Saturday, June 30, 2012

Comic Review: Dejah Thoris and the White Apes #3


Catching up with this week's comic reviews while trying to avoid the heat outside is what I'll be doing this weekend. And let us start with a Princess vs. an Ape.

When last seen Dejah had just barely escaped the fate of becoming a Great White Ape's dinner. As this issue opens she's trying through her telepathic abilties to warn Carthoris and his ship away while trying to find a way to escape. And basically as Alien or any other horror film has taught us, creeping around a dark creepy place with monsters after you isn't easy. But Dejah has finally decided to fight back and as the issue ends a showdown is set between her and the leader of the apes and only one will survive.

If this issue has one thing readers will notice is the utter lack of dialogue or much plot. It's just "final girl vs. the monster" action as Dejah picks up a sword and proves hell hath no fury like a Barsoomian princess. Writer Mark Rahner does thrown in some curveballs though-at one point Dejah puts on a white ape skull on her head as a helmet and even does a Tarzan imitation that...well let's just say cold cuts and leave it at that. Beyond that Rahner does his best to maintain the tension and by the end at least for me leaves the reader wanting to see the finale.

Lui Antonio's artwork is also pretty spare in this issue, but I think it works since it's supposed to evoke the claustrophic and dark settings of such films like Alien. He also manages to work up some fierce looking apes and enough dripping blood to make horror fans happy. Again there will be those who find Dejah-now even more skimpy than before-a little too robust but at this point complaining about it obviously isn't going to change it.

So to wrap up I'll give this issue a big thumbs up if you love a good old fashioned monster movie. It may not be everyone's cup of tea but Dejah Thoris and the White Apes of Mars delivers. Until next time, Kaor!

Friday, June 29, 2012

John Carter and Tarzan Hits Comic-Con 2012


With the biggest comic book/movie/fanboy convention about to hit, the schedule of events for the first two days, Wednesday July 11 and Thursday July 12 has been posted online. And despite missing out last year, our favorite Warlord of Mars will be getting a panel, along with the Lord of the Jungle:

1:00-2:00 100th Anniversary of Tarzan and John Carter of Mars— He wrestled lions, poachers and ran through fire barefoot without a stunt-double or CGI. Actor Ron Ely will discuss filming Tarzan in the jungles of Latin America with writer Mark Evanier and Burroughs illustrator Tom Yeates. Also featuring David Lemmo, co-author of the new book,Tarzan: His First 100 Years. How Ancient Literature Became Modern Mythology and Created an Ape-Man Mecca in Southern California, coming from Angel City Press in 2013. Plus a 100-years of Tarzan and John Carter slide show included. Room 8



I'll update this as soon as anymore related panels are revealed. For the rest of the two days' schedule you can check out http://geektyrant.com/news/2012/6/28/comic-con-2012-wednesday-and-thursday-schedules.html (and try not to snort when you read that Disney-after skipping last year-has a panel to promote their upcoming films. I guess they learned the hard way with John Carter that kids and their parents at D23 was not the target audience.)


UPDATE: The Saturday July 14 schedule has been revealed at http://www.comingsoon.net/news/movienews.php?id=92104 and there is another ERB-centric panel of note-this one on Tarzan and his mate:


12:00-1:00 The Naked Truth About Tarzan and Jane: The First 100 Years of Spectacular Tarzan Imagery, and One of Literature's Best-Loved Couples as They Enter Their Second Century— Bestselling novelist Robin Maxwell (Jane: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan) and author Scott Tracy Griffin (Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration) gather with illustrator Joe Jusko (The Art of Joe Jusko) to discuss these iconic literary characters. Join them for a presentation and Q&A session hosted by Jim Sullos, president of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Incorporated, the official licensing entity for Tarzan and John Carter of Mars. Room 25ABC

Thursday, June 28, 2012

John Carter Helmet Featurette


And some more video goodies courtesy of The John Carter Files. In this case a brief video showing the design work that went into those Helium helmets. Not much more to say except take a peek.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Opinion Time: Tarzan Vs. Tarzan


Sorry for the lack of updates in the last few days. Hopefully this weekend I'll catch up with some comic reviews but for now some opinions.

Last week Deadline, in a report on screen writer Adam Cozad mentioned that he had written a script for a proposed new Tarzan film that had attracted the attention of Harry Potter series veteran David Yates and Hunger Games director Gary Ross. With news of that hitting, it brought the tally of proposed Tarzan film projects up to three. The other two being writer/director Craig Brewer's take, which was to be the opening chapter of a planned trilogy, and Constantin Film's motion capture 3D animated version with Twilight heartthrob Kellan Lutz as Tarzan that is currently in production as the making of featurette posted below shows. The question is will audiences be interested in that much ape man on the big screen? Or will they give it the cold shoulder?

