JOHN CARTER...WAS IT REALLY A MISFIRE? YOU BE THE JUDGE @ 19 June 2012 05:37 PM
By now most everyone knows that Disney's John Carter, after a long history of on-again, off again adaptation to the big screen that spans almost as many years as the stories themselves, was pummeled at the box office. However, as some correctly predicted, it was a big hit overseas -- and premiered at #1 on Blu-ray and DVD last week.
One must wonder how many formed their opinions about the film based on the widely reported lack of ticket sales. There has been lots of finger pointing for the losses, but perhaps the fault wasn't the film so much as with the timing. Did theater audiences want another scifi-fantasy epic franchise? Who knows?
John Carter is not a perfect film, but it is very far from a catastrophe. Visually, the stunning imagery, especially on Blu-ray, cannot be denied. The years of work and the big budget shows on screen. Meticulous details abound that make the film very rewatchable. I was struck by the clear glass in the air ships -- it was uneven, as if the glass was hand-made. The look combined high tech with the 19th century (which did remind my wife of Treasure Planet, another very good Disney feature that fizzled in theaters).
The film's shortcomings are so well-documented, you don't need me to recount them. On the positive side, there is some humor, especially the "Virginia" running gag. One of the best characters in the film is James Purefoy as Kantos Kan (yes, it's hard to keep track of the names and I had to look it up), who amusingly forces his own capture in a climactic battle scene.
The toughest roles are the leads, and Taylor Kitsch fares no better than the more well-known Jake Gyllenhaal in Prince of Persia. Neither actor can be held totally responsible when they're shouldering such a massive movie. The princess role, which proved problematic to the filmmakers, who had trouble reconciling her 100-year old persona with contemporary expectations, is handled with deft skill by Lynn Collins.
The film has some great shape-shifting villains offering lots of potential for future adaptations. There is also a fascinating parallel narrative centering on Edgar Rice Burroughs as a character in the 19th century, learning the secrets of Carter as he unknowingly dodges the bad guys (I would have liked to have seen more of this story thread).
The point is, John Carter is a rousing spectacle that is a must-see for action, scifi, fantasy and adventure movies in the Spielberg/Lucas style. Whether we'll ever see more of this world, in perhaps an animated TV version, is certainly unlikely from where the property stands today.
But the same could have been said for Tron and Newsies. Just by reading the many amazon reviews, ta lot of passionate fans are already championing the movie. Maybe more time will tell...
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