John Carter Fans “Killing it” in Online Poll For Best Fantasy Film of 2012

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Hubpages has launched a poll for the best fantasy film of 2012. Here is the link. As of this writing John Carter has 92% of the votes. In second position is Snow White and the Huntsman at 4%. “Dark Shadows has 2%. At 0% we have Mirror Mirror, Brave, Wrath of the titans, and The Hobbit. Now, I realize how annoying this will be to some of my contrarian pals out there, but hear me out. There is no way that John Carter will sustain that lead if that poll gets out there and is really answered by huge numbers of people, and who knows, it may not even be able to win.

But doesn’t this provide some sort of context regarding the relative state of “fandom” for the different movies. I mean the information that such a poll is happening is out there for anyone to find. Fans all have the ability to create google searches for their movies so that when their movie is written about anywhere on the net, they can read the article.

Why is it, then, that flop of the century John Carter is light years ahead of everyone else in fan awareness and fan mobilization? Why aren’t there Brave fans jumping on this? Why are there no Hobbit fans jumping on this (and we all know there have to be tons of Hobbit fans out there, there can be no denying that)?

Is there any way to take evidence like this and draw any conclusions about the depth to which John Carter has motivated a reasonable nucleus of people?

Let me formulate the contrarian responses first, just so it doesn’t’ seem like I’m not aware.

“John Carter has a few loud fanatics who are like a gestapo patrolling the internet while other movie fans aren’t so insecure as to have to be doing this.”

Okay, you can say that. But fans are, by the etymology of the very word “fan” …. trending toward being “fanatic” or they wouldn’t be fans, they would just be observers.

Is it possible that the depth of this fan reaction to the movie parallels and is in some way a manifestation of the depth of the fan react to ERB himself, i.e. the books? In other words, those of us who discovered the books became lifetime fans of ERB, and for many of us it was a special relationship that topped our relationship to other authors we liked. For me, for example, I enjoyed a lot of sci-fi and fantasy — Heinlein, Asimov, Clark, all those greats from the 50’s and 60’s, and in the pulp adventure field I read and sort of liked H Rider Haggard, Jules Vern, Doc Savage, Otis Adelbert Kline. But Burroughs blew every one of these away. If I were doing it on a scale of 1-100, the others were all in the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, and ERB was a 90.

Those who object to Stanton’s interpretation do so with a passion that, I would say, belies the fact that their own passion for Burroughs is something like mine was. I get that.

But what you make of the way this movie is getting more than it’s share of people who just LOVE LOVE LOVE it the way a lot of us LOVE LOVE LOVE our ERB. Is that ERB shining through Stanton? Or, alternatively, is that just Stanton’s own Wall-E/Nemo vision? I think a lot of it is ERB’s magic for world creation shining through.

And Oh Contrarians, why is all this sooooooo annoying to you? That’s what fans are — they get excited, they get behind their team or their movie or their star.

My point would be that most movies generate a wide but mild fan base, and this poll, if the trends continue even remotely like they are, supports that notion. Fans are out there for these other movies but they are not nearly as deeply motivated as the JC fans, who have a cause, who feel, I guess, that an injustice has occurred.

Anyway, I can’t wait to get clobbered on this one.

61 comments

  • “And yet at least in the original trilogy there was no scientific explanation. You keep bringing up the medallion as a scientific explanation for Carter’s ability to travel to Mars, yet the Force does not have one. I mean why then can Luke use the Force and not Han Solo? Or Chewbacca? The explanation offered has more grounding in real science than astral projection does in the books.”

    Let me correc that: “The explanation offered has less grounding in real science than astral projection.” There I’ve proven I’m not perfect. I can make mistakes. How about you Amster?

  • I still can’t believe you can’t let this go Amster.

    “If you have no problem with deviating from the source material in principal, then why would you assume that fans of the film couldn’t be fans of ERB as well?”

    Maybe because, like you, they seem to spend all their time defending Andrew Stanton and this movie. There has been little defense from most of them about ERB, no admitting-at least for most of them-what didn’t work in this film, yet they have no problem listing ERB’s faults as a storyteller. What about you Amster? Was their any faults in this movie in your eyes?

