Jeff watches John Carter – 4

A look at the dialogue shows the scene shooting in 3 directions at once. Or – are they reading the same script ?

I’m warning you, this is going to be rough. Yes I wrote out all the dialogue, I can’t tear it apart unless I have in front of me. I’m using color to make the reading easier. And no pretty pictures this time, this took me long enough to do. So here we go.

J – War is a shameful thing

D – Not when the noble causes taken up by those who can make a difference. You make a difference today Virginia.

J- Okay, see my name is John Carter. Virginia is where I’m from

D – Where did you learn to jump that way This puzzles me, shouldn’t it be ‘how’ ?

J – I don’t know, how did you learn to fly

I find this a strange, if echoing an idea, response. It’s taken me a while to find the words for what I’ve known all along, that their questions about jumping and flying aren’t equivalent. John should see airships as wonderful machines, but machines non-the-less. He comes from a world in an industrial revolution, where anything is possible. But super human jumping ? That’s a completely different category. For both Dejah and John it’s like breaking the laws of physics. Or put this way –

Dejah -Where did you learn to dance that way ?

John – I don’t know, how did you learn to like onions ?

What ?

Dejah -Your ships cannot sail on light in Virginia ?

John – No professor, see our ships sail the seas ‘Professor’ jogged me out too.

Dejah gives him a cool look. I suspect that an earlier version had Dejah challenging him about oceans at this point.

J- Endless water everywhere ? I find this both unnecessary and clumsy. Then Dejah starts walking around him.

D- Skeletal structure normal –

J – What are you doing ?

D- It must be the density of your bones, jumped for me !

Which just made me go – huh ? But the swat in the butt is brilliant. All I could think of while actually watching the movie was “ he’d have light bones so he’d weigh less and could jump ? I think it’s just something for Dejah to say so she sounds scientific. Maybe she should have said something atomic structure repelling him from the gravitational field or something. I don’t know.

Sola – Enough ! There’ll be time for playfulness was later !

D- I want no playfulness from him ! We use this phrase in the house now. I want his help. Explain to me how you do you do it. If it’s a skill, teach it to Helium. Name your price.

J- I’m not for hire ! I’ve got a cave of gold of my own, somewhere.

The gold comments almost never work, they’re often too far out of context. He needed some other way of saying “I have a different goal, a different life somewhere else. Or, no thanks, I have plans already….. “ From the storyboard – “ I’m not for hire, I have plenty of gold of my own, and I’m going back to it”. Much better.

D – Only a madman would rave about the time of oceans.

J – Is that your expert view professor, that I’m mad ?

D – Or a liar.

Dejah is suspicious of John, but wants his help. I have hard time with her response to John saying he’s from Earth ( she looks like she believes him ) and not seeing his jumping and strength as proof of that. There are response shots of her cocking her head while her brain goes – “maybe… “ or “ how curious… “ She seems to be giving cues that she is accepting what he says, despite her suspicions. This is the third direction interaction that seems at at odds at times with what’s being said. If the cast and Stanton said this scene made them cry at nights, I wouldn’t have been surprised. I’d love to see the original script ( I’d love to have a script period ) but I suspect too many rewrites on the go just buggled it up.

Of course all of this, who is Carter, does Dejah believe him, stems script wise from the key moment of her finally excepting him as Jasoomian when they are in the Thern temple. And that’s a lovely scene, but as I write this and put these ideas together I realize that the later scene dictates this first encounter between Dejah and John. It probably explains why it seems so clumsy and pieced together.

Sola – she is a good match for you Dotar Sojat.

J – don’t call me that.

D- There are no seas on the planet.

J – You said planet…

And Dejah gets all curious again.

I loved them using all of the Barsoomian names for the planets.

D – That is Jasoom, you are on Barsoom John Carter .

Which makes it sound like she believes he’s from Jasoom.

J – Mars, I’m on Mars.

Now he notices the 2 moons in the sky. Granted, it’s only his second night there with Dejah right there I wouldn’t see anything else anyways.

J – Good god, I’m on Mars…

D- So your home is Jasoom and you came on one of your sailing ships across millions of and karads of empty space ?

J – No, not like that.

D- Go on Shock me – how ? What ? What !? What the hell is this ? ‘Shock me ?’ This is as bad as Cave of Gold. No it’s worse . The sentiment may be right, but but but but – aarghh !!!

J- That brought me here.

D- Oh that explains everything then.

