Thursday, December 1, 2011

John Carter of Mars Trailer 2!!!

It's still a little early but for those who didn't watch Jimmy Kimmel here you go! I'll give a longer opinion later but for now it does a much better job than the previous trailer. The caps come courtesy of

Well I got a chance to watch the trailer for a second time and here's my thoughts, both good and bad....

I don't think you could get a more radically different trailer from the first one. That one had two problems: First it lacked the "epic" quality that the movie should possess. I admit that most of that was due to having little finished effects work but the dull, dusty look of Barsoom and the limited action gave little hint of what the story was or the action within and made it easy for people to dismiss it as a Prince of Persia or Cowboys and Aliens ripoff. The second problem was the humorless and rather dour tone of the trailer. Some I know defended this as being on purpose to sell the character of John Carter. But when did John Carter become a clinically depressed individual? It also shows how poor a choice "My Body Is a Cage" was as background music. A trailer should make you excited, not make you want to down Prozac.Well it seems someone must have remembered that this is a sci-fi adventure flick because all of those issues are missing. This one shows the epic scale of Barsoom and the characters off much better (well for the most part). And yes I'll take a cover of Led Zeppelin's Kashmir over Peter Gabriel's ode to mental depression anytime. Someone also must have remembered Disney's unwritten marketing rule which is (FIRST SARCASTIC REMARK ALERT!) that the film needs to appeal to 10-15 year olds with attention deficit disorder. In fact this trailer is so quickly edited that you almost have to play in slow motion just to see what is happening.

So what worked for this cranky fan? Well I'll start with two words: Taylor Kitsch. Yep he finally has convinced me he is John Carter. From handling the action sequences to interacting with the Tharks, he appears he has nailed the role. Surprisingly what sold him was just two words "Yes ma'am" in his response to Dejah Thoris. That's the Virginian gentleman we know.

Also the action sequences that were present were well staged (even though I have a problem with one-see below). The opening fight with the great ape manages to capture the viewer from the first-even though I'm sure countless Attack of the Clones comparisons are already being made-while the aerial battles for the most part looked good.

Now we move onto to the debatable elements: The CG characters. I admit I'm mixed on them. On the one hand Woola comes across as a living breathing creature and the great ape packs a ferocious punch (even if he is still too Rancor-ish for my tastes) but the Tharks are a mixed bag. Some scenes, especially the ones with Kitsch they come across well. But the shots of them cheering in the arena still look rubbery and that might be a problem. I would expect this for a film still six months to year out, not one that was recently announced as "locked" and finished. Maybe they'll still have time to tweak them but I have a feeling this might split the audience.

Also I'm sorry to say I'm still not sold on Lynn Collins as Dejah Thoris. I just can't buy her as a sword wielding warrior. Now she looks better in this trailer than the first one-and I'm sure some horndogs enjoyed the flash of leg when she turned around in her white dress-but the problem is that you can have a character that can be a warrior princess but you have to believe the actress playing the part and I just can't. Maybe it will be better in the final film but she's still the biggest question mark of the cast.

Now we get to the bad stuff-the stuff that basically can't be ignored no matter how hard you try. And again that can summed up in two words: Matai Shang. As you've seen the Holy Thern doesn't have blond hair, but he does have baby blue eyes. Seriously whose bright idea was this? It ties the tattoos as the worst, most ridiculous change that Andrew Stanton and his collaborators have made. I've already seen some joke that Shang must have escaped from the planet Arrakis while I myself think someone should do a whole trailer with "Behind Blue Eyes" by the Who in the background. Also it appears that-as most of us thought-Shang has been rewritten into the major villain of the film. I know some have argued that this was a necessary change to make it work better if the planned next two films are made but basically we have a manipulative character, using others to achieve his goals (which usually means world or galaxy domination). In short Matai Shang is now less Holy Hekkador and more Dark Lord of the Sith. How is that an improvement?

