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Wednesday, 13 March 2013

What's In A Name?

What's in a name? That which we call a rose,
by any other name would smell as sweet.

At least that’s what Will Shakespeare tells us, but is it really true??? L.M. Montgomery protests in Anne of Green Gables that if a Rose were called a skunk cabbage it couldn’t possibly smell so sweet.

I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

I know what you’re wondering: where is she going with this? I know she has ‘Random’ in the title of the blog but there are limits!!!

I promise I have a point, so stick with me!

Yesterday I watch ‘John Carter’. If you haven’t seen this film I’d like you to stop here and think about the genre that title inspires in your mind…

Got it? Good!

Now when I heard the title I was immediately resistant to watching the film: to me it sounded like a 70's thriller full of ugly people in grungy, seedy settings discovering all manner of filthy scandals in an underworld setting. 

What did it bring to your mind? I’d love to know so please leave a comment in the comment box bellow!

Anyway, back to ‘John Carter’. It turned out that this film was set during the American civil war and had the titular hero transported to Mars where, due to the difference in gravity, he is able to jump like the hulk! Imagine my surprise!!! Add a heroine that strides about in very little and wields a sword and I think you’ve pretty much got every angle covered.

That sounds like something I could be entertained by!!!

The story is told in flashback as John Carter’s (who is now deceased)  nephew Edger Rice Burroughs reads the diary his uncle left him, the diary details an incredible story that has his uncle the savior of an alien planet, Mars to be exact. We learn that poor old John, filled with fervor for a just cause, signed up for the army and left his family (wife/daughter) only for them to be killed. Now John has no hope left and no meaning to his life, and this is when he gets transported to Mars.

And that is as far as I’m going to ‘spoil’ it for you!

Now back to my original point: ‘John Carter’ tanked at the box office and I can’t help thinking that the title was part of the problem.

Is this the best film ever made?

No of course not! That would be ‘Thor’! ;-P

Was it a clever commentary on corruption and the blame culture in our society that left the audience deep in thought?

Did you read the synopsis???

The heroine wears a form fitting armor bustier! Of course it wasn’t!

Was it fun?

Yes! It was huge fun! Just because it wasn’t ‘serious’ or ‘deep’ it doesn’t mean it wasn’t enjoyable. 

Was Batman Begins/Knight/Rises ‘serious’? Was the Avengers ‘deep’? 

Of course they weren’t, characters can’t (no matter how hard they try) make pertinent points when wearing Lycra and pleather!

But I think that the target audience heard the name and thought ‘sounds like a boring film’ and all those people that like deep and serious went and watched it and got... well... fluff!

I could be wrong, but somehow I don’t think so.

Think about the names of hero/heroines in stories. How many times have you heard someone say:

1.      Oh yeah! I loved that book, but the hero’s name just made me cringe! Who would call their hero that???
2.      Oh yeah! But the heroine had a weird name; does anyone even know how to pronounce it???

I think names make a HUGE difference: they give you an idea of genre, time period, characteristics and so on. And, a the beginning of a book, when you know nothing about the characters you can find yourself drawn to a character purely because their name sounds like a 'good' name and disliking a character because they have a 'baddie's' name.

Or is this just me???

As for John Carter, I liked it a lot. I would watch it again, if there was a sequel I'd watch that too (they left room for one). I do think James Purefoy kinda stole the film though...


  1. The name was only part of the reason that John Carter was a flop. Much of the blame goes on the spiralling out of control budget ($250 million, much of which went on CG), first time live action director with no "pull", poor screenplay (the old adage: garbage in-garbage out), Disney buying Marvel and Pixar, and realigning their priorities, new top management that didn't believe in the project and so pulled all the marketing & publicity...

    Disney were calling it the biggest hollywood flop ever, way before the film even came out. And with that kind of studio belief in you, what are you going to do?

    There's quite a good analysis of it here:

    1. I took a look, Tim, and I think it's a bit of a shame. John Carter was a fun film so I don't really think it deserved to tank. The odds were stacked against it ever doing well enough though, weren't they???
      I still think the name didn't help, as that analysis pointed out the series of books didn't really have a big enough fan base, no one really 'knew' who 'John Carter' was so it held no pull. ;-P
      'Thor' on the other hand... ;-P