So once again we have survived.

John Carter

tn_johncarterJOHN CARTER is your typical Civil-War-veteran-transported-via-magic-cave-to-Mars-to-fall-in-love-with-a-princess-and-fight-a-war tale. I mean, how many movies can we have on this topic?

Oh wait, I was thinking of can-you-fuck-your-friend-all-the-time-and-not-fall-in-love romantic comedies. That’s the more common one. The civil war veteran on Mars deal is not that big of a genre this year, and this new (partly) live action take from Disney might be the last one. It’s not shaping up to be the smash hit required to make back its big budget, and the box office trainspotters are already giggling and high-fiving each other as they dig it a shallow grave in an unused lot behind Space Mountain. That’s too bad, ’cause it’s a hell of alot of fun.

Taylor Kitsch (the magic playing cards guy from WOLVERINE) plays the titular cavalryman, a character created by Edgar Rice “I also created Tarzan by the way” Burroughs. John Carter was a Confederate soldier, which I always think is a weird literary convention. This guy fought to defend slavery! Can German writers get away with ex-Nazi heroes? I doubt it. (And isn’t it weird that this is not the first Confederate-veteran-turned-pulp-hero-adaptation-directed-in-live-action-by-guy-who-only-did-computer-animation-before of recent years? The first one was JONAH HEX.)

But I think John Carter learned his lesson. He refuses to fight now, and tries to stop a confrontation between Union soldiers and Apaches before he accidentally gets warped to Mars and gets mixed up in Martian conflicts.

Actually, not to be too politically correct, but calling them “Martians” is like calling Apaches “Indians.” They don’t call it Mars, they call it Barsoom. I feel we should respect that.

mp_johncarterOn Barsoom John Carter learns that the gravity allows him to jump really high, and he’s taken as a pet by Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe, TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A.), a 9-foot tall, 4-armed, green-skinned warrior amused by the human’s jumping. John Carter’s like the Barsoom equivalent of a water-skiing squirrel or that dog whose barks sound like “I love you.” Tars and his boys are on a trek to get the freshly hatched baby Tharks from the egg chamber out in the desert. They bring them back and everybody fights over them. The ones that weren’t hatched they shot so they wouldn’t get eaten by space apes. These are cartoon characters, they look more like Jar Jars than Avatars, but the matter-of-fact depiction of their brutal life cycle makes them immediately credible.

Despite his pro-slavery past, John Carter seems to be pretty racially tolerant. In fact he seems to be more down with the freaky Tharks than the more human looking Martians whose war he gets mixed up in when he sees a lady named Deja Thoris (Lynn Collins) falling out of a spaceship and decides to catch her.

At first John and Deja don’t get along real good. You know how it is – men are from Barsoom, women are from Amtor. But later there is love and a formal dress that I, as a man, enjoyed the design of. Deja is a great warrior and groundbreaking scientist and Collins has a formidable presence so it seems very natural for her, not like a pretty girl playing dressup like they sometimes do in these types of movies.

Ever since I finally watched the first season of Rome I’ve noticed that Cieran Hinds, who played Caesar in that, is in pretty much every movie from MUNICH to the last Todd Solondz movie to GHOST RIDER 2. In this one it’s great because not only is Deja’s dad, the ruler of her people, played by Caesar, but his right hand man is Marc Antony (James Purefoy). There’s some intrigue between those guys, a tattooed guy (Dominic West, cable television, PUNISHER WAR ZONE) who’s gonna force Deja to be his bride, and a mysterious bald shapeshifter guy (Mark Strong, also in everything) who was there in the cave when John Carter got zapped here.

Those humanoids are the least interesting part of the movie. I guess you could compare them to the political machinations that people say are so boring in the STAR WARS prequels, but their jibber jabber doesn’t take up as much screen time. I know it’s forbidden in most cultures to say that there’s anything good about the STAR WARS prequels, but in my opinion JOHN CARTER has alot of the feel of what’s good about those without the parts people hate. For example there is the CGI warrior aliens, but no “funny” one. There is romance, but no corny dialogue. There’s an arena battle inspired by the same things that inspired the arena battle in STAR WARS 2, but the monsters are not as cartoony.

Some people have claimed Kitsch is wooden, but I’m sure they’d all agree he’s natural compared to the two Anakins. I don’t think Kitsch 100% pulls off the smartass young Kurt Russell type of feel he’s going for, but he’s likable, and by the end I cared about his relationships with the Tharks and the princess and what not. I laughed when Tars was buddy-buddy enough with him to whap him on the back of the head when he fucked up, and to give him an earthling salute when he succeeded. I was proud of the respect he gained from the Barsoomians – in fact, becoming the first American-Barsoomian to hold office. And by the way, you don’t see no Barsoomians asking to see his birth certificate. They don’t give a shit. He (SPOILER) chopped off that one guy’s head. Earned it fair and square.

non-sequitur side notes:

1. I wonder if it would work to re-score this with the rock ‘n roll from GHOSTS OF MARS?

2. I kinda wish JOHN CARTER was in theaters at the same time as J. EDGAR and some goofball got confused and went to the wrong one.

The director is Andrew Stanton, live action rookie but director of FINDING NEMO and WALL-E. It would be a shame if he stopped doing cartoons, but his skills seem to translate pretty naturally. The animated characters have alot of personality and don’t seem like special effects. The standout is John’s “nice monster dog” Woola, a big ugly thing that becomes adorable because of his dog-like panting and loyalty. If Disney are sad that the movie isn’t making a billion dollars I wonder why they haven’t thought of putting that thing in the ads? I’m pretty sure everybody will love him.