At this point dueling film projects based on the same characters is nothing new. A few years back two versions of Sherlock Holmes were announced: Guy Ritchie's version with Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law and a comedic take with Sasha Baron Cohen as Holmes and Will Ferrell as Watson being pitched. Ritchie's ultimately made it to the big screen while the comedy version disappeared. This could mean that one of those projects-at this point either Brewer's or Cozad's-could fall apart. On the other hand this year saw the release of two Snow White films in theaters, the comedic Mirror Mirror with Julia Roberts and the more action oriented Snow White and Huntsman with Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron. In this case audiences it seems preferred the later film, with a worldwide gross nearing 300 million vs Mirror Mirror's 162 million gross. In this case though neither film seemed to be pitched at the same audience. Mirror Mirror was more aimed at family audiences while Huntsman pitched itself at the action crowd.

I have a feeling the same will happen with the dueling Tarzans as well, even though I'm not making box office predictions at this point. With its motion capture and some of the character designs shown, Constantin Films' Tarzan will more likely appeal to families, possibly trying to win over parents who have shown the Disney Tarzan to their children. The live action film(s) will more likely go for an older crowd, at least I'm guessing since very little is known about either film at this point.

Another question-at least for Edgar Rice Burroughs fans-is will any of these projects bring to life Burroughs' character? So far nothing is known about Cozad's script except that it was apparently unique enough to attract Yates and Ross' attention. Brewer on the other hand did tell interviewers last fall while promoting his Footloose remake that his Tarzan would be set in the same time period of Burroughs' original Tarzan of the Apes novel, even though very little else was mentioned concerning the plot. Tarzan 3D director Reinhard Kloors mentioned in the featurette that his take would bring Tarzan into modern times and that it looks like Tarzan will be raised by gorillas, making it similar in that respect to Disney's 1999 version. It's plot also centers around the struggle between Tarzan and his uncle, who has gained control of the Greystoke company and Tarzan and Jane's attempts to stop them from razing the jungle that Tarzan grew up in. So in short I wouldn't be counting on La or any trips to Opar at least in this outing. I'm sure there will be fans shaking their heads again about how Hollywood can't bring Tarzan to the big screen without rewriting him, or worse just reusing the Johnny Weissmuller version. We can only hope that the filmmakers behind all three at least bring elements from the novels to their versions.

The final question though is will it matter? Will audiences even be interested in a new Tarzan film? While the recent box office loss of John Carter has been attributed to several factors, one possible factor is that the story itself seemed so old to audiences used to "hip" and ironic characters that it possibly turned off a vast segment of the audience (and Andrew Stanton's attempts to make Carter more relatable with his "damaged goods" take didn't seem to make much a difference at the box office either). Granted Tarzan is a more familiar character-or at least the name is-but he hasn't been in the public eye much in the last decade. The last theatrical film was Disney's which made money but that was back in 1999. Since then outside of two short lived TV series (Disney's The Legend of Tarzan and the WB's Tarzan, which also updated the character and ran a grand total of 8 episodes before being cancelled) the character has pretty much disappeared. Some of that absence could be attributed to ERB Inc, which hasn't done much in the last decade to keep the character in the public eye. Granted I'm sure most of that time was spent on the endless attempts to bring John Carter of Mars to the big screen but still does that explain why Tarzan disappeared from book stores and even comic racks? Recently there has been activity to bring the character back, tied in with his 100th anniversary in the form of new books and even comics so the time could be ripe for a new film to celebrate his history.

We'll have to wait and see if a new Tarzan film, no matter which one hits theaters first, will reintroduce the character and possibly bring new readers to Edgar Rice Burroughs' work. For all its flaws, the one good effect John Carter did have was to do that. Let's see if the Ape-Man can get the same rediscovery.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Mark Andrews Says John Carter 2 Stil Lives!


This should make the fans of the film excited. In an interview with Indiewire, John Carter co-writer Mark Andrews talks about the film's reception (and like many points the finger at Disney for not helping) and his upcoming Pixar film Brave. But it's his comments at the end that will get the most attention: he's still working on the sequel with director Andrew Stanton. Quoting Andrews:


""It's going to get its legs back and me and Andrew aren't done with that story yet and we really want to do two and three," Andrews said. "There's some great stuff for John Carter as a hero to deal with in the future." He added that they continue to work on the script for the subsequent films: "We're ready to go. As soon as somebody from Disney says, 'We want 'John Carter 2,'' we'd be right there."

While there is still no official green light at least that's good news for those wanting to see more of John Carter on the big screen. You can read the rest of the interview at http://blogs.indiewire.com/theplaylist/interview-brave-director-mark-andrews-on-replacing-brenda-chapman-being-buds-with-brad-bird-and-what-happened-with-john-carter-20120621

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Comic Review: Warriors of Mars #3


No clever opening, just a review.

