So last week, I saw a couple of movies. One I really wanted to because it looked like a textbook example of how not to market a good film and one I stumbled on to and kept watching because it was a textbook example of how to make a bad film.
That guy with the four arms is from the good film, "John Carter". Make that, the great film. Often I'll go to a genre film and justify liking it because of the sheer amount of imagination it's throwing up on the screen, regardless of success. "JC" pulls it off with success to spare... imagination, stunning production design, good actors, even the ones voicing CGI creations like Tars Tarka up there (he's a martian warrior with a sense of compassion within a survive at all costs culture. Willem Dafoe just hits it out of the park with his voice acting. At one point, he has a telescope in two hands, his reins in a third, and he still has one hand left over to smack the hero with!). It even has a very satisfying plot structure that caught me by surprise with a very clever ending.
It's worth seeing for several reasons. There's a martian dog! Six legs even! As funny as Dug, the dog from "Up". There's a western interlude with Bryan Cranston as a nasty calvary officer. There's caves of gold, and flying machines that look like great glass dragonflies. An there's a plot devised nearly a hundred years ago that takes a Christ figure (...notice the initials) and drops him on an alien world where his physiology enables him to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Watch this movie and you won't just see where Superman came from, but Flash Gordon, Star Wars and Raiders to name just a few.
"John Carter" seems to be an unfortunate victim of atrocious marketing and a press culture that would rather print bad rumors than no story at all. Before it even opened, the word was it was a disaster of Ishtarian proportions. Nothing could be further from the truth. See it on a big screen before it's gone.
On the other hand, there's "Green Lantern". The marketeers did everything they could to get people interested in this thing... action figures, happy meals, greeting cards, everything except make a good film.
"What's that smell... oh yeah, the movie we're in!"
"Green Lantern" is a tough property to sell. Like so many of the Silver Age comic heroes, he's a bland white guy with a cool power and a girlfriend he always stands up while he saves the world. So of course the writers turn him into a smirking douchebag wiseass and the filmakers cast Van Wilder because that's how little imagination anybody associated with this had. I like Ryan Reynolds... He made "Son of Blade" watchable, but he plays one note in this and it doesn't help that he has to play it behind this...
Seriously? It's a computer generated mask... and it looks like it. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that his stubble was CGI as well. Everything else in this sad, lifeless mess was! There are whole stretches of this thing where the only real thing on screen is Ryan Reynolds' chin. That might have been okay had the whole thing not looked like a bad video game. But I don't want to insult video games here.. There was just nothing remotely involving about the characters. The movie presented a big textured universe without building any of it and without leaving the audience space to care.
Maybe they just needed a Martian Dog...