The Corner

Never Get Involved in a Land War on Mars

So, John Carter is shaping up to be the Ishtar of the 2010s, the Gates of Heaven of the Obama years. Disney is taking a $200 million bath on a movie that cost nearly a third of a billion dollars to make. Who would ever green-light such an absurd amount of money for a project whose original fans were driving Model T’s and listening to the organ while watching the latest moving picture from the Lumiere brothers?

I haven’t seen the movie, which makes me the perfect person to pan it, because it’s people like me who are adding to that $200 million write-down (the fact that I haven’t seen a movie in theaters since Jerry Maguire has no bearing on my objectivity). The ads were awful, and it seemed a misguided attempt to go retro for retro’s sake. Unearth long-lost cultural artifact, polish him up, and CGI him all the way to the bank. 

But there has to be a point to retro. Mad Men has a point, so did Miller’s CrossingThe Hat Squad didn’t. It’s all in the story. And if Edgar Rice Burroughs’ creation was a hit when we thought little green men inhabited Mars, we’re all a bit too blase in our planetary science knowledge to accept the premise in the 2010s. Of course, I don’t know how the movie deals with the whole Mars angle. But that’s the point, I never will, and Disney’s accountants will be hard at work filling in the massive crater their creative staff produced. Maybe there’s an idea: An asteroid threatens Earth, and John Carter has to deflect . . .

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