Since I just re-posted my initial reaction on first seeing John Carter on Feb 28, maybe it’s a useful “bookend” to also post notes that I made during my most recent viewing, this past Friday night. It’s goes without saying that watching it this many times is a testament to the fact that I think very, very highly of the film, and have said so in fairly comprehensive fashion in my initial review of it, and elsewhere. These notes are mostly trivia, and the “complaints” are what I would term “quibbles” for the most part — but thought I would share them on a lazy Sunday morning as it is intriguing to me how this film in particular continues to reveal its mysteries on repeated viewings.
Things that I had on my mind as I was viewing it this time:
- Recent comments here from some of our contrarians challenging the notion that “it gets better” with repeated viewings. I thought I’d keep an eye out for things that benefit from repeated viewings, or things that I thought people might have missed on a first viewing.
- MCR’s oft repeated “Mopey John Carter” ….. is he really as mopey as MCR contends?
- Moments when what feels to me like an unfinished scene gets jerked onto a tangent. (This is something I’ve been meaning to do notes on — I feel there are a number of these where something gets lost because before the audience can absorb it, the story rushes off on another beat. This also goes to the issue of people getting more out of it on repeated viewings — on the theory that those “rushed beats” are better captured on repeat viewings.)
- Tracking the beats in the JC/Dejah relationship, most of which are silent.
- Anything that I noticed for the first time.
So … here is what I typed onto my laptop as I was watching it, only slightly cleaned up
“Lost in a sandstorm”……that just grates on me every time I hear it. Not loving the opening air battle sequence any more this time than I have previously.
On the shot introducing Helium — noticed for the first time the beautiful green gardens around the perimeter of the city. (Reminds me that one of my disappointments is that other than this one shot, we never get a full-on shot of Helium and I really miss that. There needs to be one spectacular shot of Helium that shows us more detail than this one and makes us feel what it is that Dejah is so passionate about — and allows us to contrast that with Zodanga, which we get to see a lot of in the movie. Oh well.)
Mope-meter: Carter’s not mopey in New York–cuts a dashing figure in his first moments on screen.
Mope-meter: Carter’s pretty mopey here. I don’t think this is what MCR is complaining about though.
In the cave …. wince at the reaction of the Thern when he sees John Carter. Not the greatest casting, that.
Mope-meter: Smiles when sees Tars weapons, welcomes the challenge. That’s a good John Carter moment.
First time I noticed how green the radium bullet explosions are
It’s really obvious to anyone who’s read the books that the Tharks are killing off their weak hatchlings, but I’ve talked to a number of viewers who don’t get this from the scene until they see it a second or third time. If I were the film-maker I’d feel it’s there, plain as day, but somehow it gets missed.
Chasing the hatchlings…..the implication of this (that they never know their parents) is there if you can stop to think about it, but I think most people watching it the first time don’t have time or inclination to do that. There is so much going on …. I would have tried to work it into the dialogue early in Carter’s exposure to the Tharks so that the impact of learning Sola is Tars’ daughter would be stronger later on. As it is, there is just that line later on “Tharks have no parents but the horde” that is kind of lost and comes too late.
This is one of the ones where I think something gets lost. John Carter dives in to save Woola (a noble act) and this is something that should cause the Tharks to look at him with some consternation since it’s not their way to be compassionate. It would help us understand the Tharks , and we would see the nobility of Carter’s act — but instead it jumps right into Carter killing a Thark with one blow.
The killing of the guy with one blow is another moment we need to absorb, as it is Carter learning about his strength (which we get to some degree from his jumping ability, but this is another aspect to it and it’s kind of lost) . It’s lost because as soon as Tars says ‘you killed him with one blow’, instead of giving us a moment to contemplate the implications of that, it goes immediately to: “Wait a minute, I understand you!” and we’re onto the language thing.
So there are a couple of things that kind of fly by the viewer the first time around — Carter’s “chivalry” toward Woola, and his special strength giving him near superpowers–hijacked by the language issue. Impact is greater in subsequent viewings.
Mope-meter: Carter is quite compassionate toward Sola, especially when he reaches out to her.
Mope-meter: Carter watches air battle with interest, no sullenness
When he sees her and says: “She’s a human” …. he acts immediately — decisively.
First time I noticed blood of Zodangans is blue…..
Mope-meter: Fighting smile before he engages Sab Than — good John Carter moment
I AM DOTAR SOJAT
First beat with Dejah as tharks running off and they look at each other. Intention is clearly to show there is something stirring between them even from this moment. Might be missed on a first viewing.