This issue opens in the midst of battle as Captain John Carter and Lt. Gulliver Jones are taking a horde of green men until they have to jump...and then we cut back a month to Helium as Dejah Thoris receives a visit from a member of the Thither people, selling various relics from the Royal Palace of Seth, which as established in the previous issues her mother was the Princess Heru. While John expresses suspicion about the Thither, Dejah purchases several items, including a rug that no one-not even Carter-can move. Later after having a dream, Dejah finds herself drawn to the rug and wishing to see it unfurled, finds old Gully popping out. Inviting him to stay as a guest-and to find out more about her mother-Dejah finds herself at odds with John who thinks Jones is arrogant. Meanwhile (man this issue has a lot going on), the Thithers discover their old enemy is still alive and hatch a plan to snare him-by using Dejah! When she is kidnapped, it's up to Carter and Jones to save her from the River of Death (or Iss depending on your preference). The question is can they survive the green men, the Thithers and each other to save her?

Having adapted Gulliver of Mars in the first two issues, with some elements to connect it to the Barsoom series, writer Robert Napton begins the new story with some interesting-though debatable-choices. The biggest is probably the subplot involving Dejah's feelings towards Gulliver and John Carter's bouts of jealousy over this, notably shown in an argument after he agrees to let Jones go out on a scouting mission and Dejah's anger over putting the man her mother loved in harm's way. It shows strength on Dejah's part but some fans might not like the idea of her splitting what could be seen as her affections with another man. It also raises-though I think a good idea-Carter's own jealousy of not being the only Earthman on Barsoom. This has been done before (Dark Horse's Tarzan/John Carter series and more recently Peter S. Beagle's "Ape-Man on Mars" short story from the Under the Moons of Mars anthology) but here Napton does a better job, showing that the reason for it has more to do with Dejah and less to do with him feeling threatened by another.

Beyond that the central plot is almost standard for both-the bad guys kidnap the princess and they go off to rescue her. We'll have to wait and see where it goes.

The artwork by Jack Jadson is nice and bright but I do need to mention this: one complaint I've heard from friends who've read most of the Dynamite comics has been the bland backgrounds and a feeling of the artwork almost being rushed. I do agree that it has from time to time to a detriment. But at the same time I also feel that the characters have for the most part been well designed (even though I know some feel Dejah might be too sexy and needs more clothing) and Jadson handles that well here. They may seem a little cartoony-Carter most notably-but they do pop off the page well and the design of the Thithers is pretty good, a nice contrast to the usual Barsoomian creatures. Also Dejah does wear more in this series even though "SPOILER ALERT FOR THOSE AGAINST NUDE RED WOMEN" she proves that Martians don't have pajamas when they go to bed.

I know that the idea of combining both worlds might turn off some fans of either but if you accept it as nothing more than fan fiction, it's a fun series. I still wished that they could have done a more lengthy adaptation of Gulliver of Mars but if this one sells maybe Dynamite will consider one in the future.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tarzan 3D Making of Featurette


Just barely one day after word of potential directors for Warner Bros' live action take, we get a peek at the other film being made. In this case a featurette has appeared online, showing the motion capture technique being used to create the film's apes (in this case gorillas), as well as concept artwork and designs for the characters. So take a peek and let us know what you think.


Monday, June 18, 2012

Tarzan: Possible Live-Action Directors?


At least according to Cinema Blend via Deadline http://www.cinemablend.com/new/Harry-Potter-David-Yates-Or-Hunger-Games-Gary-Ross-Could-Take-Tarzan-31449.html. In a brief article on writer Adam Cozad, Deadline mentions that directors David Yates (the last four Harry Potter films), Gary Ross (The Hunger Games) and Susanna White (Nanny McPhee Returns) is circling Cozad's script for a new live action Tarzan. Cozad had been hired by Warner Bros along with writer-director Craig Brewer to write new scripts for a Tarzan film, with the last word being that Brewer's script had been picked but according to the article Warners is possibly considering making both. I guess take this with a grain of salt until any official statements are released.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Comic Review: Warlord of Mars #18


This weekend's comic review finds Yawn...I mean John Carter fighting for his life, his love and his right to party!

Leading a small armada of ships, John and Carthoris head towards Omean to rescue Dejah Thoris when they have to take on the First Born, the Therns and Zat Arras' own fleet. Luckily for John and company the First Born and Therns take on each other and Zat finds his own fleet pledging loyalty to Carter, forcing him to jump ship literally. From there John lands, finds his beloved, reveals the reality of Issus and finds a bunch of women ready to fight over him...all the while trapped in the inescapable Temple of the Sun.

Wrapping up their adaptation of The Gods of Mars, writer Arvid Nelson and artist Edgar Salazar does a good job of sticking close to Edgar Rice Burroughs' novel-right down to certain scenes from the book-while keeping the pace moving towards the climax. There is also none of the out of place comedy from the last few issues which is a relief. As he showed in adapting A Princess of Mars, Nelson has read the books and knows how to adapt them, making me interested to see him tackle The Warlord of Mars next.

As for the art by Salazar I know some have been split on it. Some of the characters come across well-Tars Tarkas is less Hulk-like here and Dejah (even though still probably wearing less than some would approve of) is attractive. On the other hand Phaidor could use some work and the backgrounds again don't pop out. There is enough action though to overlook this and Salazar captures the air battles well so if you liked his work in the series so far you'll be pleased with his work in this issue.

