John Carter (formerly of Mars)

I saw this last week, but forgot to mention it. It’s not as bad as you’d think from the IshtarHeaven’s Gate comparisons. All of the woes mentioned in the press are due to its lame loss-of-nerve marketing campaign (witness the crucial loss of “of Mars” from the title, after the failure of Disney’s Mars Needs Moms last year).

It’s never going to be as successful as Avatar, but it’ll be the sort of thing people rent or download with equal enjoyment. At its worst, it’s half an hour too long and there’s far too much arsing about in the Martian desert*. At its best there’s lots of lovely production design – if the Star Wars prequels had been this good, people would still love George Lucas.

Admittedly, due to the vintage and influence of the story it’s in a slightly awkward position – hard-to follow, but also over-familiar. The framing story is lots of fun – See! Edgar Rice Burroughs, befuddled! Yes, it’s very silly, but it’s nice to see a sci-fi film that isn’t a superhero property, play-it-safe sequel, or handjob for the US military.

*The same can be said of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline.

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