    “Welcome to WHAT club? The “I have no problem with altering the source material in principal what part of that do you not understand but by the way I’m pissed that they altered my beloved source material and I hope you feel just as bad about it as I do” club?”

    No the Disappointment Club. You said I was contradicting myself for liking Solomon Kane, despite it’s many changes and not liking John Carter for the same thing I assumed that you must have been disappointed with how Solomon Kane turned out and that you must think-as I am supposed to do according to you-that I should hate Kane as much. So did you hate Kane?

    “What an audience does need is for things to makes sense, otherwise the suspension of disbelief is lost. It’s a basic rule of storytelling.

    “They didn’t mind how the Force worked…”

    It’s an energy field that exists in all living things that surrounds us and penetrates us and binds the galaxy together. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to it. It partially controls your actions, but it also obeys your commands. It can have a strong influence on the weak minded. Don’t underestimate it”

    And yet at least in the original trilogy there was no scientific explanation. You keep bringing up the medallion as a scientific explanation for Carter’s ability to travel to Mars, yet the Force does not have one. I mean why then can Luke use the Force and not Han Solo? Or Chewbacca? The explanation offered has more grounding in real science than astral projection does in the books.

    “It was the Ark that held the Ten Commandments. It’s in the Bible. And for the small minority not already familiar with the idea of the Old Testament God putting the smite down on the forces of evil, it was explained early in the film in the Library scene.”

    And yet where does it say faces melt off? God may smite the forces of evil, but does it include having faces melt and heads explode?

    “He’s an alien from another planet. It was explained in the first 5 minutes.”

    That’s the defense? He’s an alien so he has strange powers? I mean Superman’s powers are explained pretty clearly-the yellow sun of our galaxy gives him his strength and all the rest. There has to be more there than just ET’s an alien.

    ““ …how one ring can rule them all or control the fates of men…”

    It was created in the Fires of Mordor by the Dark Lord Sauron. It was explained in the first 5 minutes.”

    No that’s explaining how it was created. How does it control men? How is one ring going to bring about the end of Middle-Earth. Again there is no logical explanation for its supposed abilities.

    ““… or what that Star Baby was at the end of 2001.”

    Aliens were tampering with human evolution. It was explained in the opening sequence.”

    And were back to the aliens again. Why then were they tampering? What was their goal? I guess that explains why you had no problems with the Therns since that seems to be the only real explanation Stanton gave for them. Even if left them completely useless ultimately and made them a weak threat in the end.

    “No, actually I do like it when you cite examples that contradict your own arguments. Now tell me again how someone can instantly travel to Mars and get a new body by just looking at it and holding their hands up in the air.”

    Why don’t you tell me. Since what you really like is to make me look like an idiot with your superior knowledge you must have a theory. Maybe its because I don’t have a problem with the unknown unlike you. Or that possibly it was a leap of faith on Carter and ERB’s part. That it was the idea of death and rebirth as Dotar has explained a few times. I have my theory-it is a leap combining astral projection and being separated from the body-that I don’t have a problem with it since that’s my conclusion. Not yours and you don’t have to agree with it, just as I don’t have to agree with your condition that everything needs to be explained just because you think the audience needs to be spoon fed an explanation.

  • So you’re saying that you are just fine with Stanton altering the source material in principle, but that you were just unhappy with the film on its own merits?

    MCR: “Well give the man a cigar. Yes in principle if the changes need to be made then fine. But in this case the changes didn’t help and resulted in a movie that I wasn’t happy with. How hard is that for you to understand? And my earlier statements? I’ve admitted that on its own merits there is some stuff that works but overall it isn’t a masterpiece. I don’t know how many times or different ways to say that.”

    It’s not hard at all for me to understand. I do, however, have a hard time reconciling it with this:

    “The size of the fan base had nothing to do with how Andrew Stanton made John Carter. It’s become pretty clear he was going to do whatever without thinking about the fans. Now I know he claimed that he made his decisions with the freedom of not having a Harry Potter fan base breathing down his neck but that is no excuse for treating the material the way he did. There should have been respect for the source material and its original author, something Jackson did have-even with his changes-and Stanton didn’t.”

    …or this…

    “Oh come on! (Contrarian statement coming!) Really? When has the fans of this movie ever had any interest in ERB’s novels? If they did they wouldn’t be touting it as being “based” on his books. Now if they want to try to save this franchise then fine. But don’t tie this in to ERB.”

