Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Review: The John Carter Movie
As all ERB fans are well aware as of this writing, the John Carter movie is relaesed in theatres. Plans for this live-action movie has been around since the late eighties. Finally, in March of 2012, Burroughs fans finally got our wish.
Was it worth the wait?
Pretty much. With high tech CGI at their disposal, now filmakers are truely able to give the story the treatment it deserves. I still wonder what it might have been like had it really been made back in the eieghties, when stop-mtion woould still have had to have been relied on for banths, thoats, white apes, and perhaps even tharks (though those would more likely have been played by human actors, and thus have come across as terribly fake). Or perhaps of the proposed animation version had actually been realized. As it is, though, we are able to see the Martian world as envisioned by Burroughs truely roar to life on the screen. The thoats, apes, tharks and banths are as close as possible to living, breathing creatures. Well, not the banths--we just get a glimpse a few dead ones (maybe they'll in the sequal--if there is one, which I'll get to in a minute). I really appreciate today's affects for their magic in creating what was heretfore possible only in Burroughs' fertile imagination.
As for the story itself, there are are certainly omissions, though its sufficient as a treatment of Princess of Mars (which would have made a better title than simply "John Carter," especially for non-Burroughs fans). The introduction of Woola the calot is well-crafted, but it would have been better had the kept the scene where he saves Carter from a pair of white Martian apes. Speaking of which, the apes do feature prominately in the later arena-battle. One thing got me to thinking. Unlike in the book, the movie's apes don't much look like primates, let alone resemble the African gorilla, as Carter describes them, perhaps because the idea of primates evolving on Mars would diminish credibility. That's okay, of course, except you still have to explain the presence of the Red Martians. They're humans, after all, and therefore primates. There are other liberties as well. I don't recall that thoats sported horns. Of the movies' creatures, Woola is perhaps the best-realized, sort of a sleek cross between a bloated caterpillar and a pug-dog with a lolling blue tonque.
I am pleasently surprised that they did manage to show the early scene when Carter comes upon the thark incubator, complete with the thark infants hatching. The movie also does not forget that, in the world of the novels, Burroughs himself is part of his own created "universe," and is merely the "editor" of the stories; the opening and closing scenes do more than justice to this aspect of the series. The role of the Holy Therns is explicit even from the start, one thing that some fans have already found fault with, but seems to work okay.
More than that, I won't say concerning the movie's plot, though it's a fair facsimile of the book. The actress playing Dejah is simply gorgeous, as she should be. JC's hair is longer than in the iconic paintings by Frazetta and Whelan, more like the more recent actors who have played Tarzan.
The ending certainly leaves the gates open for another one, not to mention the entire series.
But my real question is: will it happen?
We're lucky, really lucky to finally see this, and for that alone we should be grateful. However, there is already talk on the internet about this being a flop, and others have responded that the charges are premature at best, and, unfortunately, a lot of people may have actually wanted such a big, Disney-sponsored franchise to come crashing down, as a way of showing that they hadn't fallen for all the hype. Whether the film is a hit or a flop is still a bit iffy at this point, as reportedly, it's been most successful oveseas.
But that's not really what matters.
Imagine for a moment a faithful ERB adaptation that really broke box office, generating tons of cash, and a huge demand for merchandise. That's what ERB really needs. And I think it's fair to say that no such miracle hasn't happened with this movie, whether it's fair or not (I'd opin not). A mere moderate hit, I fear, will be unlikely to even generate a sequal that isn't a straight-to-DVD hack job. Maybe they could have made it a bit clearer to non-Burroughs fan as to what was going on--by voice-over maybe, having JC explain his story to the audience. He did, after all, narrate the books.
The thing is, though, that now in Tarzan's 100th year, and in conjunction with the movie, the ERB estate has greenlit multiple John Carter comics series fromm Dynamite even a new, (though somewaht PC) Tarzan reboot. There are also a number of promising-looking ERB graphic novels, all by talented writers and artists, from Dark Horse, due out before the year's end. It would be wonderful if all this went over hugely, but I'm not all that optimistic.
I'll be blunt: what ERB really needs is demand. And demand requires a blockbuster.
Above is the link (you'll have to cut and paste 'cuz I still don't know how to links work in here) about the negative press regarding John Carter. This one is definitely on the side of the film.
Now if we if we could just get At the Earth's Core made into a cgi movie.
Again, I fear that'll depend soley on this movie's success.