Why Disney's latest Sci-Fi epic does not deserve to be one of the biggest flops in movie history.
John Carter is the story of a widowed ex-confederate soldier who, whilst treasure hunting and fighting Apache Indians, stumbles upon a magic gadget in a cave that transports him to Mars where he can jump really high. Cue excessively-limbed green aliens, white bald effeminate monk-men being evil, and a scantily clad warrior/scientist/princess.
Yes, it sounds a bit silly. But in a world where the box office can be dominated by sparkly vampires vs. painfully bad CGI wolves and terrible, terrible acting, where Hollywood is trying to sell me an alien invasion film based on a children’s’ board game about boats featuring the most vapid and grating of pop singers (No, Battleship, just No.) I honestly think we should be giving this slightly silly Sci-fi flick more of a chance. Is it groundbreaking cinema? No. Is it an entertaining way to spend a couple of hours? Definitely. John Carter is set to lose Disney $200 million, despite currently being nº6 at the US box-office and having done fairly well overseas. I blame this failure mostly on a lack of publicity and advertising, something rare coming from Disney. But it is also losing them money because of the sheer amount of money that has been invested in it, creating Barsoom -the Martians’ name for their own planet- and making it truly visually stunning. The visual effects are striking and convincing, and even stripping any other merits the film may have, it certainly works as eye candy. Incidentally, so do the main characters in all their tan skin-baring glory, despite all being relatively unknown faces.
But my indignation with the failure of this film is not because it is ‘pretty’. Or even because it was directed by the guy who brought us WALL-E and Finding Nemo. I think it deserves better because the story is not only good, it has also been a source of inspiration for generations of Science Fiction. For those who aren’t familiar with its background, John Carter is based on a series of 11 books by Edgar Rice Burroughs under the general name of Barsoom. The books were published at the beginning of the 20th century and are considered one of the first examples of modern science fiction. Burroughs was the one to establish Mars as a place of adventure and excitement. The books have inspired authors such as Arthur C. Clarke and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, as well as filmmakers such as James Cameron for Avatar. George Lucas himself, God of the Nerds, has acknowledged Barsoom as a reference in writing Star Wars. I guess what I’m saying here is that these books have merit in the history of the genre, more so than anything Hasbro is trying to push into my face.
The film may not be perfect, and it may not match the level of detail encountered in the novels, but it’s definitely worth a trip to the cinema. People should be going to see it if anything because there are so many much, much worse films making money right now that it seems wrong that a film that has been trying to get made since 1931 and whose source material was a significant part of Science Fiction culture should go down as one of the worse flops in movie history. Save John Carter. If anything because Twilight 4: Part I Can’t Believe You Idiots Are Actually Paying For A Fifth Film is just around the corner.