    If you have no problem with deviating from the source material in principal, then why would you assume that fans of the film couldn’t be fans of ERB as well?

    …or this…

    “Oh what happened? Did they trash your beloved Robert E. Howard? Welcome to the club buddy. How does it feel?”

    Welcome to WHAT club? The “I have no problem with altering the source material in principal what part of that do you not understand but by the way I’m pissed that they altered my beloved source material and I hope you feel just as bad about it as I do” club?

    “What about astral projection? OK fine here it is: I have more faith in the audience than apparently you do. I feel that an audience can figure things out for themselves and that sometimes they love a mystery. They don’t need to have things spelled out for them all the time.”

    What an audience does need is for things to makes sense, otherwise the suspension of disbelief is lost. It’s a basic rule of storytelling.

    “They didn’t mind how the Force worked…”

    It’s an energy field that exists in all living things that surrounds us and penetrates us and binds the galaxy together. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to it. It partially controls your actions, but it also obeys your commands. It can have a strong influence on the weak minded. Don’t underestimate it.

    “…why the Ark of the Convenant melted those Nazis faces off…”

    It was the Ark that held the Ten Commandments. It’s in the Bible. And for the small minority not already familiar with the idea of the Old Testament God putting the smite down on the forces of evil, it was explained early in the film in the Library scene.

    “… how ET can heal someone with a simple touch of his finger…”

    He’s an alien from another planet. It was explained in the first 5 minutes.

    “ …how one ring can rule them all or control the fates of men…”

    It was created in the Fires of Mordor by the Dark Lord Sauron. It was explained in the first 5 minutes.

    “… or what that Star Baby was at the end of 2001.”

    Aliens were tampering with human evolution. It was explained in the opening sequence.

    “It opened up the idea and discussion. Clearly you don’t like that if you’re it all needs to be explained rationale is any indication.”

    No, actually I do like it when you cite examples that contradict your own arguments. Now tell me again how someone can instantly travel to Mars and get a new body by just looking at it and holding their hands up in the air.

  • “the LOTR movies had a truly great, top notch marketing campaign”

    Yep. Articles linked below.

    “difference between the two story concepts – Lord of the Rings was a darker, more serious work, even though it had hobbits and wizards – truly about Good vs Evil… John Carter of Mars is great fun… written at the level of adolescent boys.”

    While LOTR has a much more detailed history and a more mythic style, the imaginative quality of the worlds is rougly equal. Barsoom is as big and beautiful and varied as Middle-earth, even if the tones of the two series are quite different. If it was LOTR’s more serious, dramatic tone that allowed it to be turned into more substantial epic films, then a John Carter series that would aspire to achieve a similar effect just needs more meat put on its bones. Barsoom has the stature to satisfy film audiences on the level of LOTR, it just needs to be taken to the gym to build its muscles to their full potential. This will mean more changes than some ERB fans will be happy with, but it will ultimately allow the stories and characters to rise to a more substantial dramatic level worthy of ERB’s richly imagined world. I have always felt that ERB’s world outstripped his plots and characters, and a LOTR-style film series would be an interesting opportunity to bring it all up to the same plane.

    Now, people have issues with Stanton’s changes, and I see that mainly as a result of his casual “toolbox” approach to the strengths of the books. The narrative of the novels was considered as pieces to be re-shuffled in a largely re-imagined plot. If Stanton was too casual and liberal in his approach, I would be fascinated to see the results of a Barsoom adaptation that was “too serious” and explored what it would look like to err in the opposite direction as Stanton, if you catch my meaning. A LOTR “take” on Barsoom would have to diverge from the books in that direction to some degree.

    “The two worlds are very rich indeed.”

    I think of them as siblings – a lot of similar DNA, but unique as well.

    “Stanton… does a commendable job of presenting the rich world of Barsoom. There are many subtle details from the books in the movie.”

    And those are great! My first viewing of the film left me with a goofy grin from start to finish. While the adventure tone was certainly there, at the same time the more deeply resonant and dramatic aspects of Barsoom were not there. Stanton delivered on his “Indiana Jones on Mars” promise, but there is another Barsoom film that would be closer to “Braveheart on Mars” or “Lawrence of Arabia on Mars” or “Lord of the Rings on Mars”.

