What came out on DVD this past week? John Carter! Hub bought me the BluRay disc; he is so wonderful! Watched it once already, may have to pop it again soon. It helps that Taylor Kitsch runs around in essentially a loincloth for most of the movie.
What’s that? You didn’t see John Carter? The bad reviews and the fact that Disney took it in the shorts for a most expensive flop kept you from the theater? Why bother with a movie that caused the chairman of the Walt Disney film unit to resign? Well, don’t cry too hard for Disney, they’re raking it in with the Avengers, and will almost certainly continue to do so with the string of Marvel movies due to come out.
So why the disparity? Why was John Carter an epic fail (a $200 million loss!), when Avengers, also full of CGI effects and spectacular eye-candy is still going strong? The story?
On the surface they are really quite similar; fighting, escapism, and effects can be a winning trio, so where’s the disconnect? Essentially, they did to John Carter what they did to Starship Troopers (Another favorite of mine! More on ST in another post). They took an existing story, the basic elements of the plot, character and place names, and then wrote up an entirely new story. They even published a novelization of the movie! They did pair it with the original Edgar Rice Burroughs tale A Princess of Mars, though.
I was so excited when I saw the trailers for John Carter! Early in the year, Hub and I were both pumped for the cinematic embodiment of our childhood years. Hub loved comics like I loved the Barsoomian stories. Hub was not disappointed.
I was. I couldn’t help it. As we sat through John Carter in all it’s 3D Imax glory, Hub kept leaning over and whispering, “Is that in the book?” “No.” “Is that?” No.” “Is…” “No.” From purely a story standpoint, I think Avengers and John Carter are roughly equivalent. They’re not supposed to be deep, they’re supposed to be escapist entertainment, and they succeeded in that. But John Carter deviated from A Princess Of Mars by so great a degree that, if you were expecting the ERB version, the Disney script can only suffer from the comparison. It would take me another whole blog post to list the many, many ways that Disney altered, twisted and flat out re-wrote this story, start to finish. Instead, I will give you this sample.
In A Princess Of Mars, John Carter falls in love with Dejah Thoris; almost from the moment he lays eyes on her. He literally follows her from one end of the planet to the other, to rescue her. He kills a lot. Really a lot, like, thousands of people along the way, and would “gladly depopulate Barsoom” for her and her alone. He is emotionally pure, he’s never been in love, and his devotion to Dejah Thoris is his only motivation throughout the entire series. The Disney Dejah Thoris must tearfully beg a widowed, emotionally scarred and indifferent John Carter to fight for her, multiple times. She deceives him, more than once, to try to trick him into giving her aid, which he only reluctantly gives her because she is his ticket home. It changed the entire subtext of the story; it just couldn’t win me, no matter how much I enjoyed Taylor Kitsch in the garb of a Tharkian chieftain.
In my opinion, this is why the movie tanked. The story is not so much worse than the Avengers, a little less mature, perhaps, but for what it is, it’s certainly appropriate. It’s as much a visual treat as the superhero fight fest. Seriously, if you haven’t, you should see John Carter, just for the effects, the costumes and the creatures. But the many multitudes of us who read and loved the stories were disappointed to find it so warped out of recognition, and that spelled it’s doom in the theater.
I was on the fence (briefly, it’s true!) about getting the DVD. And then, I heard the best thing ever – a conspiracy about why John Carter was such an epic fail! No kidding, and by this time I was over my pet about the whole rewriting of the story, so I was really happy when Hub brought home the BluRay. Plus, I got to watch Taylor Kitsch again, a definite plus.
Richard C. Hoagland was the guest on Coast to Coast AM on April 2nd. If you’re not familiar with him, definitely check out his website, or Facebook page. Love him or hate him, he’s got some interesting ideas and theories. I really like him. Yes, I’ll admit to it! I’ve bought his books, and probably will do so again. Do I accept all his ideas? Um, no. But back to the subject: Mars, Barsoom and the fall of John Carter into movie history as a major flop.
