I have not yet seen Andrew Stanton’s John Carter. From the sound of things, I had better hurry. The grosses from midnight screenings are pretty soft, and the critics are treating it lightly; my guess is that if it had been made by anyone but Stanton—whose two previous films both won Oscars, and deserved them—they would be laying into this thing the way Rush Limbaugh romances women: with remorseless, unforgiving gravity. The, ah, aficionados over at Ain’t It Cool News (sounds better than “savants,” doesn’t it?) like the movie okay, but they’re pushing it uphill, and their readers are rebelling. It’s a puzzling reaction to a movie that truly doesn’t look any worse than G.I. Joe or Avatar, both of which made gazillions of dollars even as people walked out of them in a haze of three-dimensional indifference.
The funny thing is that Disney seems to be encouraging people not to care about John Carter. I can’t think of a reason that Disney’s marketing arm, a more-or-less infallible alien intelligence, would do these things to a film they actually want people to see.
The Name on the Cover. John Carter of Mars is a swashbuckling hero; John Carter is a nobody who picked both his names randomly from a phone book.
The Trailers. Tell us nothing, and worse yet, they tell us nothing to symphonic Zeppelin. Symphonic Zeppelin. You might as well hang a sign on the thing that says From the culture that brought you “Heavy Metal 2000.”
The Font on the Poster. It’s Basic Commercial Black, as seen on the signage of the New York City Subway. Why not Interstate, as long as we’re pulling industrial fonts straight outta our ass? How in the hell is this flat, utilitarian typeface supposed to fire us up and make us wanna see some CGI Barsoomians, doing whatever it is CGI Barsoomians do? This is the font that Helvetica uses on its online dating profile to make itself look hotter than it is.
Uh-oh: Nikki Finke just predicted a $30 million opening weekend. John Carter is about to get its ass handed to it by The Lorax. I’m coming, John! Mi hermano! Blast the symphonic Zeppelin to distract them, and I’ll be there as soon as I can.