    “The chance of expansion in sequels, or of any sequels at all, has been seriously damaged by Disney. Dumb.”

    With a lot of the traditional Hollywood players, this is no doubt true. But a few key individuals who are somewhat outside the system and know a goldmine cinematic world when the see one, and who recognize the on-fire John Carter fanbase that is spreading, might just decide to surprise us, and sooner than the conventional wisdom might dictate.

    “the movie could have followed the book more closely, but that’s done now, and I do enjoy the movie.”

    For all the commentary, the movie is a thoroughly enjoyable experience. It could be done differently, but that doesn’t change the fact that DJC is a lot of fun.

    “…SyFy channel. Maybe down the road, with more interest in the JCM series, a similar project could be done that’s more true to ERB’s Barsoom stories.”

    That approach could work, but there is still room in the world, however jaded and cynical and business-minded it may be, for a Barsoom feature film series that would be the biggest of the big. The best way I can describe it would be as “Star Wars meets Lord of the Rings”.

    “It might be productive to learn how the marketing campaign for the LOTR movies was developed vs the one for JCM. Was the LOTR campaign so good because of Peter Jackson? And how did Jackson get his project to be so ambitious and rich (in terms of budget and scope)?”

    I found two articles on that topic. Both are excellent reads.

    http://shubhhub.blogspot.com/2008/04/movie-marketing-review-lord-of-rings.html

    http://www.nytimes.com/2001/01/11/movies/movie-marketing-wizardry-lord-rings-trilogy-taps-internet-build-excitement.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

    In summary, LOTR made full use of the internet, put the Tolkien fans first while making specific efforts to target all audience groups, and went no-holds-barred with early “making of” goodies. Their marketing philosophy was to please the pre-existing fans and to make new converts, proceeding with the confidence that the series would be the next Star Wars.

    DJC, on the other hand, made virtually no effort to reach out to ERB fans and even downplayed ERB (the only mention of him was a few Buzzfeed articles and the small print at the end of trailers). There was no sense of inviting the masses into an alluring inner circle – or of even pretending to do so. And the result was the widespread public perception that it was a bland and generic sci-fi film. The marketing built absolutely zero mystique around the source material, and in fact seemed almost embarrassed to have to associate the film with ERB. In contrast, the different, pro-ERB approach taken in the johncarterfiles fan trailers created more excitement for the film than anything Disney did.

    Disney also played a defensive game in approaching the four quadrants, rather than being assertive and confident. The original title was “A Princess of Mars”, which Stanton/Disney thought would alienate men. The second title was “John Carter of Mars”, which Disney thought would alienate women. That’s why we ended up with the bland “John Carter”. In playing defensively with those two groups, they failed to really appeal to either. And Disney made no effort to capitalize off of the multi-generational appeal of the Barsoom series, and how they have been passed down from father to son for three or four generations already. That was something that the LOTR marketing specifically leveraged.

    Andrew Stanton’s strict “no-spoilers” policy undercut any chance of building excitement via early release of “making of” goodies or “early exclusives”. There were John Carter set reports from 2010 that were kept in a drawer for almost TWO YEARS, when they could have been doled out to build some momentum. There was a flood of such articles in the month or two leading up to the film, but by that time, the out-of-control-bloated-budget-production narrative had already sunk in and the critics were waiting with fork and knife. There were difficulties with M.T. Carney and Richard Ross, but that is no excuse for an organization like Disney falling asleep at the wheel of a $250m investment.

    The most disappointing aspect of DJC’s marketing, and the biggest missed opportunity, was the almost complete lack of confidence in the source material. In contrast, the LOTR team knew that Tolkien had his fans, but that he wasn’t massively mainstream, and they chose to proceed with the assertive attitude that if people weren’t already fans of the books, the movies would make them fans. DJC didn’t have that confidence at all. People have been drawn to the Barsoom books as a result of the film, but largely in spite of its marketing.