I really don't know what else to say, except that it's a pretty good issue and a nice conclusion to the Gods storyline. I'll be back with another Martian comic trip-involving carpets-next time.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Mad's "Yawn Carter"


Well this was inevitable wasn't it? For those who missed it, Cartoon Network's animated version of Mad Magazine's take on John Carter-with some surprise cameos-has been posted on Youtube and you can watch it below in the embed. Hope you enjoy!


Friday, June 15, 2012

The Gods of Mars Movie: Just Speculating


(First let me get this out of the way: The artwork shown above is NOT an official piece from Disney but a piece I found on a web site using Google. If anyone knows who made it please leave a comment so I can credit the original artist. Thank you. UPDATE: As mentioned below in the comments this was designed by Deviant Artist Paulrom. A big thanks to Andy!)

With this week's news that John Carter topped the Blu-Ray and DVD sales charts, fans are probably hopeful that this will help push the sequel closer to possible green light, even though Disney has yet to release sales numbers for the title. With that in mind I thought it would be an interesting change of pace to pose the question: if the sequel goes forward what might we see and if doesn't what was planned for it. Now at this point there was never an official announcement from Disney about a sequel. That instead came from the filmmakers, with producer Jim Morris telling interviewers that it had a working title-John Carter: The Gods of Mars-and that director Andrew Stanton was working with Michael Chabon (who had rewritten the script for John Carter) on it. But some hints have been revealed in other interviews-most notably Stanton's long interview with Harry Knowles at Aint It Cool News http://www.aintitcool.com/node/53561; his commentary on the recent Blu-Ray and some other statements made by the actors-that at least present if not a complete picture, at least one that was being pulled together. So let's jump in. Two warnings though: some of this will be speculation on my part-I don't know if this was the plan or not-to fill in some gaps and second there will be some of my usual sarcasm. In fact let's get that out of the way now:

How close will it be to Edgar Rice Burroughs' book?
SARCASM ALERT: Considering Stanton couldn't bother to remain faithful to A Princess of Mars without giving John Carter a dead wife, making Zodanga a moving city and shoving in the Therns, being faithful was not at the top of his list for the first film, so I doubt it was going to be a high priority for the second one. That said-without sarcasm-Stanton had already made a faithful version of Gods of Mars somewhat impossible anyway thanks to those Therns. Burroughs' original concept for them was they were false prophets-cannibalistic deviants-without any god like abilities-or super powers. And it can be argued that shape shifting, floating in mid air, teleporting and some of the other powers they had in the movie doesn't fit with the novel. Nor would they likely be fearful of Issus or the First Born either. Matai Shang in the film makes it clear they've been around for a long time and have played their games forever. No mention of fearing Issus-except for their claim that they "serve the Goddess" at the beginning-is mentioned. I guess it could be possible that Stanton and Chabon were still planning to have her in the movie-in fact Stanton confirmed this in the Knowles interview: "I can’t wait to see the goddess ISSUS herself..." but in what shape will she be? Or how will she be worked in? Is she going to a puppet master, even pulling the Therns' strings or is she in league with them, eliminating the First Born all together-which could have been a possibility to avoid a potential problem. Even though many I'm sure wouldn't see it this way, The Gods of Mars is about a group of false prophets and a god-or in this case goddess-being revealed as a fraud. That goddess and her followers-all portrayed for the most part as evil, vicious marauders-are described as black, meaning that accusations of racism and anti-religion could have caused protests, something every major film studio, especially the controversy-phobic Disney would like to avoid. So in that respect a faithful rendering would likely not have happened, less for Stanton and more for not wanting to offend anyone.

Is the Atmosphere Plant going to be in the film?
One of Stanton's more interesting comments during his Knowles interview was that "the air plants will be later" when explaining his handling of the material. The Plant-which serves as a plot point in A Princess of Mars-is not connected to the plots of Gods or The Warlord of Mars so it leaves the question of why they will be included and how. One possibility-and this is just me speculating-is that it could be used to fulfill (since if the first film is any indication) Stanton's notion that every film needs a Macguffin. In this case I suspect since so much time was spent setting up the 9th Ray and Dejah Thoris' research into-plus her claims that it could save Barsoom-that during the 10 years that John Carter was gone, Barsoom's atmosphere could have dwindled, possibly due to new wars or more machinations by Matai Shang and that the plant is being constructed using the ray to help keep the planet alive. It would provide the needed story element to cause John Carter to escape the Valley Dor (if he even lands there, all though Stanton did confirm the Plant Men were being planned so more than likely then) and save Dejah and Barsoom. It would also fix another potential problem adapting Gods...

