Monday, December 26, 2011

John Carter Japanese Trailer (And Some Ranting)


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.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Art of John Carter: New Concept Art Revealed


Here's the short version: Disney has announced The Art of John Carter: A Visual Journey, a collection of conceptual artwork done for the upcoming movie. And it looks like some of that art (10 pieces in total) are now online at Comic Book Movie http://www.comicbookmovie.com/fansites/Wolvie09/news/?a=51749&t=The_Art_of_JOHN_CARTER_A_Visual_Journey_Announced_Amazing_New_Concept_Art_Revealed via http://www.barsoomia.org/. You can check out the remaining artwork there and let us know what you think. (And a note, the cover shown above is not the final cover according to CBM.) So barring anything else new, have a safe and happy holiday season!


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Comic Review: Warlord of Mars #13


And today's entry in the Barsoom comic book battle offers up walking plants, white apes, a banth, hot red chicks in chains and John Carter in action.

This issue opens with a two page text piece, catching the reader up with Edgar Rice Burroughs, who has received a telegram to meet his late uncle John Carter in Richmond. Upon arriving he discovers his uncle alive and the same as before. And with him another manuscript telling of his adventures on the red planet...Upon his return to Barsoom John Carter doesn't land in the Atmosphere Plant but rather in a lush forest near a flowing river and with strange blue, plant-like inhabitants. But he doesn't get a chance to look around long as he rushes in to rescue a group of green men led by his friend Tars Tarkas from the vicious Plant Men and a pack of white apes. Escaping into a cave John learns that his beloved Dejah Thoris still lives and that he and Tars are in the Valley Dor, the promised paradise that all Barsoomians depart to when they believe their time is coming to an end. But as they soon discover they are alone in the cave as John finds a white blond man and a chained up red woman, the Princess of Ptarth Thuvia. When John kills the man he discovers that he was one of the Holy Therns and that contrary to rumor they are very human, a discovery that could rock the very planet itself...

As you can tell, this issue kicks off Dynamite's adaptation of The Gods of Mars and it pretty good style. Writer Arvid Nelson shows that he read the books and manages to keep faithful to the original story, which I respect even more now, especially after Marvel's abysmal A Princess of Mars series. From the opening of John's arrival to the introduction of Thuvia, it maintains Burroughs' breathless pace and tone.

For this run, the artwork is being done by another artist, this time Edgar Salazar. I admit to being a little disappointed that artist Stephen Sandowski, who drew the last three issues, wasn't brought back, but Salazar does a good job, capturing the Plant Men, the Apes and Thuvia pretty well. The backgrounds are a little nondescript though, lacking the detail necessary but hopefully that will change once we head into Issus' kingdom and the action picks up.

In closing, this gets a thumbs up. We'll see how it goes from here. Until next time then.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Comic Review: John Carter-World of Mars #3


While we wait for the next piece of movie news, we'll return to the dueling Barsoomian comic books clamoring for your money. And what does this issue deliver? Warhoons, savage calots, more kickboxing Dejah and bickering. Yes bickering.

When we last left off, Dejah Thoris had ran off into a sandstorm to escape her captor, Sab Than, when she took a fall down a hole. But instead of landing in Wonderland she finds herself again captured by Sab but shows off her Van Damme abilities and manages to escape...only to run into Warhoons who immediately throw her to the dogs. Literally as she must fight for her life against a pack of wild calots. Meanwhile Tal Hajus, Tars Tarkas and the female Thark Laos continue their quest and spend most of it arguing with each other, especially about Tal leaving everything to Tars to fight off. Eventually our group reaches the fabled Citadel of the fabled Warhoon Gothan, only to find what appears to be an empty space. But it's a mirage, hiding the Citadel where they find what they are looking for...

I have to admit, my opinions about this series has dropped a little from the excellent first issue. The second one was OK but this one is a mixed bag. First the good news-the artwork by Luke Ross is still excellent, capturing the looks of the Warhoons and the Calots (imagine an angry Woola) well while sticking to how they look in the film. He also handles the big action set pieces and manages to keep the reader's eyes glued to the page.