J- It does ?

D- You’re a Thern. Now she sounds like Carrie Fisher and she goes all sarcastic. Of course those are the same two things. In hind sight, I don’t know why she takes him to the temple or what she expects to happen there since she doesn’t believe him…

Okay, enough – I really do love the movie, but this sequence is probably what made reviewers roll their eyes up and roll over. I can’t imagine why this scene wasn’t nailed before they were shooting. It probably was, but the organic process of working with actors and having ideas in the middle of night may well have been it’s undoing. Perhaps a ‘great new idea’ was added while shooting and the whole thing went jiggity after that. It’s a real shame, as I’ve said, the confrontation between Dejah and her father is so bloody excellent and genre breaking, and this scene ( well into the movie ) is a rats-nest of ideas tossed like pick-up-stix. If there was ever a director’s cut this scene could use a heavy work over. I know that part of this was a scene was added to later, I think talk of the planets was part of that. I’ll say again, as a creative, I do not view reshoots or add-in’s as evidence of some being horribly wrong. As for that wished for director’s cut, perhaps the only thing to do to this scene is trim it down, keep it tight and avoid the firing off into multiple directions at once. You may loose some ideas in the process, but as it stands so many ideas are brought up that are never followed up on. Okay, I’m done now. Time for breakfast. Leave your scathing comments below – Jeff


7 responses

  1. Brad

    I know this is a silly observation but why is it after John Carter drinks the voice of Barsoom everything is translated for him except some words like Jasoom and Barsoom?

    December 14, 2012 at 10:18 am

  2. Because they’re cool words !

    December 14, 2012 at 10:52 am

  3. I couldn’t agree more, Jeff! That is a very awkward and cringe-inducing scene to watch. It’s amazing to me that such seasoned professionals didn’t see how awkward it was and fix it! It’s like one of those cheap, syfy films at that point. Like a first draft (yet I agree with you that perhaps it was over thinking-over writing that messed it up!

    December 14, 2012 at 3:41 pm

  4. Chris

    They are just getting to know each other and are full of questions. Sounds great to me.

    December 14, 2012 at 9:21 pm

  5. Grrr …. I wrote a long comment and it got ett when I tried to post it.
    The shorter version is . . . . this scene hops around like John Carter trying elude Woola at the Thark nursery.

    The biggest destroyed moment is at the beginning . . . . “You made a difference to day, Virginia.” “My name is John Carter . . .” This completely hijacks the moment that should be there after she says “you made a difference today.” He needs to absorb that, recognize that he chose a side even if doing so goes against his conscious intention. He and we need to ponder that for a moment and let sink in.

    I’m sure the writers would argue that one of the reasons it feels like it’s jumping around so much is that what’s going on is mostly in the subtext, not the text. JC and Dejah are meeting, and sparks are flying . . . .and we’re supposed to derive meaning from that, more than from the words.

    But I don’t buy it — it would be so easy to go through and do a version of this that meet ins the dramatic objectives of the scene and communicates to the audience things that it needs to communicate — things that are lost here.


    December 16, 2012 at 3:18 pm

  6. Good comments about the things that make this scene clumsy.

    For my part, I just loved the phrase “ships that sail on light,” contrasting with ships that sail on water. I always wondered why Burroughs chose to call the fliers “ships.” He rarely (or never?) uses “airship,” most of the time its just “ship” or “flier.” Drawing this comparison between the life experience of Dejah and John Carter was one of those rare, brilliant moments. I wonder which of the writers thought this one up.

    The first time I watched the film, I liked this moment so much that I have to admit I forgave the writers for the rest of the scene. I like Collins’ reactions, too. She is trying to figure this guy out, and her natural enthusiam, consternation, confusion, and inquisitive moments are all fun to watch.

    January 31, 2013 at 3:35 pm

  7. The professor line is obvious – she didn’t introduce her royal identity yet (despite the Regent of the Royal Academy of Science moniker) so what else was he supposed to call her at this point?

    I agree – this scene felt rushed but the curiosity was there. If the lines were refined a bit further this would’ve come out a lot better. But at the first few screenings (like Hugh) I let it slide. I was having way too much fun and sucking in the landscapes.

    “The cave of gold” part was bugging me too. It was fringing way too close to Pocahontas territory and I was scared that if friends watched this then they would think of John Carter as a selfish guy rather than the sweet caring one we all know him to be.

    February 6, 2013 at 11:59 am

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