There’s alot of humor in the movie that comes from the storytelling, like a series of jumpcuts between different escape attempts, or a montage of Carter trying to learn how to walk properly on Barsoom. That one reminded me of the montage of Wall-E working in the trash and playing with different objects he finds.

Unlike “live action” movies like AVATAR that take place largely in digital environments, Stanton chose to film most of this on real locations out where you shoot westerns and shit, so it has a sunny, dusty look. Well, at least I think it’s real locations. I guess I’m not sure how they did all the scenes that are like a caravan riding camels through the desert except they’re big six-legged alien rhino things. (Maybe they had camels wearing those ping pong ball suits.)

At this time I would like to note that I liked SPOILER the part where John Carter cut his way through a giant ape, even though I had seen the exact same technique used on a giant scorpion earlier in the day when I watched the remake of CLASH OF THE TITANS and even though when I saw that I thought it was like a part in BEOWULF. I guess I just always approve of a dude climbing out of a wound on a giant beast, covered in its innards.

I like this movie because it’s a shamelessly old fashioned adventure. I like the world it takes place in and the way its ways are revealed to us (especially all the stuff with the Tharks). Sure, it uses all kinds of tropes that have since been used in many other movies, but they’re all good tropes, and done well, and with other context to give them a little different personality. I like that it has the balls to say it takes place on Mars even though in my opinion there have been some changes in scientific consensus about what Mars is like since the books were written. I bet if they made it take place in the modern day with an Afghanistan veteran and a bunch of modern jokes and references (or worse, a humorless, “gritty” tone) and in another galaxy instead of on Mars it would’ve made alot more money and been alot worse. And it would get a part 2 but suddenly The Rock would be in the lead.

Working on this review I kept coming across articles about “why did JOHN CARTER flop?” All this talk about people didn’t know who this “John Carter” in the title referred to, they didn’t know what the book was it was based on. Well, I’m guessing that John Carter is the fucking guy who the movie is about. Admittedly I am kind of a movie buff so I’m good at figuring stuff like that out, that if the title of the movie is a guy’s name then it’s probly the name of a guy that’s in the movie. As for if you didn’t know it was based on a book — well, I figure that’s okay, because you didn’t have to know that it was based on a book that you didn’t know it was based on, you would just know it was a movie. And if it is important for you to know that John Carter is the guy’s name and that it’s based on a book then what you could do is either a) see one of the ads on TV or b) happen to read one sentence in any magazine, newspaper or internet article about the movie.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with not knowing what the movie is or not being interested. I’m just creeped out by the way these articles depict most of the world as people who get scared and confused by things they don’t understand but also refuse to take five seconds to find out the basic information that would solve that problem.

The live action part of Disney seems to be making a genuine effort to get back to their old tradition, but they lose a bunch of money every time one of ’em doesn’t star Johnny Depp. They’re making commercial movies but not sure bets, they’re “properties” and “franchises” but they’re old fashioned ones that they think would be fun to revive instead of familiar ones they know they can shove up your kid’s ass and make a bunch of dolls and pajamas bleed out his nose. As ridiculous as TRON LEGACY is I think it was a uniquely Disney type of entertainment unlike what the other studios are doing. And I wish they would try to do more in this vein. But it looks like the public has spoken and Disney’ll have to go back to doing WILD HOGS 2.

But that’s okay. JOHN CARTER is no WALL-E. Maybe Stanton wasn’t meant for live action. I just hope all the business page bullshit doesn’t scare away the people who would like the movie. I suspect in the long run it will be pretty well remembered.

And if they want to do a part 2 on the cheap I recommend taking a look at a little movie called BEASTMASTER 2: THROUGH THE PORTAL OF TIME. You just gotta strand John Carter in modern day Los Angeles, keep all the Martian architecture and spacecrafts out of the budget. You could even have Willem Dafoe wear green makeup and puppet arms if you need to. If a Pixar director isn’t available I’m sure they could get some dude who did, like, OPEN SEASON 2 or one of the SHREKs.

* * *

dimensionality note: social circumstances led me to see this in the fake 3D version. The 3D had more depth and less problems than other post-conversions I’ve seen, and was more noticeable than in the Pixar movies (which tend to look cool at first and then I forget they’re even in 3D).But it’s definitely not as good as actual 3D and it had kind of a foggy look to it, at least in the theater where I saw it. I would recommend regular-D.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 13th, 2012 at 2:32 am and is filed under Fantasy/Swords, Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

164 Responses to “John Carter”

  1. No offence to anybody, but we always hear these stories from your part of the world here in Europe, about people suing the producers of The Artist and Drive and not going to see certain movies because they don’t know what a Shawhank is or who John Carter is. Are people really that ignorant, or are we movie buffs just too arrogant to see that it’s a marketing problem?

  2. John Carter is good times popcorn fun. I totally enjoyed it. There was a little kid sitting next to me at the screening and he was bug eyed eating it up. I bet he imprinted and it’s gonna be his fav movie forever. It’s old timey storytelling, with that pulpy ridiculousness you only get in retro SF and it’s reallly really fun if you don’t sweat the logic.

    If it does ok and begats sequels, I think this one will get snickers for being John Carter: Princess of Mars.

  3. Great to read that cats like Vern and other reviewers I dig are enjoying the hell out of this.

    I’m seeing it tomorrow – in fake-D, alas, but it’s all that’s on offer.

