Well I hope you survived Christmas and had a good one. Now to work-during the break a Japanese trailer for John Carter surfaced online, showing off more footage. And well...first if you haven't already watch the trailer below before you continue reading.
OK now we can talk. As you can tell by the headline, there is going to be ranting and it isn't going to be pleasant. As you can tell this trailer is attempting to fill in the backstory of John Carter before his arrival on Barsoom. And that is the part of the movie I am having the biggest problem with. No it isn't the casting of former Spy Kid Daryl Sabara as Edgar Rice Burroughs (which I still feel is a big joke). No it isn't that glowing blue device that looks like has taken the place of Burroughs' astral projection for how John arrives on Barsoom (even if it looks like a silly, cheap prop from the Asylum movie). Nope-it's the former Mrs. Carter and child. Yes apparently to flesh out John Carter's history Andrew Stanton and his co-writers have decided to have John have a family before he hits Mars...and have them killed off. Admittedly this wasn't a total secret. For months-in fact around the time of the reshoots the film underwent after Stanton screened it for his Pixar buddies-an actress named Amanda Clayton was added to the cast list in the Internet Movie Database as "Carter's Wife." Also we've heard constantly how John Carter is a "damaged" war veteran (in fact Stanton himself told an interviewer at Disney's D23 Expo he hired Taylor Kitsch because Kitsch plays "broken" characters well). But a dead child also? How exactly does this add anything to the storyline, especially since by movie's end John Carter is in love and (if that has survived) married to Dejah Thoris?
I have two problems with this addition. First it completely changes the character of John Carter. In the novels we get the impression that John Carter has never found true love until he arrives on Barsoom and finds it with Dejah Thoris. For me that was always an appealing facet of the book and the character-someone who has never felt that emotion and how far he would go to save her. Adding a former wife and child changes that because instead of someone who has never felt love, he's mourning it's loss and it makes him less interesting as a character for me. The second issue is that it's a cliched idea. Recently I watched for the first time in 10 years Ridley Scott's Gladiator. And guess what that film's opening scenes have-a war veteran returning home to find his wife and child killed, which causes him to become broken until he's forced to fight for his life against people trying to kill him. Granted the storylines go off in their own directions-Maximus isn't interested in saving Rome as much as killing the man responsible for his loss-but it's virtually the same idea. And I'm sure it's even older than that. Now some fans have argued that this isn't outside of Burroughs' concept because he establishes in A Princess of Mars that John Carter is possibly immortal-he doesn't remember much of his life and has remained eternally the same age-but Stanton himself already told Empire magazine that the immortal aspect has been removed, leaving him a normal human being, so that defense doesn't apply here.
Ultimately what this brings up for me has been my major issue with this movie-an almost seesaw effect of having one thing that sounds or looks great and something that sounds or looks terrible or is a pointless change or addition. For everything good (Willem Dafoe's Tars Tarkas, the look of Woola, the released pieces of Michael Giacchino's score) it seems something just as bad shows up (tattoos, blue-eyed Matai Shang, silly devices) and now this. I don't know if it will affect the movie Stanton is making (or has seen in his head all those years he claims to have been a fan) but was this really that necessary to telling the story? I doubt it.