The other thing that bothered me was the dialogue. To sample: "When I saw you, I believed something new could come into this world." "You're John Carter of Earth." "That don't look like a fair fight." "We did not cause this. But we will end it!" Jeez how corny can you get? Now this would seem the norm for a screenplay written by George Lucas or even James Cameron but as we keep getting reminded Stanton is an Oscar winning director who has been nominated multiple times for screenwriting (even though all of those were for original not adaptations) and that Michael Chabon is a Pulitzer prize winning novelist. Yet that's the best they could come up with? Suddenly makes Edgar Rice Burroughs himself sound like Shakespeare. Then again it's just a sample so hopefully the final film's dialogue won't be so cheesy.

In the end the feeling I get is that we're getting a visually stunning sci-fi flick but probably a poor adaptation of John Carter of Mars. Yes some of the major points have survived-from John taking out someone (I doubt Tars is really referring to the white Ape) with one punch to the wedding finale but the addition and change of Matai Shang to a Palpatine clone and the decision to change John Carter's major purpose-to save Dejah Thoris-has been replaced by the standard "we have to destroy the Death Star/Ring of Power" plot pretty much proves that. So in closing this trailer does a great job of selling the film as an epic but shows that we shouldn't get our hopes up for a faithful adaptation.


pohjanakka said...

Agree with you, that 'yes ma'am' scene was promising.

I like this trailer better than the teaser, but it still has the problem that unless you know the novel it's probably almost impossible to get a hint of what exactly is supposed to be going on. And there seem to be enough changes to the plot that it's baffling even if you do know the novel. One might guess that it's Tharks against invading Reds (and JC siding with the natives), or maybe that it's some mysterious bad guy attacking everybody with some new superweapon (that blue beam), or JC finding out something that threatens somebody and trying to make the princess believe him. Or something else completely.

I like trailers where they tell you who the bad guys and the good guys are, give some sort of introduction to the main characters and how they relate to each other, and what is at stake. And how big the risk is - oh well, maybe not, usually you can assume it's something like 'end of the world' with this type of movies, and it kind of looks like they have that here (the atmosphere?). Not the whole plot but still some pointers. Okay, maybe I'm just old.

Not a bad trailer, but a confusing one.

Anonymous said...

I agree. The film might be a watchable, even enjoyable, sci-fi flim, but it will be a bad adaptation of the book. And I still hate the title.
"John Carter" really that is it. Give us something, even if it is John Carter and the Princess of Mars.
Truthfully not a lot of people know who John Carter is and a title like that might have people thinking Noah Wyle's ER character is getting a movie.

Anonymous said...

Without giving too much away, the Thern eye effect only happens a few times and is not a permanent thing.

pohjanakka said...

A couple more observations:

There seem to be two glimpses of Matai Shang, once with the blue eyes (so it's like what Ra has in Stargate?), once standing with a group of Green men - Warhoons?

Two bits from when the Tharks shoot down Dejah's ship, at a guess, one when they are preparing to shoot, the other one with them going through the burning debris.

The wedding.

The waterway bits - no clue since they are parts of the new plot, as is the blue beam thingy. There was that one early picture of some device which looked sort of like a spotlight - so that's a weapon then?

But at least there seem to be several scenes one can recognize as coming from the novel.

Dr. Charles Forbin said...

I preferred the first trailer.

Remember, Mars is a dying planet. This is part of what inspired me about the books. And ERB took his own inspiration from the cliff-dwellings in Arizona built when a society was in decline and under siege from nomadic raiders.

The first trailer captured that spirit of a dying world, maybe a world that is already dead by the time of the present day. I thought it was beautiful.

The second trailer is visually stunning, but by now CGI is getting tired. The crowd scenes kept making me think of LOTR.

For the punter who does not already know the ERB books, what distinguishes this from Star Wars and LOTR and Avatar? We know that much was borrowed from the ERB books in these films, but that train has already left the station.