    It’s a shame – but not entirely unsuprising given the at times baffling ad campaigns – that it’s going to fall short at the US box office.

    Someone at Disney really should be hanging their heads right about now.

    And why supposed genre film fans on the net have been baying for it’s blood (I hope it flops, it looks like Attack of the Clones, waah, etc. ), when it’s exactly the sort of film they should be rooting for, I’ll never know.

  4. Pegsman – I think it is mostly a marketing problem. Most people I know watch a lot of movies, but in a completely different way than I do. They’ll select the films they watch because they saw an ad on tv, because it said “from the makers of 300” while it has only one of the catering guys that maybe made a sandwich for Gerard Butler once that he didn’t even like that much. They’ll watch anything with certain name actors, no matter what the movie is about. And they’ll blindly trust the one review that they read on their favorite website or magazine. Then they watch the film, say they liked it a lot and it was amazing etc. Then when you ask them about it a week later, you’ll have to remind them what the movie was about because they’ll have forgotten most of it already.

    I’m trying not to be condescending, but I probably am because I hate that these people are the majority and they decide what films are hits or flops, and in turn what type of movies we will get from studios in the years ahead.

    To get back to the marketing, I think John Carter has not been sold very well by the advertising. It’s a terrible, dull title, it’s got no big name actors and most people do not want to make the effort to find out what a movie is about.

  5. I actually wanted to see this, but I’ve been sick with a cold for almost a week now (and it’s the first cold I’ve had in like 7 or 8 years no less) so alas, blu ray for me (which is not a big deal anyway because I’m kind of over 3D anyway)

    I’m sad to hear it’s flopping though because this has been in the works for a LOOOONG time, it’s had an imdb board for as long as I’ve been on the internet

    by the way, did Tron Legacy not do well in theaters? I thought it did

  6. Yeah, when did the world stop using the term “underperform”? Today everything, that doesn’t make its budget back on the first weekend, is considered a flop. SOme of the headlines from this week read like JOHN CARTER made less money than that new Eddie Murphy movie.
    I’m used to this when it’s the follow up to a really successful movie from the same director (as in “GODZILLA flopped, even though it made a huge profit and was a box office success over the world, but it didn’t make as much as ID4” or “KING KONG flopped bla bla bla LOTR!”) but not even this applies anymore.

  7. Also if the movie had been called JOHN CARTER OF MARS, audiences would probably complain that he wasn’t on Mars, but on Barsoom and therefore it was totally misleading.

  8. Right on, Vern. People rooting against this movie are frickin’ idiots. It’s fun as hell and I love that you are the one reviewer to notice the Rome reunion of Ciarin Hinds and James Purefoy. Worth the price of admission and not even the best part! And I have to say… Just seeing Lynn Collins say “Barsoom” at the very end… Such a simple thing but I was completely in love with her at that point.

  9. The way I heard it Stanton himself screwed up the marketing:

    Regardless, when push came to shove on “John Carter,” Mr. Stanton usually got his way. One area in which he exerted his influence was marketing, where he frequently rejected ideas from Ms. Carney and her team, according to people who worked on the film.

    He insisted, for instance, that a Led Zeppelin song be used in a trailer, rejecting concerns that a decades-old rock tune did not make the material feel current. Mr. Stanton also was behind the selection of billboard imagery that fell flat, and he controlled an important presentation of footage at a Disney fan convention that got a chilly reception.

    By the time “John Carter” had its Los Angeles premiere last month, the film had suffered months of ridicule on the Internet and had taken on a funereal aura. “I’ve never had something healthy get treated like a corpse,” Mr. Ross told Variety. Mr. Stanton brushed off skeptics at the premiere, saying, “You just gotta trust us.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/12/business/media/ishtar-lands-on-mars.html

    So maybe the lesson is: keep the suits out of the director’s chair, but keep the director out of the marketing department?

  10. The problem with the Led Zeppelin song isn’t that it’s old IMO, but that the riff is even today still associated with Puff Daddy and Godzilla. I doubt that anybody thought: “Wow, they use the Godzilla song, so the movie must suck”, though.

  11. What really bothers me about all of the joy that the business media has gotten out of seeing John Carter “bomb” is that they like to make it a story about how the creative types (in this case the director) received too much control. I cannot remember a time where a film bombs and the media says, “Well, you know, they gave the producers too much control over the film. The producers really screwed up. Maybe if they had listened to the director.” I really hope the fact that John Carter “bombed” (although, it has made $100 million worldwide) doesn’t lead to a tightening of the reins on directors everywhere.

  12. the weird thing is it seems almost every movie these days that’s not A: a retarded kid’s movie based on an old, retarded cartoon, B: a Michael Bay movie, C: a Twilight movie or D: a comic book movie flops these days, what the hell is going on? it’s depressing

    didn’t Tintin also not do too well in the States? when even Spielberg is having with today’s audiences you know something is seriously wrong

  13. by the way, didn’t Disney make a metric shitload of money on that awful Pirates 4 last year? I think they’ll survive…

  14. BR – when reading that article I burst out laughing when I saw this picture http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2012/03/12/business/carterjump1color/carterjump1color-articleInline.jpg

    WHY SO SERIOUS!?

    man, what a creepy looking mother fucker

  15. I’m only a little embarrassed to admit that I kind of liked the last Pirates movie, even if it was a complete mess.

    But I’m not sure that John Carter is going to be the massive bomb that everyone is claiming. It arguably cost more than it should have, but it has already made $100 million worldwide, and will make a lot more as time goes on. The domestic numbers might be disappointing, but it can make that up in the foreign market. Plus, you have DVD sales and rentals, which will push those numbers up. In the long run, I would be surprised if they didn’t make a little bit of money off of this movie (but of course I’m hardly an expert on the business end of movies).