    After the stellar success of LOTR on so many levels – creatively, marketing, etc. – and the model that it provides, it surprises me that so many new films stumble and leave out obvious assets in their marketing. In a way, LOTR showed us how to do it right. Why aren’t more marketing campaigns taking those cues? True, not everyone has LOTR quality source material to work with, but shouldn’t those other campaigns show at least as much confidence in their source material, whatever it may be? Ignoring classic source material only leaves assets on the table. Audiences want to be swept up in a publicity narrative and feel that they are part of a cultural revelation, at least as much as they want to be swept up in the film itself.

  • It might be productive to learn how the marketing campaign for the LOTR movies was developed vs the one for JCM. Was the LOTR campaign so good because of Peter Jackson? And how did Jackson get his project to be so ambitious and rich (in terms of budget and scope)?

  • Well, some of my comments could have been more precisely stated, but no worries. I do think the movie could have followed the book more closely, but that’s done now, and I do enjoy the movie. How about this – in the case of Frank Herbert’s Dune, Lynch’s movie was weird and ponderous, even grotesque (I still enjoyed it), and was criticised for many reasons. But many years later, a pretty good, long treatment of Dune and also Children of Dune was produced for the SyFy channel. Maybe down the road, with more interest in the JCM series, a similar project could be done that’s more true to ERB’s Barsoom stories. If that ever does happen, Stanton will get the credit for breaking ground.

  • Abraham, yes to all that. One thing your post reminded of that you didn’t mention – the LOTR movies had a truly great, top notch marketing campaign. Another thing that is a difference between the two story concepts – Lord of the Rings was a darker, more serious work, even though it had hobbits and wizards – truly about Good vs Evil. Because of the mvoies, I re-read the books quite a few years ago, and also the Silmarillion – very dark, even depressing. John Carter of Mars is great fun and I enjoy re-reading the stories, but I always considered that it was written at the level of adolescent boys. Of course, most adults today can barely read at that level. The two worlds are very rich indeed. Stanton does deserve great credit for making the film. He does a commendable job of presenting the rich world of Barsoom. There are many subtle details from the books in the movie. The drink Soja gives to John Carter to allow him to hear telepathically – shortcut to that ability rather than a lengthy explanation. Tars Tarkas applied the “miraculous salve of Barsoom” to JC’s rear. They made the movie they made. I’d like to see sequels because I think they can improve on what they’ve done. The chance of expansion in sequels, or of any sequelsn at all, has been seriously damaged by Disney. Dumb.

  • TNTwister wrote:
    “I’m serious, but this was never going to be made as rich and complex as Peter Jackson did with LOTR. (But he left out the Cleansing of the Shire – not a good move.) The Barsoom stories just do not have the large fan base that the LOTR books had.”

    I’ll try not to fly off the handle here but I don’t see the connection. What does the size of the fan base have to do with making John Carter “rich and complex” as The Lord of the Rings? How many fans of Shakespeare are there out there really? It’s not like he’s on top of the best seller lists, yet you do not here people dismiss his work. The size of the fan base had nothing to do with how Andrew Stanton made John Carter. It’s become pretty clear he was going to do whatever without thinking about the fans. Now I know he claimed that he made his decisions with the freedom of not having a Harry Potter fan base breathing down his neck but that is no excuse for treating the material the way he did. There should have been respect for the source material and its original author, something Jackson did have-even with his changes-and Stanton didn’t.

    Also the world of Barsoom is as rich and complex as Middle-Earth. Burroughs established a fully realized world just as much as Tolkien did that deserves to be brought to the screen in the same way as Lord of the Rings and hopefully The Hobbit. It just wasn’t with this movie.

  • “Yes, I wish the movie had been at least an hour longer, too.”

    Totally! Barsoom is a big world, and the settings, characters and story could have used more room to breathe. DJC was an action-adventure interpretation of the source material, and thus was fast-paced. A different way to portray the world would be to make the film a sweeping epic, more of a dramatic war film but still with plenty of adventure. That would likely run at least three hours.

    “this was never going to be made as rich and complex as Peter Jackson did with LOTR… The Barsoom stories just do not have the large fan base that the LOTR books had.”