During this episode of Coast to Coast, Mr. Hoagland expressed the idea that the reason John Carter was such a flop was that it details ideas about an ancient civilization on Mars/Barsoom that neatly coincide with his own.
A little background: Monuments Of Mars is about the famous Face on Mars, the Cydonia region, and a whole lot more. Mr. Hoagland discusses at length something he calls ‘hyperdimensional physics.’ I barely squeaked by in physics, so while I found his theories interesting, I’m not really qualified to say if they are accurate or not. I will say, he speaks very compellingly, and while I can’t regurgitate them, when I read them, they appeared to make sense. I remember thinking that they had a beautiful symmetry to them, at the micro and macro level.
So on April 2nd, Mr. Hoagland talked quite extensively about how it appeared that Edgar Rice Burroughs had extra insights into life on Mars. “How did he know that?” he asked. He suggested that the director of John Carter, Andrew Stanton, had deliberately put images and hidden messages into the film to reveal ‘the truth’ about the lost history of Mars/Barsoom and the civilization that once flourished there.
Now, I love the idea of a lost civilization on Mars. I’ll even say that I found Mr. Hoagland’s book on the subject to have more than enough data to justify taking a deeper look at our next nearest neighbor. If you remember, I posted a few links to articles about Mars in an earlier post , and more evidence keeps cropping up that the Red Planet is more complex and truly has the potential for life right now. We already know at one time it had an atmosphere and running water. Heck, photos show that it has seasonal running water now, not just in it’s distant past. In Monuments of Mars, Mr. Hoagland has photos, taken by rovers and satellites that show structures with a suspicious regularity. It’s enough to make me wonder, and want to know more.
Here’s where I break with Mr. Hoagland. During the show, he referenced episodes in the movie as if Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote them. ERB’s Dejah is little more than a pretty prop, captured and dragged across Barsoom for John Carter to chase and rescue. She is not a scientist, she did not discover the ‘ninth ray’ and the Therns do not travel planet to planet via hyperdimensional physics. Dejah Thoris is a princess, and a figurehead of her people and nothing more in the original story, she’s off-stage more than on. Richard C. speculated more than once that ERB had additional insight into life on Mars, then referenced a portion of the movie that was never in the ERB’s story. It’s kind of hard for the original author to have hidden knowledge if he never wrote about it in the first place!
However, he tangled this with Andrew Stanton’s take on the story, and that the director was also revealing parts of Mar’s hidden history. At one point, he makes the statement that the city of Helium is exactly what they see now, in ruins, on the surface of Mars, and this inclusion in the film was deliberate. Now, the powers that be do not want the general public to know about the secret history of solar system and hyperdimensional physics, so the film has been sabotaged to keep us in the dark. Hmmm, I have to say, that’s a bridge too far for me.
It’s a good movie, but I can’t buy the conspiracy angle, and I love a good conspiracy theory. I would however, really like to see better images, and even a manned mission to Mars to find out once and for all if at one time it harbored intelligent life. I consider that well within the realm of possibility, and in that sense, I do think Mr. Hoagland is on to something.
We have, here on our own little blue planet, records of craft that traveled the air, the sea and even between the planets, in the Vedas of ancient India. The Vimanas are described as craft, vehicles, chariots, even ‘aerial cities’ powered by wind, gas, or lighting that are described as ‘flying…to solar and stellar regions.’ Just mythology? Or historical record? Such references appear not once or twice, but over and over again, in multiple texts.
Again, we see indirect evidence of a technologically advanced civilization that has been nearly erased. What do you think? If ten or twelve thousand years ago, a race had powered flight, and not just interplanetary, but interstellar flight, do you think there might be ancient ruins on Mars? Wouldn’t you like to find out for sure?
While just like in John Carter, I’ll never see the twin, mile high spires that mark Greater and Lesser Helium. Thoats and Tharks remain where they belong, on the page and on the screen, but, I’d settle for a paved floor or stone wall on Mars. How about you? Do you think it possible a space-faring race once thrived on Earth and Mars? Or is it all just science fiction?
On the Vedas and Vimanas: http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/vimanas/esp_vimanas_2a.htm