  16. I hate to be the guy to boil down a movie to a simple catchphrase, but “Avatar for Nerds” is actually pretty accurate. Yes I know this was written first and Cameron ripped off the Tharks, etc. etc., and that’s a valid complaint, but at the end of the day Avatar does every single thing (romance, story, villain, action sequences, use of 3D) better. Unless you enjoy your sci-fi with an extra helping of exposition and political intrigue/Machiavellian backstabbing. (Seriously, what’s up with the Shakespearean politics in all these sci-fi movies – from the Prequels to Chronicles of Riddick – it’s like sci-fi writers feel it’s a shortcut to respectability or something)

    Anyways, even on its own merits, I kinda got tired of John Carter about 3/4 of the way through (when he escaped Helium(?) and I realized he hadn’t entered the arena yet, and I was like “Oh great”) The final battle looks really low-rent (it seriously looks like the climax of Flash Gordon) and is also confusingly shot. I had no idea which humans were which and who was outside the walls or inside the walls and just said “fuck it”. I also had no idea who the Tharks were that Carter was slaughtering like a God of War cutscene – were those his own buddies that later joined him or just some other random Tharks?

    I will have to say though that the flashback-in-a-flashback-in-a-flashback structure (like Ghosts of Mars!) had a great payoff at the end. (Even though it seemed kinda tacked on and rushed)

  17. I just don’t see how this movie cost 250,000,000 dollars.

    That’s a shit ton of fucking money. I mean a shit ton. I don’t care if this movie is good. It didn’t have to cost 250,000,000 dollars.

  18. I don’t understand why they didn’t just call it Princess of Mars. How dumb do you have to be to not see what a shitty title “John Carter” is? You alter the title and modify the trailer a little bit to include more princess action, and you’ve made a billion dollars instantly.

  19. Even if it was called A PRINCESS OF MARS it still would’ve failed. It starred a no-name actor in a film that looked derivative of many other recent blockbusters.

    Yeah yeah “the barsoom novels inspired all of those blockbusters in the first place” that shit means squat in the eyes of general audiences. They simply saw a ripoff with an unfamiliar face and lackluster trailers even if the movie deserves to make a billion dollars it never will for that reason. Audiences are more unforgiving these days; if western/alien hybrid starring Indiana Jones and James Bond couldn’t set the world on fire I don’t know why people expected one with a TV star to do so.

    What would’ve really helped them IMO? a “FROM THE DIRECTOR OF WALL-E and FINDING NEMO” disclaimer on posters and trailers. I think that would’ve softened the blow a bit but oh well too little too late.

  20. The movie isn’t perfect, and one of the things that drags it down a little are the political machinations. But at the same time, they didn’t bother me much because the film had a great sense of pacing. For me anyway, the movie kept on moving without feeling jittery (which is hard to pull off). There are films that have ripped off the source material, and maybe have done a better job of executing it (Avatar, obviously), but what I really liked about this movie is how slight it feels. Even though it runs longer than two hours, it felt shorter than most large blockbusters. The Pirate movies, Avatar, and Transformers have all become incredibly bloated. By contrast, this movie felt swift.

    Stanton may have shot himself in the foot by involving himself in the marketing of the film. The trailers weren’t very good, and he deserves some of the blame for that. But the movie would have been a hard sell regardless. The movie has a lot of goofy ideas in it, and it takes place in the past, even though it’s a sci fi film. “Avatar for nerds” is actually a pretty good description, but I don’t automatically think this should be a pejorative. But there are plenty of movies that are hard sells that end up doing great at the box office, so who knows.

  21. Good afternoon, all.

    For what it’s worth…

    Really old heroes that someone has tried to revive with little to no success:

    Conan (recent movie)
    Flash Gordon (movie and Syfy TV series)
    The Phantom
    The Rocketeer
    The Shadow (note: I loved this movie)
    The Spirit

    Now, I’m not saying, “Old = bad.” Hell, Conan the Barbarian is still pretty well-regarded, from what I can tell. I’m just saying that, if I was in charge of what movies get made, and somebody told me they wanted to do John Carter, I’d:

    1. Have to ask who John Carter is.
    2. Feel that the odds are against it making a comeback, and probably pass on the script.

    That being said, I hope the movie is good.

  22. I’m kind of interested in watching this, and was wondering if it’s a good movie to take my five year old to? I know it’s PG13, but he loves sci-fi and fantasy already and has a pretty good attention span for things with monsters on them.
    The main concerns would be “scary” scenes or too much violence.
    Oh, and hardcore sex scenes. I have a strict no-porn-until-you’re-seven rule. I know, it seems harsh, but I’m old fashioned that way.

    Thanks

  23. M. Prestwich (no relation)

    March 13th, 2012 at 10:30 am

    I can’t understand the lukewarm or openly negative attitudes and reviews on this one. I absolutely loved this one. Great humor, good action, romance that doesn’t feel forced…what’s not to love?

    This should be a movie the internet is falling all over himself to love….it isn’t a remake, a sequel, or a property that has been adapted to death already.

