Episode 12 — “John Carter of Mars”

John Carter, Disney’s $250 million sci-fi epic adventure movie opened to disappointing numbers this weekend, pulling in just a touch more than $100 million.

Disappointing box office aside, was the movie itself a disappointment? Ben and Steve saw it this weekend and recorded this special, impromptu episode of Strangers and Aliens. Were they satisfied with the movie? Did it live up to their expectations? To their standards? Will you like it? Find out by listening to this mostly spoiler free episode.

(You’ll also find out why the third host, Dr. Jayce, couldn’t be bothered to see a movie this weekend!)

If you saw John Carter, we’d love to hear from you and have you join the conversation! You can record your comments into an MP3 file (send it to podcast (at) strangersandaliens (dot) com, using the “@” and “.” in place of those words), and we’ll use it in our next episode or you can contact us directly through the website or Facebook.

Do you agree? Did you like John Carter? Did you have no intention of seeing it? Let us know!

Thanks for listening, and godspeed!

John Carter is copyright Disney



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12 responses to “Episode 12 — “John Carter of Mars””

  1. John Avatar

    I took my son Jonathan, who just turned 12 on Wednesday, with me to see John Carter last night. We both enjoyed it. Like Ben, I’d never read the source material, so going in all I knew was what I’d heard Ben and Steve discuss on the podcast.

    There’s a bit of danger involved in listening to a review of a movie before going to see it, because it tends to color your perceptions of the film, especially if the review comes from someone whose opinions you respect and trust, as was the case here. I found myself pretty much agreeing with everything you guys said about the movie, and I don’t know if my opinion would have been any different had I gone into the movie cold. I might not have even gone to see it in the theater had I not listened to the podcast, however.

    Jonathan’s sum-up after the movie was “It was weird, but I liked it.” I asked him what his favorite part was, and he couldn’t really pinpoint one scene, although he did really like the battles. And of course he did his usual cover-up-the-eyes, shake-the-head display of disgust for all of the “kissing parts.” Girls are still icky.

    But we both want of those speedy dog-things now.

    1. Ben Avatar

      We tried to have a conversation that would encourage people to see or not see it, without giving away too much.

      Glad you guys liked it, though. I’d hate for someone to see it on my recommendation and not like it!

      Did you see it in 3D?

      1. John Avatar

        No, we saw it in regular-D. 😉 The theater (conveniently located 5 minutes from our house) had showing in both formats, but the earlier one was not in 3D which is just as well. I don’t think 3D would have enhanced our enjoyment of this particular movie enough to justify spending the extra dollars or having to stay up later to watch it.

        1. Ben Avatar

          Absolutely. I had to see it in 3D, but unlike Avatar (which I will never watch again on a screen smaller than my house and without being in 3D), John Carter can be enjoyed as just a movie, not an “emersion” or an “experience.”

  2. Dr. Jayce Avatar

    I lOVE Sci Fi, but for some reason I had no interest in seeing this film. The trailer bored me.

    1. Ben Avatar

      The trailers and commercials and posters for this movie are HORRIBLE! Do not do the movie any justice.

      That said, this is also not for everyone. Star Wars feels like it IS for everyone — almost anyone watching it can find something to like. Not so here. It really depends on what type of sci-fi you enjoy. If you like sci-fantasy, leaning a tad heavier toward fantasy than Star Wars, you won’t like this. Thing it, it’s a very different kind of movie. Steve and I didn’t even talk about the director/writer — who is a PIXAR alum. It’s not quite as tight as a PIXAR film, which packs so much character into such a concise package, but the elements are there to be seen.

      It also draws HEAVILY on its pulp roots, something else that appeals to my tastes.

      But yes, judging it by the trailers, I would have at least waited until I could get it from Redbox.

  3. Hank Harwell Avatar
    Hank Harwell

    What floored me is that 21 Jump Street is a box office hit while John Carter isn’t. I’ve heard from friends who said Jump Street was pretty funny (something I didn’t get from the commercials), but John Carter is epic filmmaking in the best sense of the word. It reaches back to its genre roots very well, without ‘updating’ the character, and it presents us with a fantastical world. Granted, its not the immersion experience of Avatar, but unlike Avatar, I enjoyed the story, which I think is crucial for a good movie. I could have seen Avatar by watching Dances with Wolves or The Last Samurai, and saved a lot of money on the 3D surcharge.

    Seriously, John Carter is much better than the perception folks have given it.

