Friday, July 15, 2011

John Carter of Mars Trailer - initial reaction

A John Carter movie has been a long time coming, so for those with a love of the books, there’s an enormous store of expectation and a huge potential for disappointment. Equally, stick too closely to the original and you might make something so esoteric that the general public finds it impossible to connect with. Personally I’d place myself somewhere in the middle of this debate; liking the stories, but not so blinkered that I can’t see the sense of changes to suit cinematic and modern requirements. My problem with the new John Carter trailer is that with my “fan” hat on, I’m not sufficiently convinced this movie is going to do justice to the source material, but equally I fear it might have been sanitised to death for multiplex consumption. In other words, it just doesn’t look very special.

Of course this is 90 seconds or so of brief glimpses and I’m opening myself up to the entirely justifiable charge that I am jumping the gun. As more trailers emerge, we’re likely to see the movie from different perspectives. This is clearly trying hard not to please any one faction at the expense of alienating the larger cinema going public, but a safe and anodyne approach is a risky strategy and this first trailer really typifies this reluctance to be bold by a quite incredible reluctance to tell people a core truth about the story, specifically the elephant in the room, Mars. We’ve already seen a minor storm raging online due to the dropping of Mars from the title, but you might have expected the trailer to at the very least acknowledge the setting, yet it doesn’t, a howling omission made worse by the Utah backdrop which looks like, well… it looks like Utah. Mix in scenes set both on earth and whatever planet it is Carter goes to (because according to this trailer, it’s just standard fantasy planet X), and I think some viewers of this trailer will be hard pressed to figure out what scenes are on Earth, and what on X; ok, the chickens are a bit of a give-away, but you get my point.

The special effects are more than adequate, but there’s a real risk that a property already plundered over the years for ideas is going to look old hat. To that end, I was surprised some reference wasn’t made to the author and the historical significance of the title. Something along the lines of “From the author of Tarzan, Edgar Rice Burroughs, comes…” would have set the scene nicely. I’ve watched the trailer a dozen times now, and I’m finding more things to like, but a trailer shouldn’t make you work hard to like it, it should grab you by the eyeballs and squeeze from the off – this just doesn’t do that – it’s disjointed and smells of corporate indecision. I just hope that there’s a much better movie buried beneath the trailer.