WAR IS A SHAMEFUL THING
Second beat in JC-Dejah relationship. Don’t like the editing here – wish there was a shot of JC looking at her first, before he speaks.
Another “hijacked moment” happens when Dejah says “you made a difference today, Virginia”. I wish she just said “you made a difference today” and gave him a chance to react to that. This is an important first step on his journey to engagement, but it’s lost because she says “Virginia” and he goes off on the “my name is not Virginia” tangent. On repeated viewings, you get the moment anyway, but not not he first viewing.
There is a whole lot to be covered in this scene (including the solar system — “I’m on Mars” scene which is a continuation)…..quite a lot of exposition but it works because of the subtext/relationship stuff.
Mope-meter: Not very mopey in this scene. (Interesting side note — in the storyboards, there was more dialogue in this scene where he speaks about the last battle he fought in on earth, 25,000 men were left dead on the field. Sorry that was lost as it helps explain his reluctance to engage.)
Mope-meter: In the temple he’s not grumpy at all — in fact this is JC at his most charming.
When Dejah mockingly says: “Earth”(he smiles)
When Dejah says: “Assuming that you can” he smiles again
When he says: Deal…he smiles again
When he says: Go on, shake it, a sign of trust …. smiles again….
This scene is another one that isn’t quite allowed to end. They are moving forward in their relationship but rather than let us really get that, it veers off with “Now all I have to do is get this medallion off of Tars Tarkas” and then Sarkoja arrives and we’re on to that.
Mope-meter: Not mopey at all.
This is what is intended as a big beat in the relationship, yet I’m not sure first timers are completely getting it. They’re like kids,and when Dejah sees JC checking her out, reflected in her sword, and he gets caught — very strong flirty moment. I
STILL PLAYING THE MADMAN?
Mope-meter: Not mopey at all.
Lots of flirty smiling and sizzle in the relationship.
ON THE THOATS
Why is he asleep on the thoat? I never get that choice.
Struck by the fact that in this scene it’s apparent Dejah is REALLY red, even without the Tattoos…..
I’m always a bit uncomfortable with this scene — it’s just not the way Virginia gentleman JC would act. And the when she falls, it’s such a lame little fall, and yet he does a 180, jumps down, becomes solicitous. I think it’s just an editing thing — would have been easy enough to show her falling in a CU, not in long shot, so we would believe it’s a more violent fall.
“This [medallion] is real, and so is my cave of gold”
Really wish there had been another ending to this scene. I don’t think we needed to have JC jump to his cave of gold in this moment, could have just let it end without that, more on their relationship and his realization about what she’s facing…..
SAB THAN ONE MAN FLYER
Really don’t like the one man flyers looking like snowmobiles…..
TRYING TO STOP SOLA AT MOUTH OF RIVER ISS
Mope-meter: Not mopey, quite compassionate toward Sola.
Shows a lot of humanity and engagement.
Sola’s expressiveness in this scene is really stunning—totally convincing. Some of the best motion capture CGI ever.
INSIDE THE GATES OF ISS
Really strikes me this time (and the last few times) that she totally knows how to make the medallion work right then, as they are looking at the hieroglyphs, when she says “it’s a series of sounds”. From that moment on she knows exactly how to make the medallion work, and that means that when she says “I’m trying to help you get back to Jasoom” a moment later it’s a flat-out lie. I’m not sure how I feel about this. On early viewings you don’t know this — you can’t be sure on a first viewing. But subsequently you do know, and it robs a bit from the kiss that follows because it’s clear that she’s really manipulating him, and it’s unclear how much of what she says is truly felt (“I know you John Carter….I know you’re the kind of man…etc”) and how much is her manipulation to get him to help Helium.
Mope-meter: Not mopey. When he says “Yes ma’am” , smiles…….
“And the ships that sail on the sea, you have seen them?) smiles…..
I wish there was one cluseup of one warhoon running on all fours
Her hand is so red on the cu of htier hands together — another indication of how “red” she is, regardless of tattoos.
I wish there was a CU of him just before he says “hold”….show him making the decision.
Dejah’s most beautiful moment is when she stands looking at Sab than. — the shot on the screen as he says “there’s never been trust between Zodanga and Helium”…. wow, stunner.
IN DEJAH’S CHAMBERS
“You can’t seriously be considering this?” — that line really clunks for me, feels way too modern day.
(At this point I got caught up in it and quit taking notes.)