“Ishtar Lands On Mars”

This is a cruel headline at the Gray Lady.

I haven’t seen the movie (we were actually thinking about seeing it this weekend, but a combination of Patricia being under the weather and sticker shock at the prices for the 3D/Imax kept us away for now. But nowhere in the article does it really say, or at least support the notion, that it’s a bad movie (a Ishtar undeniably was, in addition to being a box-office flop) — it’s a business failure in that they spent too much in making it. The criticism that it “…was a bewildering mash-up, starting during the Civil War and moving to the Old West before leaping to a planet called Barsoom (Mars), home to tusked, four-armed creatures called Tharks,” sounds just like the book to me, which is an SF classic and the inspiration for much of the great SF in the twentieth century (including Star Wars, to the degree that it’s more than space opera). It seems as though perhaps the critics aren’t capable of handling complex story lines. Certainly, John Miller thinks differently.

Anyway, I hope that it does make its money back — I’d like to see it have sequels.

Oh, and speaking of SF, Sarah Hoyt has a review of (occasional commenter) Rick Locke’s new book, which looks like a good read.

[Late Sunday evening update]

Bruce Webster has a more extensive, mixed review.

26 thoughts on ““Ishtar Lands On Mars””

  1. I saw it an enjoyed it quite a bit.  It is a mashup and Dejah Thoris is lacking somewhat, but the green martians are great and the art direction is top notch. John Carter himself is so much better than one could have hoped for.

    It was filmed in 2D and the director was not all that keen on the 3D conversion, so I would suggest saving your money and seeing it in the format it was orinially filmed in.

  2. Go see it. It’s entertainment and a worthy adaptation of a book that the NYT reviewers have never read, nor would they get if they could be bothered to. I also hope it pays for itself. Star Wars owes a BUNCH to this story. I saw it in 3d (not my usual choice). I also expect 2d will be just fine for this flick.

  3. I’m afraid that it’ll be on various disk formats within a month. Once Hollywood has decided something’s a crapper – whether or not it deserves the label – it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. Forget sequels, Rand.

    I didn’t have a chance to see it this weekend, was hoping to next week, but it may be sliced from a lot of theaters even by then. Somebody was telling me that “Act of Valor” lasted only 10 days in his area, and that did better on opening weekend.

  4. I enjoyed it more than any movie I’ve seen in a long time and the audience I was in seemed to like it as well. I was surprised to come home and read all the bad notices.

  5. I haven’t seen John Carter yet, but a couple of pals from my SF book club loved it. I plan on going next couple of days…and Ric Locke’s Temporary Duty is a classic, GO OUT, BUY AND READ!!!

  6. Haven’t seen it yet, but my God was it terribly marketed. Losing the “of Mars” in the title, not doing a hard sell at Comic-Con, not casting actors who can actually open movies, poor editing the trailers to give no indication of the character’s arc or setting, a poor Super Bowl spot, and on and on.

    My biggest issues is that the prod design looks so blah. This is Mars! At least give us red skies and red sands. At the very least, I’d think a more “space-y” prod design may have helped offset losing the “of Mars” and gotten the geek chattering classes more excited.

    1. Losing the “of Mars” in the title

      They didn’t lose it. It’s in the end title. There’s a good reason why it’s not in the opening titles. I won’t say more, because that would spoil a major part of the film, but there’s a very good, completely logical reason why the title changes at the end of the film. The first part of the film really is “John Carter.” The last part is “John Carter of Mars.”

    2. not doing a hard sell at Comic-Con

      Comic-Con? Seriously?

      Not worth marketing to.

      (And more importantly, thanks to the internet, the geek crowd already knew about it, but they’re not sufficient to make it profitable.)

      1. Re: Comic-Con

        Um, what year do you think this is? CC is the premier pop-culture convention for modern genre movies and a great platform for to introduce and reintroduce properties to the very chattering classes that can create buzz. Sure, movies showcased there don’t always deliver the audience, but it was a mistake to ignore it in favor of their in-house Disney con that mainly caters to industry suits.