What is Dejah and company's parts in it?
Dejah herself only appears at the end very of Gods of Mars, due to Burroughs' first person narrative. Obviously it won't work to maintain that-and no I'm not complaining about it being dumped since I know it wouldn't work-so using the Plant and her involvement would give her a bigger role. And Lynn Collins admitted in several interviews she was excited about the sequels. For the rest of the cast, Stanton told Knowles that James Purefoy will have an extended role as Kantos Kan and that there will be more air battles involving the Xavarian, which his character is captain of. Willem Dafoe also confirmed that Tars Tarkas was set to return in a recent interview http://blogs.indiewire.com/theplaylist/willem-dafoe-still-baffled-by-john-carters-failure-new-pixar-stamps-introduced-20120605 and that "I know something of where the story goes and the character of Tars Tarkas. He’s big, and the relationship with John gets more intense." Stanton also mentioned on his commentary on the Blu-Ray that he had plans to bring back John Carter's nephew Ned, even though in what capacity is unclear. And I'm sure Shape Shifter Shang would have been back. So we know who was going to return. How about...

New characters?
Except for Issus, there has been no word of other characters from Gods will appear. Honestly it's a pretty crowded list: Thuvia, Phaidor, Xodar, Thurid, Zat Arras...not to mention Carthoris. The last one though could prove somewhat problematic. First we don't even know if Dejah had a child during his absence-it appears that the oviparous Red Women were eliminated since we saw no egg-and Stanton again talking to Knowles said he decided to not have Carthoris born before John returned to Earth. Granted we saw Dejah in bed so we can assume they "did the deed," which leaves it open for his arrival. But at what age? When he was hatched he was already 5 years old in Earth years and in the books, it's 10 years before Carter returns to Barsoom. Stanton kept the 10 year gap but with the elimination of the egg or Carthrois' birth, it would be doubtful Carthoris would be a young man. Some of that was possibly done due to the elimination of certain story elements-Carter's immortality and the long 1000 year life spans of the Barsoomians-but also it might have been hard for an audience to buy Taylor Kitsch and Collins as the parents of a 15 year old. Then again if Carthoris was going to be used, do we want a 10 year old in the film? As The Phantom Menace proved, sci-fi and kids don't mix unless it's Steven Spielberg directing. Again this is just open speculation so who knows. As for any potential actors, none have been floated around to play any of these parts so I'm sure that will provide new debate fodder for fans.

What was the tone going to be for the film?
It sounds like Stanton was going for the standard "darker middle act" setup based on his comparison to another classic trilogy: "Well I think it’s going to get a lot darker before it gets a lot brighter. (Laughs) It really does have a chart that works like EMPIRE to RETURN, but it’s fitting and my whole goal was that by the end of this whole thing he would earn the title “Warlord of Mars” and that’s where we are headed with it. " Now there's a lot to work with to make it The Empire Strikes Back of the John Carter of Mars series and considering Empire's status among many as the best one this could have bode well.

When was it going to be released-or still could be?
There was no official-or unofficial-start date for a sequel or release date. That was all dependent on John Carter's box office. The only guess would have to take in account Disney's usual record with sequels which in this case might have meant 2015 since there was a three year gap between the first and second entries in both the Pirates of the Caribbean and Chronicles of Narnia franchises. Then again Disney might have rushed a sequel out to strike while it was hot but at best that still probably would have been 2014.

So there's my best guesses based on the evidence we have. We'll have to wait and see-and look at how many Blu-Rays are being sold and for the devoted keep praying to Issus-whether or not John Carter returns to the big screen. Or start saving money for a fan sequel. Anyone got 250 million to spare?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

John Carter Tops Blu-Ray/DVD Sales


No clever opening here, just the news: The Hollywood Reporter has this week's DVD and Blu-Ray sales http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/taylor-kitsch-john-carter-savages-337231 and it looks like John Carter is on top:


Walt Disney Studios’ John Carter -- starring Taylor Kitsch, who next appears in Oliver Stone's Savages -- snagged the top spot on both the Nielsen VideoScan First Alert sales chart, which tracks overall disc sales, and Nielsen’s dedicated Blu-ray Disc sales chart.


That's good news for the fans of the film who hope that strong sales on both formats will possibly get the sequel made.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

John Carter: A Second Review


OK time to put this on the table.

Looking back at my original review I was a surprised I had given the film a rating of 3 and half stars as a stand alone film. Part of me wonders what was I thinking? I guess some of it had to be that I was trying to overlook the film's flaws and accentuate the positive aspects of it. The other part might have been that it was already getting torn to shreds by the critics, an indifferent audience and those "I told you so!" snarkmeisters like Nikki Finke and other Hollywood "insiders." At the same time I also gave it a two star rating as an adaptation. In my eyes then it had failed as a faithful version of Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Princess of Mars. Yet over the intervening three months my opinions about the film has soured both as an adaptation and a stand alone film. Chalk it up to the poor box office, the feeling that had the film been better it would have done better or Andrew Stanton himself. It seemed each interview that I was beginning to see referenced on sites like The John Carter Files and others presented a man who, despite his constant claims of being a huge fan, not only wasn't but in some cases openly despised the material, even admitting he hated the character of John Carter, who he found to be a "vanilla" goody two shoes in Burroughs' novels. It had left me pretty much disappointed and sad that what should have been the film I had been dreaming about since I was 13 had reached this state.