  24. Dreadguacamole — the movie isn’t scary, and unless I missed something there’s no hardcore pornography, just a skimpy outfit or two. However, it is surprisingly violent. As Vern mentioned, there’s a scene where the Tharks decide to kill off any unborn eggs (off screen), there’s a beheading, and there’s a lot of blood, even though its blue alien blood. The violence is heavily CGIed, so that makes it less gruesome.

  25. You know, since the second they started advertising this movie most of the coverage has been dissecting the advertising. I believe Harry, Drew McWeeny and Devin Feraci all wrote full length pieces about the first poster being terrible because it was mysterious and didn’t show what it was. Then when it showed John Carter riding a beastie they were all mad that it was a font that just looked good and original and not the type of font that you are supposed to put on a sci-fi poster. Then people were mad that another poster was red. Even I sort of complained in my review that they didn’t show the good stuff in the trailer.

    We hate that trailers always give everything away and then we say they’re idiots when they trust the audience to not have to have everything given away.

    Also, in this dissection of the advertising it seems like you have to believe that most people are idiots who can’t read and don’t know about anything, but also that they would never see a movie that looked similar to other movies. Since when has this mass audience cared that something was derivative of something else? Yet we blame the similarities to Avatar.

    To me the look (design, color scheme, setting, technology), tone and feel are so completely different from Avatar that it’s probly just as likely it wasn’t enough like Avatar to catch on.

    I mean, who the fuck knows?

  26. Sometimes these things are self-fulfilling prophecies. When all you hear about a movie is that it’s probably going to be a huge flop, it probably discourages a lot of people from seeing it. Everybody likes an underdog, but nobody likes a born loser.

    As for me, I’m just not in the mood for a fantasy epic right now. I’ll see it on DVD, where the question of whether or not it is making as many hundreds of millions of dollars as it should will not seem so pressing.

  27. Strange – I didn’t absolutely love this, but I liked it an awful lot and keep thinking about it and don’t expect but would love a sequel.

    I thought the performances were excellent, and Lynn Collins appears to be an actual grown woman with curves and everything (I was actually taken aback for a second)!

    Also, I liked the title – he’s only John carter of Mars at the end.

    Everything that was wrong with the Star Wars prequels was right with this, except the music which was so low key that it almost didn’t exist.

    I would like one of those crystal motorbike things, too.

  28. Remember that whole bit where they blamed “The Island” flopping on people being confused there was no Island? (how did they know there was no island?) My local paper also ran a story saying “The Abyss” flopped because nobody knew what an abyss was, and how some lady thought it was a fancy word for knife because the poster had a long Y in the word “Abyss” that looked like a knife. I suspect it’s bullshit since the same moviegoers probably had no idea what an Avatar was either.

    Anyway my point is I refuse to believe we can blame poor box office on bad titles, simply because titles have been getting progressively stupider and stupider for years now, so much that i’m usually embarrassed to say the name when buying a ticket and just mumble one or two key words of the title. (“I’ll take one for Matrix 2, please”) And I’m not just talking about the “Rise of” subtitles shit. They called a movie “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” and it made $150 million (i still can’t get over that number). This should be proof that nobody gives a shit about titles.

  29. Vern in my case it’s not even the similarities to AVATAR. It’s hearing my friends or people at school talking about “It looks like a cheap ATTACK OF THE CLONES” or “It takes place in old times? god another COWBOYS AND ALIENS” and things of that sort when this movie was brought up.

    Mind you yes they also did love JAMES CAMERON’S DANCES WITH WOLVES. So I don’t know. I think the name James Cameron had a lot to do with selling AVATAR to the general audience. It’s pretty much been a brand since ALIENS and T2.

    Some of these people are friends that I respect but also idiots when it comes to judging good cinema. If it doesn’t star Will Smith or something these muthafuckas won’t even catch a matinee. Those types need trailers as guiding hands to hook them now a days before not choosing to illegally stream movies or just netflix or redbox the shit.

    I actually enjoyed this movie but the trailer definitely did not sell it as it was that was the weakness. Not the amount of exposition in the trailer or the lack of exposition but a trailer that didn’t really embrace the property it was promoting.

    Movies like THE LORAX, JOURNEY TO THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND, CHRONICLE and ACT OF VALOR had trailers that whether you liked the movie or not sold them pretty straightforwardly. Anybody could grasp what they were gonna pay for when viewing the trailers. These movies were also some of the most profitable investment for the studios this year so far. Movies like HAYWIRE and JOHN CARTER had trailers that didn’t really sell the movie they were promoting for what it actually was at all at it’s core. Those movies also underperformed.

    I try not to be a pessimist believe me but sometimes things just seem too funnily coincidental. There was an obvious disconnect somewhere when it came to marketing time for this movie. Similar to GREEN LANTERN they then got really desperate and blew a lot of millions in promoting it as a different movie all along.

    If JOHN CARTER had a more straightforward trailer it probably would’ve performed better out here so far you’re right; who knows? In any case I think it’s safe to say the days of any artistic qualities in marketing are gone anyway. I mean just look at how sad the photoshop hack job AVENGERS posters have all been. A movie of that caliber of anticipation deserved way better.

