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Satirist, writer, reader, artist with eclectic taste in the science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery/suspense, and forteana. And yeah, some YA. Have zero patience for snobbery of every stripe.


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APRIL 11, 2012 1:37AM

Derogatory Notes On the John Carter Film...

Rate: 1 Flag

Okay, now I've seen the film, and also just finished the book, The Princess Of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs which is the basis for much of the movie's plot.  As much as this film is fun to watch, there are glaring holes that made "John Carter" fall short of a damned good movie.  I'm sure someone somewhere had said somewhat that this movie is awesome, terrific, and other such big words to describe this.  One wonders what film have they been watching?

Mark Twain jotted down nineteen of the literary offenses in his classic essay, "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses."  Sure, the essay discusses at length, Fenimore Cooper and his books, but that's irrelevant here.  For I'm adapting my own list, the fifteen of cinematic offenses.  I'm sure there's more than fifteen but this will suffice.  That way I won't bore you with the details of what went wrong with the John Carter movie.

1.  The film requires necessary episodes as part of the tale in a coherent whole.  Not additional parts that make the whole structure deteriorate under the weight.

2. A character or a number of personages must have a good excuse to be there in the story.  None of those confounding coincidences is acceptable like that bald guy with a blue amulet in the Arizona cave.  And what's he doing there?  Meditating?  Or is it a convenience to give the character a passageway to Mars? 

3.  A film story must have at least two or three ideas to make the plot workable.  Not six or eight ideas to make the plot so convoluted as to make the whole story crumble like a house of cards.  Why is it that necessary to add the bald guys with amulets to the mix?  Someone should tell the filmmaker about the movie, Dune, where David Lynch screwed up by stuffing it up with too many ideas.

4.  A film should start out with a good beginning and arrive conclusively at a satifactory end.  Again, the coincidence kept messing it up with a shapeshifting bald guy stupid enough to show up on Earth.  Just so John Carter can go back to Mars.  This was during the last fifteen minutes of the movie where the character got zapped back to Earth.  Where he had to wait years for the idiot with an amulet to show up. 

5.  A film shall have humans talk like humans.  And aliens talk like aliens.  In other words, good dialogue.  'Nuff said.

6.  Crass stupidities shall not be played upon the viewers.  (Twain said the same about the readers.)  Dumbing down the audience, both the viewers and the readers, is a stupid idea in and of itself.  It should've died in birth.  Given a little funeral.  Have it cremated.  Scatter its ashes to the four winds down at the Pacific Beach.  Provided the wind does not blow in your face.  With hardly any expenses paid.

7.  As Twain remarked,  "They require that the personages of a tale shall confine themselves to possibilities and let the miracles alone; or if they venture a miracle, the author must so plausibly set it forth as to make it look possible and reasonable."  In Burroughs' book, Princess of Mars, Carter can jump high and have some super human strength due to his being accustomed to Earth's strong gravity than Mars' weak one.  In the film, there's no explanation for it.  Not to mention scaling a two hundred foot building in a leap on Mars!  Something that was not in the book.

8. The film should make the audience empathize with the characters, sympathize, love the good guys, hate the bad guys, and be apprehensive about whatever fate would happen.  Be it a happy ending or a sad ending.  The only thing I cared the most is Woola, the Martian dog in the movie.  You know, the amiable animal with lots of teeth.  That's it.

9.  The characters should be clearly defined that the audience knows beforehand what direction the movie's taking.  Not something so vague as to make the viewer scratch his head going: "What the hell?"  At least, this film did that one right!  I still didn't give a fart about them anyway. ( See #8.)

10.  Avoid sloppy editing, especially when cutting certain scenes just to get either an R or a PG-13 rating.  Otherwise, somebody's bound to notice something amiss.

These above mentioned are the big ones.  Here are some of the smaller ones.  Just mostly about dialogue and narration.

11.  The narration should propose to say exactly what.  Not come close to it.

12.  Use good grammer.  Hence the dialogue.  The film sometimes did right and yet it sometimes fell short.

13.  Use the right words.  Not the second cousin.

14.  Avoid slovenliness of form.  In other words, good settings, good special effects, good CGIs, the kind that convinces me that we're in another world wholly different from Earth or on Earth in another time zone.  None of that cheesiness which would make the film look comical unintentionally.

15.  Don't omit necessary details.  (See # 10.)

Like I said, the movie's entertaining but it fell short of a good story.  I still have a problem with the blue bald guys with amulets.  What are they supposed to be?  Therns?  Hardly.  I just finished reading "Gods Of Mars" already.  These guys are nowhere near them.  Maybe the movie people thought it would look cute with these guys there.

What's the motivation with these blue guys with amulets other than the fact the film script says to have them there.  What's with those big powers they got?  Are they here to dominate Mars?  Take over Mars?  If that's so, then they don't need anybody on Mars.  All they had to do is wipe out everybody on Barsoom.  They take over without any opposition.  And nobody will be the wiser.  And John Carter?  Pffft!

UPDATE:  Here's another glaring hole I forgot to mention.  John Carter acquiring Barsoomian language.  In Burroughs' book, the character simply watched, observed, and listened to the way the green men of Mars talked.  Thus he slowly learned the language.  In the movie, he gets stripped of his clothes, scrubbed, cleaned up, powdered up, and given some kind of juice which is mostly for the Martian babies.  Suddenly, voila! he speaks Barsoomian!  I liked this scene until it got to the last eye rolling part.

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no disagreement at all, it's hard to understand how they decided to spend... more than 200 million dollars on this?!

just goes to show you, the script is the most important piece even though it may be the smallest part of the budget. man! it's hard to imagine how they walked thru the story, storyboarded it, rehearsed it, etc, meantime conviencing the decision maker that it would work.

i liked even as i knew how flawed it was, how it borrowed so directly from star wars, etc. when the big fight in the arena started up, i expected to see natalie portman running around! too much.

but thanks for the classic reference. long live mark twait!
They should have spent some of that money, and time working out the kinks in the script. They had plenty of writers to do that. There are three according to what I've seen in the credits. Plus, they shouldn't try to use flashy parts of the special effects just to hide the fact the story was not up to par, quality-wise.