Monday, September 05, 2011


It's just a trailer, so this may not reflect the finished film at all.  Still...

When John Carter Of Mars first went into production, there was reason to be excited.  It was officially produced under Pixar's auspices, with Finding Nemo's Andrew Stanton directing what was promised as an ambitious mix of live action and CGI animation.  Soon, it became a Disney production, Of Mars was dropped from the title, and we got this trailer, which just doesn't look like much of anything.

It's not bad, but boy, is it ever familiar.  And not because Edgar Rice Burroughs' books have been freely ripped off by so many filmmakers over the years, but because this movie looks to be using any number of familiar tropes from those very same movies, from the dreary blue-and-orange lighting scheme to the live action hero facing numerous weightless CGIed foes.  Even with digital enhancement, the Martian landscape looks suspiciously like Monument Valley.  (The two movies that immediately pop to mind watching this are Prince Of Persia and Cowboys And Aliens, which doesn't speak well for box office prospects.)  And with Peter Gabriel's Arcade Fire cover droning away in the background, the whole thing seems a bit somber.

I mean, it's great that they're taking the material seriously, but shouldn't an adaptation of a pulp classic seem a little more fun?  Obviously this movie wasn't going to contain the abundant nudity found in Burroughs' books, but couldn't it include some of its lurid, overripe sensibilities? 

Couldn't it, in other words, be more like this?

Mike Hodges' Flash Gordon was widely ignored or openly hated by audiences and critics back in 1980, but its reputation has grown over the years, largely because there's no other movie quite like it.  The campy attitude of its script (by Lorenzo Semple, who was largely responsible for the tone of the Adam West Batman series) is overcome by the brilliantly out-there sets and costumes of Danilo Donati and the gorgeously saturated camerawork of Gilbert Taylor.  You can quibble with its tone or rue the unfortunate lead performance of the anti-charismatic Sam Jones, but there's no denying that this movie looks like the cover of a pulp novel come to glorious life. 

If the makers of John Carter had looked to it for inspiration, while finding a more serious tone of their own...ah, well.  It's just a trailer.  Maybe the movie will be better.  Maybe.