  4. Ben Avatar

    Don’t discount Avatar by saying you’ve seen the story before. Yes, you HAVE seen the story before. But you haven’t seen the WORLD. And that’s all that Avatar has to offer. I’m okay with it, mainly because it feels like Cameron was focused on that. Story was second, and he took no chances with it.

    John Carter is all about taking chances. It’s a period piece … about a Confederate soldier … who goes to Mars and finds Martians who, right out of the gate, commit infanticide … etc.

    Not all of it may work for viewers, but this is not calculated storytelling, in the sense it is trying to get the broadest audience, but rather calculated storytelling, in that they have a story they want to tell and are trying to do it.

    I was hoping you’d like it, Hank!

    1. Hank Harwell Avatar
      Hank Harwell

      Oh, I did see Avatar, and you’re right, Cameron played it safe with the story. I loved the world, but I can only take the pretty pictures so long; I need the story to keep me engaged, and the safe story in Avatar didn’t do it.

      John Carter, on the other hand, had pretty pictures AND a great story. It’s frustrating how quickly the public gives up on a film after the opening weekend.

  5. Hank Harwell Avatar
    Hank Harwell

    Now that I’ve slept on it a bit, I feel like I need to take issue with the ‘infanticide’ comment. While I think I understand what you are saying, I’m not sure that’s the right description of what was going on. I’m basing this view on the fact that the eggs that were destroyed had not hatched yet. Therefore there were not hatchlings, or infants, to be murdered. So looking at it that way, at best (or worst), they would only be guilty of ‘abortion.’

    I’m not sure that’s technically accurate either. If you’ll recall the scene, it appear that the Tharks lay their eggs in nests that are quite remote from their city. At a predertmined time, they return and collect the hatchlings and bring them home. The enst must be remiote enough that they cannot return frequently, so any eggs that hatch after this visit would result in hatchlings that will be exposed to the elements and possibly starve or be eaten by larger predators (the white apes). So, in this view, the Tharks could be guilty of euthanasia, or ‘mercy killing’ by destroying the eggs before the young Tharks are ‘born.’

    However, this also may not be accurate as we do not know the status of those eggs. Is it possible that the eggs were infertile, or that the young inside had already died? We simply do not know, and the Tharks destroyed the eggs purely to deprive the white apes and other predators of a delicacy.

    As you see, I’m not sure that it is quite fair to accuse the Tharks of infanticide; we simply do not know enough to make that determination.

  6. Hank Harwell Avatar
    Hank Harwell

    One last post, and then I’ll let it go. This was an interesting article about the influence of the John Carter stories over the SF genre throughout the years.


  7. Don Ensign Avatar
    Don Ensign

    Hopefully, this comment is not too late. I noticed on Amazon.com that there were 1380 reviews for the John Carter DVD and some of them are very recent. I recently got an I-Pad and one of the first digital books I downloaded John Carter and the Gods of Mars by Michael D. Sellers. While I haven’t finished reading it completely several issues stand out concerning the insufficient box office for the movie. The major thing is the overall marketing plan (or lack thereof) for the film with its huge production budget. Sellers, who is a film producer, goes into detail concerning the missteps in the promotion and marketing of this film. The lack of consistent social media marketing, the lack and clumsily visual promotion (artwork, trailers, interviews, articles, etc) and the seemingly overall unenthusiastic studio interest in the project made for the film a very uphill climb to achieve the profitability that would make sequels a live option. Disney was dealing with two new major properties–the Marvel Heroes and more recently Star Wars. It seems as if the Disney executives (top decision makers) didn’t know quite what to do with this third potential major property. There were other marketing glitches like no toy line and other collateral merchandising for the film.

    Besides going into the marketing aspects of the film Sellers does a service in answering some questions about the changes Andrew Stanton (writer and director) made in the John Carter mythos. I’m just recenly watching the commentary version of the John Carter DVD and Stanton confirms Seller’s contentions. I was one of those guys who read the John Carter books back in the 1960s so I remember that Carter had never married before Dejah Thoris (he was too busy fighting- Carter didn’t suffer from PTSD), and Dejah, while a strong person, was not an intellectual Xena Warrior Princess. Also the way Carter got to Mars was more astral projection than the Mars science transport medallion from the movie. However I’m not such a purist that I reject those innovations on Burroughs original concepts. I think they work and I tend to think if Burroughs were still alive he’d be OK with them.

    Anyway I really did enjoy the movie and while a sequel seems remote it is a good rip-roaring fantasy action yarn in and of itself. Highly recommended.

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