    I’ve been hoping for a Barsoom film since the mid nineties (not nearly as many years as some ERB fans). When December of 2001 rolled around and I went to see Fellowship of the Ring, knowing next to nothing about Tolkien, the experience was eye-opening to say the least. Finally a film had reached the level that Barsoom occupied in my mind. It was immensely gratifying to learn that a project like that could be done and that the Barsoom that had been running through my imagination might someday get the same excellent treatment. (I was also slightly annoyed that LOTR had gotten there first! I wanted Barsoom to be the first truly mind-blowing fantasy film!) 🙂

    The LOTR books certainly had their fans going into Jackson’s films, and that gave the films a boost, but it was really those stories’ ability to “go mainstream” in a big way via excellent film adaptations that lifted them to the mega-popular status that they currently enjoy. It wasn’t the pre-existing LOTR fans alone that brought success to the franchise – it was the fact that the films were so well done and so many people BECAME fans. Word of mouth was huge, critical reception was strong, and the series became a worldwide cultural phenomenon.

    And LOTR did not accomplish that by following any paint-by-numbers method for attracting the broadest possible audiences. Instead, Jackson and company approached it as fans and made the “truest” and most respectful Middle-earth adaptation that they knew how. Because they made it with the right heart and with excellence, it had an appeal that touched many people who don’t otherwise identify themselves as fans of fantasy stories.

    Because of the success of LOTR, many more people now know what inspired the bulk of the fantasy genre for the last fifty years. ERB’s position among science-fiction and science-fantasy writers is much the same as Tolkien’s position among fantasy writers. The doors of recognition have certainly begun to creak open for ERB, but because of the troubles that have afflicted DJC, the hero shot of John Carter entering the scene in a big way has yet to play out.

    While there are not the legions of fans for ERB as there are for Tolkien, the ERB ranks are growing. With that in mind, the “LOTR treatment” could be granted in a reboot in the near future by a few key decision-making individuals who see the potential of the source material and will trust a story well told to assert itself at the box office after proper marketing. Just as the Tolkien fanbase exploded after the epic LOTR films, the currently growing John Carter fanbase would explode if a trilogy of LOTR-level epics about Barsoom were released. But the deciding bulk of box office support would still come from the mainstream filmgoers who just love a great movie – the audiences that get caught up in vivid characters, engaging stories and beautiful locales no matter the film’s genre. Those are the people that made LOTR a success, much moreso than the Tolkien diehards. The diehards helped set the tone of the film’s reception, but it was the previously uninitiated audiences that ultimately made the difference.

    If there is ever a sweeping epic film rendition of Barsoom, whoever is involved in that project should remember that it was Andrew Stanton who blazed the trail and re-kindled popular interest in ERB’s world. No matter what opinions we may have about his choices in his adaptation, and whether or not there is a sequel or a reboot, he deserves our thanks for bringing Barsoom to millions of people who had never experienced it before.

  • Crustbucket wrote:

    When I was watching the movie I recollect thinking , “Why does she like this guy?”
    Is it because he can leap real high?
    Is it because she has a “thing” for Ambercrombie catalog models with big nipples?
    Is it because she is sick of men fawning over her and is aroused by a man that
    treats her like crap?

    Awww…first of all he leaps real high and saves her from death, that’s a pretty good start…….

    Then he compromises his (“I don’t fight for anyone”) principles in order to be able to protect (“I am Dotar Sojat”)…….(kinda grumpy he was)

    Then he’s quite charming and not grumpy inside the temple when they have their “Sign of trust” scene — one that’s seriously got some chemistry going on…..

    Then they are on the road and eyeballing’ each other at the watering hole and he’s grinning and she’s grinning

    I could go on. The thing is, I don’t like the “get me back to my cave of gold” thing at all, I wish so much that he hadn’t gone there — and what’s driving that is the fact that it’s technology macguffin that brings him to Mars, and so he immediately thinks “it can take me back”, and I just think Burroughs approach was al to better — depositng him naked in a new world with no way home and therefore no thought of going to eacth. I really loved that about ERB’s approach, and I missed it in the movie.

    But you guys are too tough on ol’ JC in the movie. He’s not as grumpy as you say, — he’s your “modern” hero who thinks he wants one thing but really wants/needs something else and gradually comes to realize what the something else is over the course of the movie……

  • Yes, I wish the movie had been at least an hour longer, too. I’m serious, but this was never going to be made as rich and complex as Peter Jackson did with LOTR. (But he left out the Cleansing of the Shire – not a good move.) The Barsoom stories just do not have the large fan base that the LOTR books had.

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