Today “John Carter” will be released on DVD and Blu-ray and, presumably, will be seen by a much larger audience than what turned up it when it was released theatrically this past spring. (The Blu-ray is a handsome, features-packed affair well worth picking up if you feel any love for the movie.) The film, which Disney recently admitted would cost the studio $200 million in lost profit, quickly became a cautionary fable about what happens when you try to launch a franchise based on a century-old property that no one much remembers anymore. One of the film’s stars, Willem Dafoe, who played a Martian warrior named Tars Tarkas, is still baffled by the critical and commercial indifference the film received.
“You don’t like to publicly lament disappointments too much, but I’m still kind of scratching my head over it,” Dafoe told IFC during a recent interview. “For me, I thought ‘John Carter’ really captured something. It was very pure in its approach. It was classical. It wasn’t hip and cool. It was really from the source, and I appreciate that.”
Dafoe says that the negative publicity affected the movie in untoward ways. “In my experience, sometimes a movie just hits at the wrong time, gets the wrong press, or gets the wrong representation, and it gets misunderstood.” He continued: “Sometimes it’s hard for people to really decide, too. There’s so much reporting about the business and that other stuff, that they really get distracted by some of those things, and then it influences some of the weaker-willed people to not have their own opinion.”
The actor, whose performance was turned into the animated, multi-limbed Tarkas via motion capture (it’s one of the best things about the movie), is also disappointed because he won’t get to explore the character in further “John Carter” sequels (an improbability at this point, barring some massive explosion in DVD and Blu-ray sales). “It sure doesn’t seem like [there will be a sequel], which is a shame,” Dafoe lamented. “This was the set-up for what could be a great series of movies. . . I was looking forward to doing a sequel, though, because I know something of where the story goes and the character of Tars Tarkas. He’s big, and the relationship with John gets more intense.”
It will be interesting to see what the creative principles from “John Carter” do next, particularly Pixar director/founding brain trust member Andrew Stanton, who made his live action debut on the movie. (“John Carter,” as we’ve reiterated over and over again, is a Pixar movie in everything but its corporate branding – and at one point it was loudly being touted as “Pixar’s first live action film!”).
If you want some Pixar stuff connected to movies people actually love, the US Postal Service recently unveiled a new line of Pixar-themed stamps, centered around characters from “Toy Story 2,” “Finding Nemo,” “The Incredibles,” “A Bug’s Life,” and “Monsters, Inc.” (You can buy the stamps here.) The stamps complement a similar Pixar series from last year that included characters from “Cars,” “Ratatouille,” “Toy Story,” “Up,” and “WALL-E.” You can get both sets of stamps now. Just don’t hold your breath for a Tars Tarkas stamp.