Monday, March 12, 2012

BARSOOM FOREVER! Despite the massive negative publicity, I generally enjoyed John Carter. As one would expect from a Pixar alum, the movie looks pretty damn gorgeous, and because of the insistence on doing (very expensive) location shooting, there was a scope and grandeur to some of the vistas that can very easily be lost in today's age of green screen and soundstage shooting. Admittedly, the plot fails to make a lick of sense, in particular, the mechanics of teleportation and the motivation of the villains beyond "WANT POWER!," remain quite nebulous, and the physics aren't exactly based on any science known to anyone. Vulture has a fascinating article discussing why the movie flopped, which, interestingly, seems to be driven by a director with too much confidence in his own source material being given control--Stanton (a long-time lover of the Burroughs books) apparently vetoed marketing material that would introduce John Carter as a character, assuming that everyone already knew who Carter was, which seems a foolhardy decision. Your thoughts on the film, its marketing, or other matters are welcome.

18 comments:

  1. Randy3:29 PM

    Didn't see it, don't really care to.  None of the marketing made it look that appealing, and I can't be the only one who thinks "Noah Wyle" when I hear the name "John Carter".  Not sure what they could've done to make the movie more appealing to me, apart from maybe "make a better movie."

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  2. Watts3:31 PM

    Wait, so we're not talking about that cute doctor from ER?  (Seriously, even that reference dates me - have no idea why anyone in Hollywood would assume a Burroughs character has modern currency, except for Tarzan.)

    I didn't even realize the movie was based on something until one review I read mentioned it. I thought it was cashing in on the 300/Clash of the Titans wave.

    I can't believe I'm in the position of agreeing with the studio/marketing department over a director.

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  3. Jordan3:32 PM

    Opening boxes of the last three Eddie Murphy-centered movies: $6.3M, $5.5M and $5.2M.  At what point do you say he's no longer a movie star?

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  4. Genevieve4:04 PM

    Filmed on location on Mars?  Expensive indeed.

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  5. Squid4:21 PM

    I loved the Barsoom series when I was a kid, and I was pretty pleased to learn that they were making a blockbuster film based on the books.  But even knowing the source material as well as I do, I found the trailers to be muddled and confusing, and they sure didn't move me to go pay retail.  Plus, I was disappointed at the casting of a pretty, pretty boy for a role that I always imagined belonging to a grizzled veteran.  Being as how John Carter was, you know, a grizzled veteran.

    I couldn't find much in the Vulture article to disagree with.  I think their point about how many of the Barsoom elements have been 'borrowed' by contemporary filmmakers is really important.  When people have seen a dozen derivative works based on your material, there's just no way your material won't seem derivative.  And assuming that 'everybody knows' how seminal your source material is just seems silly.  Maybe if Mars had vampires or wizards, you could assume today's moviegoing audiences were familiar with it.  As it is, not so much.

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  6. Lazygal4:23 PM

    Randy and Watts beat me to it - I was wondering why the movie was focusing on him, rather than following one of the other ER doctors!  If you're not a certain age and a real SF fan, chances are that Burroughs' John Carter means nothing to you. 

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  7. There are a few properties that you can get away with "everybody knows"--if this were a Tarzan movie, it'd work, and it certainly worked for the Downey/Law Sherlock films.

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  8. I neglected to mention this above, but there was a new "Brave" trailer/clip (focusing on an archery competition) that looked nothing short of spectacular attached to the (2D) version I saw.

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  9. And even people who didn't know a lot about Sherlock Holmes were pulled in by Downey. As much as I love me some Super Hot Tim Riggins, there was no way I was seeing that movie.

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  10. Becca4:56 PM

    I enjoyed the movie a LOT more than I thought i would, though I may have gone in with much lowered expectations. The plot was pretty muddy, which I owe to a script that relied a bit too heavily on its source material, and didn't allow for a shift from one medium to another. Sometimes, you do have tell a little bit, instead of just showing cool stuff. 

    But the marketing for this movie is really completely failing it. Not putting the hot guy and the hot girl in every drop of marketing is crazy. The press kit that went out for the film is TERRIBLE. The clips give no impression of the movie whatsoever, meaning that the press can't show you anything interesting. It's nice to trust the audience to know stuff about stuff, but you have to throw them a frickin' bone sometimes. "Oh, this movie is about more than the four-armed green dudes on the billboard? Cool. Is that dude NOT named John Carter? Ok."

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  11. Joseph J. Finn5:36 PM

    Chiming in with the enjoyed it a lot.  Kitsch did a credible job, the chemistry between him and Lynn Collins was nice, there's some good supporting work, some good action stuff (though I appreciated a very 80's piece of bad green screen work in the aerial chase) and was pretty much what I wanted in a Barsoom movie.  (Also, an appropriate amount of awe in the 9 Rays room in the gates of Issis, especially with Collins' delivery of a whistlful line about oceans and sailing ships that I thought was really nicely done.)

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  12. isaac_spaceman5:41 PM

    I have no doubt that Stanton made countless significant mistakes in both making this movie and cooperating with the marketing people.  That said, I would not believe everything I read in that Vulture article.  Hollywood bombs have a tendency to bring out the finger-pointing, and the more that people feel like their own positions are insecure (for suits in Hollywood, this must be a particularly paranoid time), the more aggressively they will blame others.  If it was your job to market John Carter, you damn well better have a story to tell about how somebody else made it impossible to do your job, and it's definitely in your interest to be out there telling your story to anybody willing to write it down.   

    Also, you really shouldn't believe anything that anybody in Hollywood says, ever. 

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  13. Jordan7:51 PM

    http://trailers.apple.com/trailers/disney/brave/

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  14. bill.9:18 PM

    There's also the slightly spoilerish Japanese trailer for Brave. Or as it's called, <span>Merida and the Frightening Forest.</span>

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  15. bill.9:18 PM

    There's also the slightly spoilerish Japanese trailer for Brave. Or as it's called, <span>Merida and the Frightening Forest.</span>

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  16. bill.9:19 PM

    There's also the slightly spoilerish Japanese trailer for Brave. Or as it's called, <span>Merida and the Frightening Forest.</span>

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  17. Randy9:27 PM

    So between Katniss Everdeen and Merida, is archery going to be the Next Big Thing?

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  18. lisased11:30 PM

    I want to see this, mainly because I read the production history behind it in David Hughes' The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made, which was a great read. Potential directors included Robert Rodriguez, Jon Favreau, and Kerry Conran (John Carter and the World of Tomorrow?). One version of the story was scripted by Mark Fergus, who adapted Children of Men. The 1932 version almost became the first full-length animated film. I'm so curious how it finally turned out.

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