So when I did buy the Blu-Ray I was determined to try to shut that out but also to take the advice of a friend and turn off my "ERBometer" as he called it and judge the film on its own merits. I watched it twice since then. I guess to be honest it did improve in some respects, some things were still excellent and well handled but it also still suffered from the things I hated when I first saw it.

So what did improve? Surprisingly Taylor Kitsch's performance. I had thought he did OK the first time around, mostly suffering from Stanton's decision to go with his "damaged goods" version of Carter which I had found just as cliched as Stanton does the "vanilla" hero version of Burroughs. I also had problems buying him in the opening. But once you get passed that he turns out he is a good fit for the role. There is some more subtle nuances than before-the brief smiles he gives Dejah in the Thark temple and his looking away when she catches him watching her during the trek to the River Iss. If this had been more played up, the charm and longing of a man looking for love it would have been more welcome.

I also found the pace much faster than I had during the theater experience. Maybe it was the cheap and awful 3D version I saw but this version seemed to move much faster. I also noticed more humor than the first time. What humor I had noticed seemed painful and just drawn out-the opening escape attempts from the Union outpost, the "Virginia" gag-but here there was more subtle humor that crept in from Carter's calling Dejah "professor" to Dejah's comical surrender to Sola.

As for what remained the same: Lynn Collins' excellent turn as Dejah, even showing more feisty quality than I had noticed before; Woola who won me over quickly and still does; the action sequences (except for the finale which I still find badly shot and edited) are amazing and managed in some cases to top most action films made today. I also found Michael Giacchino's score better than before. Originally I just thought it was an OK, John Williams-esque score but it comes across with more emotion and power than I before.

Unfortunately for everything this film does get right, there still seems to be something holding it back. I feel it comes down to a combination of both missed opportunities and bad screenwriting that for me does not make it the classic its defenders seem convinced it is. So I'll just let the cat out of the bag and admit that the two major problems are what I had noted in my earlier review: The Therns and John Carter's new "back story." I hated it when I first heard that the Therns were going to be added because I knew it would cause an overcrowded film, yet I understood the defense: it was to make it play better as that trilogy that Stanton was too busy working on. Sadly now it seems he should have spent more time woking on a good stand alone film instead of planning a franchise and left the Therns out since their roles in it are pretty much just useless. It also didn't help that Stanton rewrote Matai Shang into a walking collection of virtually every film villain of the last 30 years-from Ming the Merciless to Emperor Palpatine to even Dr. Evil (Shang's "let me tell you my evil scheme" scene might have worked better with unnecessarily slow dipping mechanisms) to even Mark Strong's Lord Blackwood from Sherlock Holmes. It just was dead weight that now will never pay off.

The other issue-and the biggest one, even more than the Therns-was Stanton's decision to go with his tired back story for Carter: the broken, damaged widower who doesn't want to get involved. The irony is that the "Galahad" version of Carter, the one Stanton so detested, would probably be more original and have stood out compared to movie heroes now. Ever since The Dark Knight the perception seems to be that every hero has to be a broken man with some tragic past. Now that might have worked if Stanton had done something more original with it. Instead it's a dead wife and kid-complete with a scene that a friend recently pointed out is a direct copy from Clint Eastwood's The Outlaw Josey Wales. The dead family idea was just worn out. Now I know many of the film's admirers love this, especially the sequence that intercuts Carter's slaughter of the Warhoons with him burying his family but to me it just felt like a cheap attempt to build empathy and in reality played no part in the story.

The other issue is this: the back story is usually the most boring part of the hero's life. We didn't need James Bond's back story in Dr. No, Indiana Jones' in Raiders of the Lost Ark or even Darth Vader's in Star Wars. The funny thing is that in several interviews and even his TED Talk from a few months back Stanton claims his favorite film of all time is David Lean's epic Lawrence of Arabia. Yet take a look at it: Lean opens with the funeral of TE Lawrence and then cuts to him as a British soldier in Cairo. No scenes of him growing up or where he came from or his family's history. Lean wisely knew this would be the part of the story the audience would have no interest in. Stanton should have followed the example.

So the question after all this has my opinion changed about it? I guess it has. Now I see it as a good film, a fun film but a film filled with missed opportunities. So my revised rating as a stand alone film is this: I'm giving it *** stars. The good stuff outweighs the bad stuff, even if it still annoys. As an adaptation of A Princess of Mars, well that's another matter and I might save that for another review. Let's just say this: I like "Vanilla" Carter. After all how many "vanilla" heroes do you know that slaughters a whole city just to rescue a woman he's fallen in love with? Oh well until next time folks.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

John Carter Blu-Ray Extras Review


I'm sorry for the lateness of my thoughts on rewatching the film. Other things popped up so I thought I would split this into two reviews: today I'll cover the technical aspects and extras and then offer my revised opinions about the movie.

