Edgar Rice Burroughs was very much a private man, so it was with some surprise that the Czar bumped into him at a cocktail party around 1910 when the latter was back in Chicago. The Czar found the 34-year-old pencil sharpener was aspiring to be a writer, and that he was particularly interested in adventure fiction. The Czar pitched him a crazy idea, so nutty that it made total sense, and was certain to be a money-maker for Mr. Burroughs.
Instead, the writer decided to go with the story of a Confederate soldier who somehow teleports to a Mars in some alternate universe, rather than the Czar’s idea of a rage-filled autocrat running around the Caucasus with a double bit bearded axe whomping people who oppose him, but whatever. The Mars story had cute girls, which the Czar admits was a great idea he didn’t think of.
Anyhow, after God knows how many decades, Hollywood has decided to make a movie of the John Carter adventures, which the Czar read and was surprisingly impressed by. These would make an awesome movie, he thought, as soon as they can do computer-based animation which would probably be after 2000, or so. And indeed, in 2012, Disney decided to do it right.
Or did they? Disney seems to be totally messed up with the upcoming John Carter movie. First mistake: they decided that movies with Mars in the title tend to be money-losers. So, with nothing more than that, John Carter of Mars becomes simply John Carter, which tells potential movie goers nothing about the movie. Maybe they should just call it John Carter, Prince of Persia and really lose cash at the box office.
Look, the reviews from the sample audiences have not been good. In fact, they have been blistering…which means Disney will need to give up the rights to some bizarre but better Paramount reboot in 2018. You had everything: outlandish adventures, bad-ass Martian warriors, cool space craft, and cliffhanger story lines set in an alien world that was definitely not the Mars of 1912, as well as the guy from Pixar handling the whole she-bang.
So what went wrong? Well, the movie isn’t out yet, and rumors persist that Disney is scrambling to right its wrecking ship in these last few weeks. But the Czar has little hope that the great stories of John Carter, Warlord of Mars, will inspire today’s kids. Maybe they could read the whole thing for free and discover it for themselves.
[Update: On the other hand, it’s possible the advance buzz has been spoiled by incompetent publicity. That seems to be the opinion of one Brad Bird, who knows a thing or two about such things. As Vince summarizes: “I’ve heard good things so far, and the screenplay was co-written by an Oscar winner and a Pulitzer Prize winning-novelist [sic]. And yet to sell this, they went with “You are John Carter?” “Yes, I am John Carter!” “Help us, John Carter!” “I will, for I am John Carter!” “All hail John Carter!”” —Œc. Vol.]