  30. I think people assumed it was a sequel to MICHAEL CLAYTON, maybe about his brother in law or something.

  31. As I said THE THING review, I enjoyed this a lot, and I’m baffled how much of a critical drubbing it’s getting.
    I’m glad you bring up how it uses very familiar tropes in the review Vern, because a lot of the compaints about it are that it’s cliched. But since the source material INVENTED a lot of cliches we see in these types of films and it’s the inspiration for a lot of the things its accused of ripping off(Superman, Star Wars, Flash Gordon), shouldn’t that be expected? I’m not saying it should make the movie critic proof, but remember how cliched AVATAR was and plenty of people like that. Also, how much can you update and change before it stops being a JOHN CARTER story? The tragic backstory and explanation for how he gets to Barsoom in the first place aren’t even in the book from what I’ve heard. John’s just an archetypical heroic character and he gets to Barsoom due an unexplained metaphysical deus ex plot device. Ah well.

    Anyone else surprised this movie has Dominic West and Bryan Cranston in it, yet no one has mentioned THE WIRE or BREAKING BAD yet?

  32. Mr. Subtlety- or a prequel to GET CARTER.

  33. Ronnie James Dio once sang; “If you listen to fools, the mob rules” and it seems like a lot of people does that. Fuck fools, fuck mobs and fuck people.

    Want to find out how good a movie is? Go see it and form your own opinion.
    If somebody diss a movie on what it should have been, rather than what it really is, that says
    jackshit about the qualities of a film.

    I don´t know. Do I make any sense here?

    Haven´t seen this movie though. Sounds intriguing, but a bitch to sell to people. And that is interesting enough for me to give it a shot.

  34. This was for me an almost as crappy experience as Suckerpunch. The trailers and all said to me in the two cases a)samurai babes fighting nazis and dragons and something about space and b)monsters in space, sci-fi etc. Naturally I got excited as hell, but in both cases I felt like a (hypothetical) kid coming home, hoping as every other night his drunk dad would be sober, ony to smelling the booze instanty and getting smacked in the face when walking through the door.

    Suckerpunch had zero suspense since everything was just in the head of the dancing chick, and John Carter was just an insanely huge misfire. Everything fell outside of what I think is cool or whatever, the “funny” moments when he had to learn to walk in what at first seemed to be a planet where the gravity pulls you to the right, getting slapped on the head for charging at the wrong city.. And “I’m getting away”.. what the hell was that? And ALL the names. Barsoom? Tars Tarkas, that rediculous word I’ve forgot they used on something similar to a second. Holy shit. Not my cup o’ tea. Dr Chevalier from Gentlemen Broncos could conjure up better names and words with his method.

    Just my two cents.

  35. You know, this movie is exactly what bums me out about the whole blockbuster opening-weekend crucible. There’s no time for something to build its own identity and connection to filmgoers. Theater films are so expensive that people are hesitant to go to something that’s not a sure thing, and even though I think they understood what this movie was about better than the talking heads claim, I don’t think they had a good enough sense of the material to know if it would be worth 12 bucks. And since everyone assumes it was shit if it doesn’t do gangbusters the opening weekend, now they’ll never find out.

    Something like this would benefit more from a groundswell approach — let an adventurous few investigate, fall in love, spread the word. Let it grow as people talk to each other. Let it seduce instead of overwhelm with force.

    But movies just can’t seem to do that, anymore, especially expensive ones. Small wonder then that everything is a sequel or adaptation. If you’re gonna get those numbers in a three day period, you have to have a product that absolutely everyone RECOGNIZES, not just understands. They understood JOHN CARTER’s premise, they just didn’t know what it would be like. And I guess now they never will.

  36. neal2zod: Oh come on, PAUL BLART: MALL COP is an acceptable title for a silly comedy like this. I see nothing wrong with that.

  37. BR Baraka – Actually I’ll defend Stanton for using Led Zeppelin in this fashion. Remembr four years ago that certain superhero robot-suit movie that everybody (well most folks) really liked where Robert Downey Jr. was wrapped around in AC/DC? I think that’s what Stanton was gunning for I suppose.

    The problem Disney and Stanton and everybody over there realized was this: The Internet Nerds don’t know PRINCESS OF MARS or Edgar Rice Burroughs. Unless this sci-fi book has comic book panels (big titties are a plus too). the nerds don’t give a fuck about old classic sci-fi literature. (Come to think of it, what books do they read unless it contains drawings on every page?) The names of Asimov and Bradbury and Heinlein and so forth are about as meaningful names to them as 18th century German authors like Goeth. (And if they do, its only because they were forced to read something back in school.)
    They didn’t grew up on that shit through media like they (and me I assume) did with Batman or Spider-Man or whoever. Nor was it a seminal graphic novel like WATCHMEN.

    Come to think of it, it’s funny but there was a time when graphic novels were frowned upon by the genre statemen. Now they’re practically the genre anymore. Call me elitist and prove that wrong, because I hope I’m not cynically accurate about my lay of the land.

    RBatty024 – I think whats strange for the hoopla about JOHN CARTER being a bomb waiting to explode was that every other famous “flop” was greeted with scorn because of early bad reviews or test screenings or industry screening reactions. Whether HEAVEN’S GATE or HIGHLANDER 2 or HUDSON HAWK or ISHTAR or whatever. (Though honestly as I said before, I sorta admire GATE, HAWK is actually watchable if too many misfire jokes for every one that connects, and ISHTAR is just forgettable.)

    But that Daily Beast article I read on JOHN CARTER, it blasted everything about it except whether the movie was good or not. Did test audiences like or hate it or indifferent? If they didn’t like it, I would understand it perhaps.

    Griff – You forgot (E): a Johnny Depp blockbuster. (Seriously JOHN CARTER can’t be any worse than the fucking lame PIRATES 4, which made a billion bucks.)