I purchased the two-disc Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack so I'll be working off that. Picture and sound wise I'll sum it up on one word: WOW! Even on my Playstation 3 Blu-Ray player the film was crisp and vibrant, even looking better than the abysmal 3D version I sat through back in March. While I still have problems with his take on the film, there is no faulting Andrew Stanton for his visual eye and the Blu-Ray's high def images make it crystal clear: From John Carter's stubble to the skin texture on the Tharks it comes across brilliantly and the people who handled the transfer should pat themselves on the back. Audio wise it also rocked the house but at the same time every quiet sound came across well. The action sequences exploded with ease while maintaining a nice balance between the sound effects, dialogue and Michael Giacchino's excellent score. So while I may not be able to give the specifics-if you want that check out the professional reviews I linked to below, it definitely will please fans on the audio/visual side.

With the extras, I felt this was a little bit like the movie itself: some brilliance but also some missed opportunities. Some of this I guess was to be expected since the film wasn't a big hit, it probably didn't make sense to Disney to provide a huge amount of bonus material. But what is here is a mixed bag. A note I haven't went through two of the extras and I'll post my thoughts after I do so here's how they pan out:

-Audio Commentary with Andrew Stanton and the producers. I haven't given a listen yet so I'll have to come back here. UPDATE 1: I've given the track a listen and well it's OK. Clearly recorded before the movie came out, Stanton and producers Jim Morris and Lindsey Collins offer mostly information about the filming, casting of the film and the effects problems. There isn't much diving into the story telling or why Stanton made certain decisions-no reason is offered for why he went with shape shifting for the Therns or any rationale for Moving Zodanga; in fact his only explanation is that it was the Pixar Braintrust who suggested adding the dead wife and kid to the film, so I guess depending on how you felt about it you can thank/blame them for it. So if you're looking for a nice chat it's here just don't expect much else.

-Disney Second Screen. This is the other extra I haven't done and it basically sounds like a pain in the rear: If you select it a brief video pops up with Stanton telling you how you have to download an app for your IPOD or Tablet or any other mobile device and how you can synch it up with the film and see additional features. Personally this sounds like a lot of trouble to go through and a little bit of a nuisance to have to focus on two screens. Some of the other reviews I read of this disc was also critical of this element so unless you want to go through the trouble I wouldn't waste the time. If someone does though, leave a comment and let us know if it's worth it.

-100 Years in the Making. This is a short-in many ways TOO short-featurette on Edgar Rice Burroughs and the attempts to bring John Carter of Mars to film. While Burroughs' life story and the saga of bringing Barsoom to life is a compelling one, this featurette just doesn't deliver. Burroughs' early years are breezed through, there is no mention of any of his other works (only a passing mention of Tarzan is made) and as far as looking at previous attempts to film John Carter we get only some of the Bob Clampett test footage and an interview with Jon Favreau who talks about his plans when he was attached to direct. The rest of this is mostly Stanton talking about his "love" of the material and yet why he had to make changes to it, something that has become hotly debated among ERB fans. All in all a disappointing bonus.

-Deleted Scenes with Audio Commentary with Andrew Stanton. Again I haven't listened to his track so I'll update later. Beyond that there is 10 deleted scenes included here and they are:
---Original Opening: Hall of Science. I would guess most of you have already seen this (if not scroll below) so I'll skip rehashing it. That said I felt it worked better than the opening Stanton ultimately came up with and didn't find Lynn Collins as stiff as reportedly the Pixar team did. It also has some more welcome humor from James Purefoy which could have been kept
---Ned at College. A brief scene of Ned receiving his uncle's telegram. Wisely cut to spare us anymore of Daryl Sabara's awful performance as ERB.
--Lucky SOB. A short extension of the scene where Ned is given his uncle's journal and a brief exchange with the lawyer and another character. So brief even I can't remember much about it.
---Journey to Thark City. Just as it says. Most of the scene is unfinished so you can see Willem Dafoe and Thomas Haden Church in their motion capture outfits. It also has a urine joke for those who felt the movie needed bathroom humor.
---Sola and Dejah Confrontation. I'm sure most of you remember those shots in the first trailer of a sword wielding Dejah and a Thark with a rifle that didn't show up in the final film. Well here it is. Not much to it, even though it shows more of Sola's compassion and Dejah's feistiness.
---Campfire. This scene shows John and company camping when strange sounds emerge with Sola warning them its white apes. Again unfinished effects and not much to it.
---Thoat Ride. Basically a repeat of the "stealing the horse" bit from the beginning of the film, only this time its Tars Tarkas' thoat. Most of this scene is storyboards until Tars catches John and then it's an alternate take on John discovering Tars is Sola's father. There is also a brief comical bit with Dejah and Woola and Sola bringing dinner.
---Dejah's Answer. Picking up after the arrival of the Xavarian to rescue Dejah from the Warhoons. Most of it was more Shape Shifter Shang dialogue and pretty much unmemorable.
---Matai's Walk. More Shape Shifting, this time into a jolly fat guy. I thought Stanton had worked out his fat people humor in WALL-E. I guess not.
---Groosmen Assassins. This scene is a bunch of additions to the wedding finale, the biggest being that some of the Zodangans now have those light up power bracelets that can zap people. Wisely cut since it was already a bad idea.
All in all not bad but I can see why Stanton cut them most of them from the final film. UPDATE 2: I also gave Stanton's comments on them a listen. Not much real info except that most of them were cut for pacing reasons or suggestions from others.

