The latest effort from Disney, John Carter, debuts Friday, March 9 and despite the lackluster marketing campaign I am very excited to see this film. The story centers around the titular character, a Civil War veteran from Virginia who ends up transported to Barsoom (Mars) through mysterious means while in a cave in the American west. Once on Barsoom he discovers that the lesser gravity allows him greater strength and agility. In fact, he’s quite superhuman in his abilities on this new planet. Ironically he gets caught up in yet another civil war, only this one is between warring factions on Barsoom.
From the clips I’ve seen the visuals are absolutely gorgeous and there seems to be no shortage of action. Scenes of huge crowds of Tharks, one of the native species of Barsoom, seem so realistic it’s as if they were actually filmed live and not created digitally. After a bit of a slow start the pace keeps up very well, with much of the credit going to Pixar’s Andrew Stanton who makes his live-action directorial debut with this feature. You’ll see bits of that Pixar/Disney DNA throughout in the form of humor and the lovable Woola, best described as Barsoom’s answer to a dog with very “road runner” like abilities.
From what I’ve gathered, this feature likely has you either very excited to see this classic tale finally brought to life, or somewhat indifferent. If you’re in the latter crowd it’s probably because until recently the marketing has been a bit off the mark. For myself, I’m in the former crowd, but like most readers of this site I was already aware that it’s based on a series of novels penned by the great Edgar Rice Burroughs. In fact, the character of John Carter actually appeared for the first time exactly 100 years ago in 1912 so I find it fitting that he finally gets to come to life on the screen exactly a century later.
Unfortunately, Disney didn’t seem to understand how to market this film until about two weeks ago when the torrent of online criticism of their efforts apparently hit home. In my opinion, the best trailer to this very day wasn’t made by Disney, but by the fan site The John Carter Files which incorporates only official clips, but woven together to give a better idea of the storyline.
If that’s not enough to get you warmed up to the movie, Disney has graciously released a 10 minute scene from early in the movie showcasing the Earthbound portion of the story. While this is before the alien action begins, it serves as a necessary foundation for the story to follow and helps to set it apart from the many films the books actually inspired. To be fair, this extended scene still has plenty of action and is quite fun on its own.
Go see this film, tell your friends. No, take your friends. Be happy that the man who created Tarzan gave us a series of stories the likes of which inspired so much of what genre fandom adores. Staying home because of a flat marketing campaign would be tantamount to killing the messenger before reading the message. And please believe me when I tell you the message is worth your time.
John Carter opens March 9 in Disney Digital 3D, Real D 3D, IMAX 3D, and my personal favorite, nice, bright 2D.
Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Samantha Morton, Mark Strong, Ciaran Hinds, Dominic West, James Purefoy, Daryl Sabara, Polly Walker, Bryan Cranston, with Thomas Hayden Church and Willem Dafoe
Directed By: Andrew Stanton
Written By: Based on the story “A Princess of Mars” by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Screenplay By: Andrew Stanton
Produced By: Jim Morris, Colin Wilson, and Lindsey Collins