Where the issue falters a little is the writing. Again I don't know if it's Peter David's script or the fact that he's stuck with the ideas that Andrew Stanton has come up with for the film but I'm sorry-Dejah Thoris has become an idiot! Seriously she escapes, and gets caught. She escapes again and gets caught again. For someone who has been now rebooted into a kickboxing, sword wielding warrior woman she's turning into the least plausible one in a long time. Granted even John Carter would have problems taking down a pack of wild Calots but still her constant kicking of Sab's butt and yet being unable to get away brings laughs. The Thark section works fine and in some ways I wish the series was just about that.

In the end if you enjoyed the first two issues this one is entertaining but uneven. With one more issue to go hopefully it will pay off in a big way.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

John Carter of Mars Score Preview


How about some music for your Sunday evening? Last night the New York radio station WQXR had a hour long interview with composer Michael Giacchino and during the show three pieces of his score from John Carter was premiered. I had some problems with the station's streaming audio but if you want to give it a try you can listen to the entire broadcast at http://www.wqxr.org/#/programs/movies/2011/dec/17/. Or you can just listen to the three pieces thanks to Youtube below. Enjoy and again let us know what you think.






Saturday, December 17, 2011

John Carter News: Lynn Collins and Gods of Mars


Some news for you staying in this Saturday night that slipped by. First the site Superhero Hype has posted some brief comments from both Lynn Collins and Thomas Haden Church talking about John Carter http://www.superherohype.com/news/articles/169061-exclusive-lynn-collins-a-thomas-haden-church-on-john-carter. Little new info is revealed but Church does talk about the process of becoming Tal Hajus while Collins talks about what she's seen and the approach being taken to the film.


The other news brief comes from Blogomatic, which has a press release announcing Marvel's next Barsoom comic book series, John Carter: The Gods of Mars http://www.blogomatic3000.com/2011/12/16/marvel-announces-sam-humphries-ramon-perez-on-john-carter-the-gods-of-mars/. The series is set to hit in March and as you can tell by the cover art it actually manages to be worse than Marvel's current A Princess of Mars series. Yikes!

Friday, December 16, 2011

John Carter TV Spots


I guess deciding it was time to ramp up the advertising, Disney has released two TV spots for John Carter online. Both feature more action, more Woola, more Warhoons and more of Dejah Thoris's skimpy wedding dress! Also the site Collider has posted some pics scanned from Empire Magazine, the one above showing John (Taylor Kitsch) with Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe) and another one showing Mark Strong as Dark Lord of the...sorry holy Thern Matai Shang (It was the robe.) You can see that pic at http://collider.com/john-carter-tv-spots-images/132871/ and check out the spots below and again tell us what you think.




Wednesday, December 14, 2011

John Carter 3D IMAX Poster


Disney has just released a new poster promoting John Carter's release on the REALLY BIG SCREEN and as you can tell, they just took the already released Great Apes banner and added the words "3D" and "IMAX" to it. Talk about being lazy. Oh well have a look and tell us what you think.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Comic Review: Warlord of Mars-Fall of Barsoom #4


OK we now go from Mongo back to Barsoom for today's comic book review. Not a snappy opening I know but that's the best I can come up with.

As this issue opens, things are looking bad for the Orovars. The cities of Thark, Warhoon and Korad have fallen and the refugees are being forced to fend for themselves outside the city of Horz, causing them to descend in barbarism. Orovar general Van Tun Bor pleads with the Orovar Jeddak to bring them in but is refused. Fearing the demise of his people Van Tun Bor begins to hatch a plan to save them, unaware that the Jeddak has his own plans. Meanwhile scientist Tak Nan Lee manages to finish and get the Atmosphere Factory running but he also becomes suspicious when the Jeddak informs him he will be there in morning. Fearing that his people's time has come, Tak turns to the captured red woman Anouk to learn how to operate the Factory. And that may be what is needed as the fate of the planet hangs in the balance...(Corny cliche but here a pretty apt description.)

With one more issue to go before the finale, this issue spends most of its time setting up the characters and moving them into position for the final curtain. While short on real action, writer Robert Napton does a good job of keeping the reader interested with the court intrigue involving the Orovar Jeddak, Van Tun Bor's anguish and resolve to save his people and Tak Nan Lee's decision to trust Anouk and face what he feels is his and the Orovar's demise. It's an interesting set of stories leading to the finale we all know is coming.

