint on common sense and plunges headfirst into pure intergalactic melodrama. In spite of the obvious narrative anchors to reality – feuding tribes, political corruption, romance, advancements in technology – we’re immersed in a world and a time that exists solely in the imagination. Yes, this is in part due to the film’s 3D presentation (which is admittedly …
review by . March 08, 2012
Without the Jeddack’s would there be a Jedi, what would Charlton Heston have worn when crashing on The Planet of the Apes, would Kirk have gotten so much inter-galctic tail if it hadn’t been for this hero created 100 years ago. John Carter is thought to be the inspiration for that and so much more in the science fiction world, so it is understood that fans of the genre have been crying out for the movie to be made. And with the technology to create other worlds, nothing is …
Quick Tip by . March 12, 2012
   Saw it theatrically over the weekend, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.  I'll probably wait for the DVD release to pen a full review, but, if you're a sci-fi junkie like I am, this is definitely one to see on the big screen.  I know it's getting a lot of press due to the fact that Disney sank $250M into it as a property; while it looks good, it certainly doesn't look to me like a $250M flick (I'm going by the STAR WARS prequel trilogy as a comparison).  …
About the reviewer
Ed ()
What? You don't know enough about me from the picture? Get a clue! I'm a graduate from the School of Hard Knocks! You can find me around the web as "Trekscribbler" or "Manchops".   … more
Consider the Source

Use Trust Points to see how much you can rely on this review.

Your ratings:
rate more to improve this
About this movie


John Carter is an upcoming 2012 action film featuring John Carter, the heroic protagonist of Edgar Rice Burroughs' 11-volume Barsoom series.[5] The film marks the centennial of the character's first appearance in 1912.

Former Confederate captain John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) is mysteriously transported to Mars ("Barsoom") where he becomes part of a conflict between the various nations of the planet, whose leaders include Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe) and Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins). Carter takes it upon himself to save Barsoom and its people from a growing threat.[5][6]

The film is the live-action debut of director/writer Andrew Stanton and is co-written by Mark Andrews and Michael Chabon. It is produced by Jim Morris, Colin Wilson, and Lindsey Collins, and scored by Michael Giacchino.[1][7][8]

Walt Disney Pictures is distributing the film; it will be released in the United States on March 9, 2012.[9][10][11] Filming began in November 2009 and principal photography spanned from January 2010 to July 2010.[12][13] This project marks the first time that Andrew Stanton has worked on a live-action film; his previous work includes the Pixar animated films Finding Nemo and WALL-E.[7][14] The film will be released in the Digital 3D and IMAX 3D formats.

view wiki


Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Studio: Walt Disney Studios

First to Review
© 2015 Lunch.com, LLC All Rights Reserved
Lunch.com - Relevant reviews by real people.
SF Signal is part of the Lunch.com Network - Get this on your site
This is you!
Ranked #
Last login
Member since