I had the chance during my Christmas break to watch John Carter at home for the first time since I saw it at the cinemas. Afterwards it got me thinking about the supposed failure of the movie to attract a larger audience.
Was it really that bad a movie? I certainly don’t think so. After seeing the extended trailer of it leading into The Phantom Menace 3D, I ended up being more excited for that than the movie I had paid money to see.
I think that perhaps the truth is that the movie may have been a victim of the success of the original source material. Edgar Rice Burroughs A Princess of Mars, which John Carter is based, was first released in 1912 and was followed up by another ten stories over the next thirty years.
With that kind of longevity in the public consciousness, there’s no way the stories could not be an influence to generations of writers and film makers.
As a result, how can it compete when other stories have taken those concepts and made them a lot prettier to modern audiences? On face value, John Carter looks like a red/brown version of Avatar. It’s not the fault of the movie; it’s presenting the planet Mars as described in the stories. But if you take screen grabs from both and made people choose, Avatar will win with its lush forests and distinct blue aliens.
And that’s a shame as watching John Carter reminded me of the buzz I used to get when I watched Star Wars. The stranger in a strange land, saving the princess, defeating the villain against all odds… nothing new but I enjoyed watching a movie that made me feel like a kid again.