360 Degress of John Carter. Probably the best extra of the bunch as it follows the cast and crew during one day of filming-in this case on the film's finale. Among the highlights are seeing the extras bonding over working together and having some fun and games between takes; Lynn Collins going through the entire process to become Dejah Thoris-from makeup to hair to costuming; some good footage of Dafoe working on his stilts and discussing his reason for doing the film. It also doesn't show any evidence of a production in chaos as so many have speculated but instead a crew doing the best they can.

Barsoom Bloopers. Basically what it says. There is some shots of Dafoe stumbling around, Dominic West having cape troubles, extras getting in Mark Strong's way and Taylor Kitsch and Ms. Collins breaking out in dance. Not the greatest blooper reel ever but still good for a few chuckles.

Wrapping it up are trailers for some Disney All Access thing (something probably to do with websites and apps I'm sure), The Avengers (yep you still can't get away from it) and Tim Burton's Frankenweenie.

So there it is. I'll come back with my thoughts on seeing it again but for now take a trip to Barsoom-in high def if possible.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

RIP Ray Bradbury 1920-2012


A sad day for science fiction fans as author Ray Bradbury has passed away at the age of 91. Bradbury wrote such classics like The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451 and Something Wicked This Way Comes and was an influence on writers and sci-fi fans for decades and like so many of us was a huge ERB fan. I'm sure I'm not alone in saying I'll miss him. More information can be seen at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/06/ray-bradbury-dead-dies-at-91_n_1573849.html

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

John Carter Blu-Ray/DVD Hits Today


Yep for those who want to relive the adventure, the romance and the moping over caves of gold (sorry, a little cynicism crept in) John Carter hits stores in a variety of options: 4 Disc 3D Blu-Ray/Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital Copy edition, Blu-Ray/DVD edition and just plain old DVD. The major question is will the movie take off on disc and possibly convince the new people in charge at Disney to greenlight the sequel. We'll see. I'll post my thoughts on the disc and a reappraisal of the film some time this week.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Comic Review: Lord of the Jungle Annual 1


This weekend's comic review: Tarzan's New York Adventure! Just without Weissmuller.

Picking up sometime after his first meeting with Jane Porter and his decision to leave and let her have a happy life, Tarzan here has returned back to the jungle, where he finds an orphaned lion cub and what he hopes is a return to his past life. That gets shattered when he is captured by a hunter named Sammy Sykes and his men. Before too long Tarzan finds himself in New York being promoted in a wrestling match against "Starker the Superlative." But no one counts on the Ape-Man's skills and his desire to break free, leading to a frenzied escape, an alligator(!) and a bloody resolution.

I've so far liked Dynamite's Lord of the Jungle series, finding it a good take on Tarzan of the Apes, even with the changes-some that actually work. This stand alone annual though leaves me a little cold. It's not bad but I just didn't get involved with it as much. I guess that could be attributed to it's one shot status since it doesn't lead anywhere or have any real impact on the ongoing series. That said I did like the little bits of humor that writer Mark Rahner adds to the story-from Tarzan relating his recent heartbreak over losing Jane to a humorous homage to The Jungle Book. I also got a good chuckle out of seeing Tarzan fight an alligator since it seems virtually every Tarzan movie has that scene in it.

With this issue, artist Serio Fernandez Davila handles the art duties and it has a nice bright look to it. The characters are handled quite well-with Tarzan going from warm to animalistic in good fashion-and the action sequences are handled well. There is some blandness to the back grounds but it still looks good. Not the greatest Tarzan comic ever but it will do.

So there you go. For those looking for a good one shot story starring everyone's favorite loin cloth wearer it's an OK issue. I would recommend picking it up at the store and flip through it first though. If you like what you see go for it, if not then maybe save your money and get the regular series.

Friday, June 1, 2012

John Carter Deleted Opening Sequence


With the Blu-Ray/DVD release less than five days away, Entertainment Weekly has posted on their site the original opening scene from John Carter. This scene features Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) presenting her findings to a council but was removed after director Andrew Stanton showed it to the Pixar Braintrust, who found it confusing and Dejah stiff. You can see for yourself at http://insidemovies.ew.com/2012/05/31/john-carter-original-opening/ since EW doesn't allow embedding videos. UPDATE: The scene has now been posted on Youtube so you can check it out below and leave your thoughts on it.