        Re: The Title

        Having the “of Mars” at the end is a symptom of the problem, not a correction.

        For more on this mis-marketing, roll-out, tie-ins, and all that stuff, check out this piece.


  7. “John Carter” commits the cardinal sin (in contemporary cinema) of not being a non-stop car chase. If you have the attention span to deal with that, it’s a fine film.

  8. G’day,

    I liked it a lot but I grew up on Burroughs. However my wife who never heard of JC enjoyed it too. The worse thing about the movie was the terrible Disney marketing. Most of the trailers gave you no idea whats it about. ERB wrote an interplanetary action adventure romance which is exactly what you get. Rand take Patricia to it , I’m sure she will enjoy it.



  9. It made $70 million overseas, so the total is $100 million. It will be exceptionally hard to make a profit with $250 million in production costs though. If the movie holds up, expect sequels, but they will be made for less.

  10. If it had not been produced by Disney, they could have gone for an all out Frazetta look, and it would have made tons of money.

  11. Yes, a good movie that managed to retain the flavor of the original, even if it changed up some of the details. Most of those changes were fine, but I do think they could have left out the whole bit with the cavalry officers. Slowed down the beginning and didn’t really add much to the story.

    And yes — it was marketed very poorly.

  12. I liked it, too. A lot of people are writing today about how they expected it to be bad, but were surprised they liked it, like at Powerline. Maybe it’ll be a sleeper. Like, start to get bigger next weekend instead of getting smaller like movies usually do.

  13. starting during the Civil War and moving to the Old West

    Does the Times not realize that the Civil War and the Old West were the same time?

    Were they confused by The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly for the same reason?

    1. The Times is very confused. The movie does not start during the Civil War. It starts in the late 19th Century then movies backward in time to the Old West.

      Apparently, Brooks Barnes saw top hats and frock coats and figured, “They’re dressed like Abraham Lincoln — this must be the Civil War.” It’s less confusing if you read the scene title or pay attention to the dialogue. But moviegoers aren’t expected to do that today.

  14. I enjoyed it, even in the 3D version. First 3D movie I’ve seen, it wasn’t that big a deal to me, perhaps because as mentioned it was filmed in 2D.

    Lots of small problems with the movie but certainly not as bad as these critics say. Are they ever right about good movies? I may go see it again just to help screw the critics.

    I made a double-header of it on Friday night – saw John Carter first, then Act of Valor. The latter was a great movie.

    1. Haha, I’ve re-watched the Plinkett reviews of Star Wars more than the actual movies themselves.

  15. Saw it Friday, enjoyed it. (I’ve never read original Burroughs, but was familiar via JCOM titles done by Gold Key and Marvel comics). Indeed, I was even impressed enough that I’ll buy it, when available.

    Definitely not an ‘Avatar,’ (though many here will consider that a *good* thing) but understanding that it’s based on our knowledge of Mars at the times in question, it’s a good, pretty straightforward adventure. I don’t see why it’s being critically received *that* badly.

    But hey, in the long run, even ‘Waterworld’ made money (‘Ishtar’ and ‘Heaven’s Gate?’ I couldn’t say).

    Agreed about the 3-D, which I normally enjoy, *if* a film was originally created that way. Those that are re-processed into 3-D are rather less satisfying. (I’m wondering how the 3-D Star Wars Episode I is going to handle that. The CG can easily be re-rendered from a different angle, but live shots…)

    Also, it doesn’t give anything away to note that they do give in to the full title, at the very end…

  16. Saw it with the GF and both of us thought it rocked! The bad notices are mystifying, but consider that the “it’s beeen done before and better” crowd probably saw or read no science fiction before Star Wars and generally hate the genre anyway. Anyway, I thought it an enjoyable piece of space opera and highly recommend it!

  17. I saw it. 3D definitely not needed.

    If you like vintage SF, or any SF for that matter, go see this film. You will enjoy yourself.

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