Also getting an A+ is artist Roberto Castro, who manages to capture the characters and the settings very well. The opening pages, which shows a young Van Tun Bor playing with his brother and talking with his father is so natural looking you almost think you're on Earth before revealing the nasty, brutal fighting that has engulfed the Orovars. It's a subtle touch and I like Castro's handling of it.

With one more issue to go, let's hope the quality remains until the very end. Until next time...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Comic Review: Flash Gordon-Zeitgeist


OK I promised a review and here it is. Some spoilers ahead so bear that in mind while reading, otherwise FLASHHHH!!!

It's the year 1934 and the Earth is being bombarded by mysterious events and strange phenomena courtesy of the supreme ruler of Mongo, Ming the Merciless. The attacks also have another motive-to speed the conquest of Earth by a "proxy" ruler that was selected. While Ming plans his next move, polo player Flash Gordon and cartographer Dale Arden have to bail out over Geneva, Switzerland when their plane is destroyed. The two land near the house of Dr. Hans Zarkov who plans to launch a rocket into space to stop the attacks and become his unwilling co-passengers. As they head for space, another group comes to Earth, preparing their own mission to stop Ming and his chosen human ruler...

I have to admit I had mixed reaction when Dynamite announced they were going to publish their own Flash Gordon series. While I've enjoyed their Warlord of Mars and Fall of Barsoom series, I've been split on Dejah Thoris and found their Buck Rogers series underwhelming. Well thankfully-so far-this series looks to be going in the right direction. What I particularly enjoyed was the decision to keep the time period of Alex Raymond's original strips instead of bringing it into the future. Writer Eric Trautman manages to keep the basic plot of Raymond's work and add new ideas without destroying the essence of the original. The changes that have been made are also interesting-Dale Arden is now working for the US State Department and the revelation of Ming's chosen ruler (even though the cover art basically reveals the big surprise)-and he even throws in some homages to other versions of the characters that fans might get a good chuckle from.

Art wise the real driving force is Alex Ross, who provided the cover art shown above and the designs for the characters. Here he and artist Daniel Indro replicate Raymond's original looks for the three lead characters while managing to make them look vibrant and appealing. For Ming it looks like they took their cue from Max Von Sydow's Ming in the 1980 film-maybe not surprising since Ross has admitted to being a huge fan of the film-while some female slaves are definitely drawn in a matter that would have been too racy for 1934 audiences.

So in closing this first issue is a cool and fun take on a classic character and I hope the next issue is just as fun and exciting.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Thor 2: And the Next Potential Director Is....


Sorry for the lack of updates this week. It might be a little erratic on here for a while but I'll try to keep it updated as much as I can. Now with that out of the way, earlier this week it was announced that director Patty Jenkins had bowed out directing Thor 2, citing the usual "creative differences." Well now according to the Hollywood Reporter, Marvel has zeroed in on two possible replacements: Alan Taylor and Daniel Minahan, both who directed episodes of HBO's epic fantasy series Game of Thrones. The article also reveals that several screenwriters have been approached to pen the sequel, including Robert Rodat (Saving Private Ryan) and Roger Avary (who co-wrote Pulp Fiction.) You can check out the full article at http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/thor-2-alan-taylor-daniel-minahan-272033

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Famous Monsters of John Carter


Sorry for the lack of updates in the last few days. (And I hope to have reviews of the latest issue of Warlord of Mars-Fall of Barsoom and the new Flash Gordon: Zeitgeist comic by this weekend or next week). With that said here's a treat for you old time monster fans: the revived Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine will be paying tribute to John Carter of Mars as they"take a look at the Fighting Man of Virginia, John Carter, as we celebrate Disney's new movie with a look back at Edgar Rice Burroughs and his literary legacy" according to the press release at http://www.tfaw.com/Comics/Companies/Movieland+Classics+LLC/Profile/Famous-Monsters-Of-Filmland-260-(John-Carter-Cover)___398427. You can read more info about the upcoming issue there as well.

Friday, December 2, 2011

John Carter Banners Released






I guess now the marketing is finally kicking into high gear. In this case Disney has released 3 new banners for the film. Have a look and tell us what you think.

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 http://www.cartermovie.com/photos/jcm05.html





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.