    TINTIN did well in Europe, but I blame that surprisingly lackluster business to the busy Christmas market. Adults had their action escape in Mission Impossible, the kids had the goddamn Chipmunks movie. Oh and Spielberg competing against himself (WAR HORSE tanked too in the states, didn’t it?)

  38. Saw this with my roommate the day it opened. We were largely unimpressed. I DID thoroughly enjoy the old timey Star Wars/Indy feel to some of it, that was nice to see.

    Also THANK YOU VERN for recognizing the Rome connection. My friend and I both started laughing and poking each other when we realized that Caesar was the king and goddamn Marc BigDick Antony is his number two. Awesome. Actually I may have enjoyed that little bit more than the entire rest of the movie.

    Not a waste of money by any means, but not one that I feel the need to see again or buy. Maybe a rental somewhere down the line.

  39. The film review show in the UK (Film 2012 this year) can be pretty good and the bloke on it said something like he suspected people would still be talking about JOHN CARTER in 20 years time, it’s just such a different experience these days – not all flash and essentially one man’s vision.

    And the more I think back on it, the more I like it and want to see it again. I didn’t even see the little plot twist coming at the end.

    The score still sucks.

  40. “Also THANK YOU VERN for recognizing the Rome connection. My friend and I both started laughing and poking each other when we realized that Caesar was the king and goddamn Marc BigDick Antony is his number two. Awesome. Actually I may have enjoyed that little bit more than the entire rest of the movie. ”
    Yeah, I found that one scene of Purefoy’s character faking a hostage situation really fun and I wanted more of that guy in the movie.

  41. “the nerds don’t give a fuck about old classic sci-fi literature.”

    That sounds wrong to me. Nerds are all over Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, and , and Heinlein, and Aasimov. If a nerd likes sci fi or fantasy, he’s going to go deep into it, not half-ass it.
    Rbatty – thanks for the response… sounds like a family outing, then.

  42. “Nerds are all over Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, and , and Heinlein, and Aasimov.”

    dreadguacamole – Not the nerds I know, but maybe I’m just cranky?

  43. Maybe the lesson is scifi+cowboys=suckage (financially at least).

    Proof of theorem:

    Jonah Hex
    Cowboys and Aliens
    John Carter of Mars
    Wild Wild West

    When I was looking for other examples, I just found out there is a proper genre name for this combo: Weird West

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weird_West

    So enjoy your Weird West DVDs folks, I think it is safe to say Hollywood is burned here.

    But… they do come back biting… maybe its just the nature of the 10 second pitch? Everyone loves Indiana Jones/ Justified/ Unforgiven/ dude in hat with gun, and everyone loves Star Wars/ Star Trek/ Alien/ creatures in space ships… everyone and their uncle must think: combine them! And everyone and their uncle who hears the combo must go: great idea! Or not.

    From that NYT link above, apparently Stanton sold John Carter of Mars with the simple 4 words “Indiana Jones on Mars.” It works… as a pitch. Except… apparently not as a (financially successful) movie.

    I’ll tell you what does have a good track record: Apes + SciFi. I’ll be honest with you, I understand Planet of the Apes as an allegory, but the entire output in this genre always left me yawning. I really have no freaking clue why something like Rise of the Planet of the Apes from last year was so appealing. But it is. I would have guessed that movie would have bombed and I was ready to ridicule whoever had that idea, it sounds ridiculous. Shows you how much I know about what works in show business.

    So Hollywood, for the sake of your bottom line: more smart apes, less cowboys shooting aliens in space ships.

  44. The negative press on this reminds me of when Waterworld came out. It was like everyone decided to hate the movie before it ever came out. All i kept hearing about was how Waterworld’s budget was spiraling out of control, Costner was a dick, etc. What does any of this have to do with the quality of the movie? As a defender of Waterworld, it makes me sad when the press and the critics crucify a movie before it even comes out.

  45. JOHN CARTER has some genuinely great moments but is also a very flawed movie. The story itself could work, the screenplay doesn’t. The dialogue is terrible and some of the dialogue scenes in the middle went on for far too long without any compelling developments. They sucked the joy out of a generally likeable space opera.

    I also don’t understand why they started the movie with a scene from mars without John Carter and voice-over narration. This destroys the sense of wonder I should feel when I discover mars with our hero later in the movie. (Not after we’ve seen a second and a third beginning.)

    It doesn’t help that mars looks like Utah with digital enhancements. I can accept this as a not very inspired vision of mars, but it’s stupid to set the scenes on earth before also in Utah, even if that’s lifted from the novel. AVATAR created an world we’ve never seen before, this world looks like we’ve seen it many times before.

    I also can’t accept the defense that George Lucas and all the other guys stole everything from JOHN CARTER and now it’s unfair to held this against it. Han Solo was a great character, John Carter is a boring character. It’s as simple as that. Luke Skywalker is a better character for a Space Opera because it’s an adventure for him. AVATAR was longer but felt much shorter without the empty pathos and the endless dialogue scenes. They stole only what was good and useful. Why should anybody steal dialogues about “fighting for helium”?

    The false 3D was awful, many blurred shots. I luckily don’t have to think about the budget, but if I were Disney I would ask where all the money went, because it isn’t on the screen. Neither is the joy of a classic space opera.

  46. This movie keeps on getting compared to Heaven’s Gate. I wonder if anyone here has eve seen that movie? I’ve thought about renting it a few times, but I’ve been scared off by its nearly four hour running time. Is it as bad as everyone says it is?

