John Carter, cont.

I continue to be oddly fascinated by the implosion of the “John Carter” film. (Is it possible that this is the most significant event in the so far unfolded history of mankind? Possibly. Quite possibly. Very possibly.) This article has a bit more details, blaming the director’s hubris for a lousy marketing campaign.

Stanton (who also nixed all mentions of his Pixar work in the teaser for fear that people would think this film was for little kids) was working from the belief that John Carter was still as universally iconic a figure to people as Dracula, Luke Skywalker, or Tarzan. “It was my Harry Potter,” he said during an interview at Google last week that was streamed live on YouTube. “All I ever wanted when I read that book was to believe it.” He believed that audiences would gasp in delight at John Carter’s very appearance in much the same way that a Batman teaser might only need to flash the Bat Signal. As such, he felt that the very first John Carter trailer needed only to intrigue, not explicate. “To him, it was the most important sci-fi movie of all time,” recounts one Disney marketing insider present for the pitched battles. “He could see no idea in which someone didn’t know who John Carter of Mars was. But it’s not Frankenstein; it’s not Sherlock Holmes. Nobody cares. People don’t say, ‘I know what I’ll be for Halloween! I’ll be John Carter!’”

I recall, when I first saw a poster advertising the movie’s (then months away) arrival, I thought, “As in John Carter from the old pulp novels and Marvel Comic series? They’re really plundering the depths of pop culture if they’re making a movie about that.” (Those were my exact words.) It’s pretty obvious to anyone who’s not a moron that nobody knows who John Carter is. But I suppose it’s no surprise that morons are being allowed to direct films in Hollywood. I’ve long realized that my superior intellectual pedigree has inhibited my success.

The article also point to an additional reason the movie flopped. The Carter books were so influential that many of it’s elements seem too familiar.

Because the Barsoom books were so influential to cinema’s greatest sci-fi auteurs, just about everything in it had already been plundered and reused by other hits. And as a result, the more that was revealed of John Carter, the more derivative it looked, even if its source had originated these ideas. Look at what George Lucas took from Burroughs for his Star Wars movies alone: In his movies, the Sith are evil Jedis; in the world of John Carter, the Sith are evil insects. Star Wars had Princess Leia; John Carter has Princess Dejah. Leia’s infamous bikini in Return of the Jedi? Worn by Princess Dejah first. That flying skiff she’s standing on next to Jabba the Hutt? Carter again. Even those banthas in the Star Wars were culled from the John Carter books, which are populated with similar-looking beasts of burden called banths. Looking beyond Lucas, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry famously pillaged the books, as did James Cameron, who in numerous interviews called Avatar “almost an Edgar Rice Burroughs kind of adventure.”

“Every great scene in the book has been reaped,” explains Don Murphy, the producer of movies like Transformers and Real Steel, who’d tried to bring John Carter to the big screen almost a decade ago, but abandoned the effort. “It’s all been done before, so you actually have to find a way to make and market it in a way that’s actually less faithful to the original material.”

2 Responses to “John Carter, cont.”

  1. John Saleeby

    It’s based on a book by Edgar Rice Burroughs? I thought it was based on a book by William Burroughs! No wonder none of the little kids in the Theater had any heroin. But they had some goood crack!

  2. John Saleeby

    Hey, man, I’m listening to “Chinese Democracy”. Some Bad Ass Fuckin’ Guitar Solos on this thing, man! You can read the notes and find out who plays which ones but I think that’s kinda cheating. And the notes have that queer “Vocals Produced By Axl Rose” thing. That’s embarrassing. But I like that bit where he goes “But IIIIIIII’ve got a message for you!!”