Star Wars brought about a short-lived era during the late 70's and early 80's that featured a glut of Science Fiction adventure films that attempted to imitate the energy and spirit of George Lucas' vision. Everyone from Sean Connery to David Hasselhoff starred in films that studios hoped would capture the imaginations of audiences like Star Wars did. A few efforts did lead to some good entertainment (example: Battlestar Galactica), but that wasn't the norm.
When I saw previews for John Carter (of Mars), I was hoping that it would be successful, and infuse television and movie studios with the desire to start making more science fiction adventure movies. The critics and many loud-mouths of the Internet gleefully attacked the film based on the trailer alone, which is common these days, I realize. Normally that sort of thing doesn't hurt a film very much, people aren't stupid, most of us pan pre-emptive negativity.
The over-zealous critics and eager social media mavens of the Internet did do some damage in this case, however. John Carter suffered from ineffective advertising, and it's been released in the action movie dead season, too far before the summer blockbuster window. The guerrilla marketing was mismanaged as well. You can find it if you look for it, but that's not the point of guerrilla marketing, it should be everywhere, and people should be talking about it in a positive sense before the movie arrives. People should be excited, even if they're not entirely sure why yet. That didn't happen. The razzle dazzle fizzled in grand fashion, especially after one or more name changes.
I've seen the film, and I can tell you that it's a great adventure movie. The special effects are spectacular, the story is solid, and there are some interesting twists. The book will be better for some, but if you're looking to have a fun, adventure filled night out at the movies, it's a great flick. I really did feel like I was watching an old 1936 episode of Flash Gordon with new special effects, a more sophisticated story and slightly better acting. The high-flying-adventure feeling was there for long stretches.
I forgot it was in 3D by the end, but that's my average experience with 3D films. It's a good adventure romp with or without it.
It seems that, between Disney's poor advertising effort and misrepresenting this film, perhaps event trying to sell it to the wrong audience, John Carter (of Mars) won't even earn it's budget back. $250,000,000.00 is a lot to gamble on anything. I suppose John Carter may earn its cost back after Blu-Ray and PPV release, but studios don't consider that a success. A loss like that will most likely discourage other film makers and studios from investing in Science Fiction Adventure films.
That's the opposite of the effect Star Wars had in 1977, and there was a time when I would say the glut of SciFi B-Movies was a bad thing, but these days I find myself in the opposite camp. Special effects and movie making isn't as expensive as it once was. Serenity (Joss Whedon, based on the Firefly television series), cost $35,000,000.00 and, while it didn't have as many special effect shots as John Carter, it certainly was enjoyable. I would put it above John Carter or Avatar any day in terms of how much I enjoyed the movie.
In fact, I would rather see seven $35,000,000.00 Science Fiction Adventure movies in the place of one $250,000,000.00 any time. Some may say that the comparison between films like Serenity and Avatar is unfair, but I believe the days of depending on special effects selling a movie instead of story craft and great filmmaking are coming to a close.
Perhaps the failure of John Carter will lead studios to the same conclusion, and we'll see better writing combined with an appropriate budget for special effects. Someone get Joss Whedon on the phone, I hear he's finished making that Avenger movie.
[What did you think of John Carter?]