The JOHN CARTER You’d Have Wanted To See

There’s an excellent column here exploring the many insipid and wrongheaded ways that Disney dropped the ball, or flat-out abandoned the ball, with John Carter and ultimately fucked over its filmmakers as well as the many fans who would have gotten to enjoy sequels to the film that will now never be made. I definitely recommend it.

I think one of the biggest contributing factors was that the executives who started the project had all been canned by the time it came to actually prepare it for release. And the new executives, in no way responsible for the material and not wanting the guys they replaced to have a hit, threw it under the bus. Now they can point to John Carter as a huge flop and say, “See? Aren’t you glad  we’re in charge now?” This kind of pettiness is all too common in Hollywood (and in publishing, for that matter).

One of the results of this crappy attitude was a marketing campaign that hit no high points, that did nothing to capitalize on any of the selling points of the film (Two-time Academy Award winning Pixar director! Pulitzer/Hugo/Nebula-winning novelist as screenwriter! From the creator of Tarzan! A classic book which inspired many classics in turn finally on the big screen!). Even removing the “Of Mars” from the title stripped it of cool; aside from SF fans, who the fuck knows who John Carter is, these days, except maybe the boyish doctor on ER? As I’ve said before, it should have been called John Carter and The Princess of Mars, which incorporates the title of the original book, captures the pulpish science fantasy romanticism of the piece, and indicates that the film offers up not just a dashing hero but a cool new Disney princess who can actually kick ass.

Anyway. They blew it. But if you want to see what the marketing department could have done, check out this trailer put together by a freaking fan, who didn’t have Disney’s millions and supposed marketing savvy to draw on…then watch the cheestastic trailer actually released by Disney (which, among its many sins, stupidly shows Carter engaging in over-the-top physical feats that look ridiculous because they give them no fucking context).

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Greg Bear Reviews JOHN CARTER

SF novelist Greg Bear has posted his review of John Carter, which is also a commentary on the treatment the film is getting from mainstream critics, as well as on pulp fiction’s place in our culture. I’ve spliced in a bit below. The whole thing is a very good read, so you should read it…click here to do so.

And y’know, much has been made of Disney not calling the flick John Carter of Mars, but I think they truly missed a bet by not calling it John Carter and The Princess of Mars. That would have captured its science fantasy elements, its romanticism, and the fact that it has an honest-to-Barsoom new Disney princess in it. And a truly capable, heroic princess at that. Of course, Disney completely flubbed the marketing on the film, and now they’re suffering for it.

Without “A Princess of Mars” there would be no “Star Wars” or “Avatar,” of course. There would be fewer names on the modern map of Mars–and likely far fewer engineers and scientists to build those space ships and shoot them into the outer void.

In 1911, Burroughs was happy to incorporate the latest speculations about Mars–derived from the work of the immensely popular astronomer Pervical Lowell, and not thoroughly discredited until the 1960s. To those speculations he added a bit of H. Rider Haggard, a bit of Kipling, and a bit of the then-popular Graustarkian romance, where a brave commoner is launched into royal complications in an exotic mythical land.

George Lucas, decades later, owed a tremendous debt to Burroughs. Tatooine is much like Mars, with wonderfully strange creatures, suspended racers, and huge flying barges with swiveling deck guns.

And no wonder. Leigh Brackett, co-screen-writer on The Empire Strikes Back, often wrote pulp tales herself–some set on Mars–and did it quite well.

In turn, she inspired Ray Bradbury to revisit and revise Burroughs’s Mars in The Martian Chronicles, an enduring classic. Brackett went on to craft screenplays based on the pulp tradition that the Times still finds so discreditable: The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. She co-wrote that screenplay with William Faulkner. Faulkner sold his first short story to a pulp magazine, Weird Tales. So did Tennessee Williams. And I strongly suspect they all read and enjoyed, in their younger years at least, A Princess of Mars.

We would all be the poorer for not allowing future generations of young readers a chance to fall into Burrough’s amazing pulp story of adventure and imagination, still powerful and fun after all these years.