Ever since the costly budget of Disney’s John Carter leaked, it’s been scrutinized for spending so much on risky unproven material, saying that there’s no chance of walking away in the positive on this investment. $250 million is a high production cost for a summer blockbuster, let alone a March popcorn flick. But with Pixar’s Andrew Stanton at the helm, I’ve stayed positive and hoped for the best. With its bland marketing campaign, I don’t see John Carter being a big box office success – but I’m sure it will find a large fanbase over time, one big enough that will cause Disney to bring the entire book series to the big screen.
Ads and trailers have revealed very little about the film’s story. I believe this is due to the reason that at first glance it appears to be no different than last summer’s failure Cowboys & Aliens. Beneath John Carter‘s surface, it couldn’t be any farther from Cowboys & Aliens. But with the intro taking place in the Wild West and a fugitive central character, John Carter, being caught by a marshal that he has to work with for survival, I can see why they’re hiding this plot point. While trying to escape, Carter finds and triggers an alien teleportation device that wisps him away to another world – Mars. From then on, John Carter is nothing like Cowboys & Aliens.
John Carter opens with a voiced-over introduction to Mars and the ongoing conflict taking place between its two races of humanoids. The two have been fighting over power for some time, but one of them was just handed a strange and unstoppable technology by godly beings with an agenda. Just as the lesser group is on the brink of being exterminated, John Carter arrives of Mars with abilities unlike anything they’ve ever seen. Because of his bone density and muscle mass, the lesser gravity of Mars gives him seemingly superpowers – the ability to jump insane heights and distances. Combine that with his strength and you’ve got a force to be reckoned with. The tables are about to turn for the bad guys as John Carter balances the scale by helping the weak fight their own civil war. Of course, there’s a beautiful Martian princess that gives him the motivation necessary to go to battle against this unknown evil.
I know what you’re thinking – ‘This story isn’t appealing.’ I believe that Disney knows how generic this story sounds and that’s why all trailers and TV spots do not get into it at all. But I’m here to tell you that John Carter a whole lot better than it sounds. There’s a tonal issue that exists throughout the entire film, an unbalanced mixture of seriousness and all-out fun – but it’s wiped clean and forgiven due to how entertaining the fun content is and the film’s extremely strong and unpredictable ending. Everything that might bother you with John Carter will be erased by the ending of the film. Even if you walk away thinking, ‘That was okay,’ you’ll definitely come back for sequels due to its ending.
Do I see Disney recouping its $250 million investment? Not in theaters. I see John Carter in the similar light of Tron – it’s found a fanbase over time that will continue growing as the film slowly builds in popularity due to strong word of mouth. The way I see it is that you’re going to heard from friends soon enough how good John Carter is, so why not go out, see it now and help build that word of mouth so that we can see more John Carter movies? I promise you won’t walk away disappointed.
Photo credit: Buena Vista