  47. supposedly Heaven’s Gate is actually pretty good, from what I’ve heard

    you have to love the arrogance though of a director putting a four hour movie into theaters, does he just assume that no one has to piss?

  48. I for one absolutely loved this movie. I had read some discussion about the film (and its terrible marketing) so I had a pretty good idea of what to expect, but even so a lot of it surpassed my expectations. I didn’t really find the politics/talky bits/exposition boring or difficult to follow at all, and I liked Kitsch a lot better than I thought I would. I don’t mind him as an actor (liked him a lot in what I saw of Friday Night Lights) but just based on the trailers I thought he felt terribly miscast – in the actual movie though I found him to be really likeable, and ultimately I really cared about his character. Sure, he probably should have been 10 years older for the role, but I thought he made a fine John Carter and I’d there on day one to see more of his exploits in the hypothetical sequel.

    One other thing I would like to mention is the costume design – absolutely amazing through and through.

  49. Heaven’s Gate is a masterpiece! It’s long, yes, and politically it’s to the far left, which wasn’t very popular in USA in the 80’s (or now). But if it hadn’t been for all the negative press about the budget and Cimino’s Cecil B. DeMille aspirations it would have been mentioned alongside of The Godfather and Apocalypse Now today. I recommend it to anyone interested in political cinema and/or American history. And for those who don’t give a shit about any of those things, there’s plenty of violent action too.

  50. Other titles from the “Mars” book series:

    THE CHESSMEN OF MARS

    THUVIA, MAID OF MARS

    THE SYNTHETIC MEN OF MARS

    Okay, that last one’s not impossible to promote … maybe? Sad to see this not “hit”, I always liked the books.

  51. I wonder what’s wrong with me- as I read through this list I cant help but remark on how many of these movies I have seen and that I like.

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_biggest_box_office_bombs

  52. the Super Mario Bros movie is a guilty pleasure of mine

    it’s just so…..early 90’s, I can’t help but at least somewhat like it

    and it’s such a bizarre film, to take the Mario Bros and put them in the MC Hammer version of Blade Runner it’s just…..strange

  53. Baraka: Yeah, I know what you mean. But hey, we all know that box office results are no measurement for quality.

  54. Jareth Cutestory

    March 14th, 2012 at 7:01 am

    Mr. Subtlety: You make a good point about films suffering due to inflated opening weekend expectations. I wonder to what extent the films themselves start to become influenced by this marketing push. There seems to be something inherent in films like CLASH OF THE TITANS and SUCKER PUNCH that panders to an audience’s expectation of immediate gratification and empty spectacle in the worst possible way. These films have some sort of carnival ride aspect woven into their DNA.

    A local theater here has been playing Cronenberg’s A DANGEROUS METHOD for nearly two months; a buddy who works at the theater told me that it only began to pick up respectable business after the third week. Since then it’s been playing to 3/4 full audiences, partially because it’s the only theater still playing the film, but also, I think, because a more challenging film like this simply requires time find an audience.

    My buddy also told me that A DANGEROUS MIND’s attendence numbers noticably improved during that week when everyone was talking about Michael Fassbender’s cock.

  55. Thought it was good, not great. I liked it as an old school adventure movie. Plus, the action scenes worked, the effects were well done for the most part, Kitsch and Collins were likeable, Tars and his daughter were convincing cg characters and Woola was cute. Didn’t really care about the Helium/Zodanga(?) conflict or the shapeshifters, though.

    And the marketing deserves to be trashed. It’s like they were afraid to sell the movie they made. Can’t mention Mars! Mars movies bomb! Can’t mention the love story! Boys will hate that! Can’t mention the Western/Civil war aspect! Western movies bomb!

    None of the ads I saw even gave you the most basic info about the film. Stuff like “Who is John Carter?”, “Where is John Carter?”, “Why is John Carter fighting?”, etc. Instead they showed JC jumping over apes and saying I DID NOT CAUSE THISSSS over and over again.

  56. Here’s one thing to consider: Everywhere they strayed from the source material, which was a lot, they came up with something less interesting then if they had just followed what Burroughs wrote and what many illustrators have rendered. They’d have a vital and rugged hero instead of a baby faced male model, more visually interesting planet, better sword combat, a tighter film.

    Sanitizing the story didn’t help. I guess they thought showing the hero stabbing people in the heart and neck wouldn’t appeal to all the kiddies they were trying to get ticket money from.

  57. Griff – I actually thought of Super Mario Bros. as well during this with the prologue to a prologue to a prologue beginning. (I think Mario Bros. had multiple epilogues as well, right?) I read somewhere the opening Mars battle was shifted to the beginning at the very last minute (I guess to frontload more action, b/c otherwise you wouldn’t really see any fighting until like 45 min. in) I see why they did it, but it’s really awkward and messes with the anticipation/reveal when Carter finally gets there.

    CJ – I guess what I was trying to say re: Paul Blart: Mall Cop was that everyone theorizing that this movie may have underperformed b/c of its title is really reaching for excuses. I doubt there was one person on the fence who was like “well, it’s only called John Carter, that’s a dumb title, I guess I wont’ be seeing it”. Who sees movies blindly based on the title? I actually don’t think the commercials/Led Zeppelin trailer were really that bad either, the movie being sold and the images used to sell it just weren’t that intriguing to most people (or me).

    And I guess b/c I stopped reading the comment boards on AICN or something, I somehow missed all this rooting for the movie to fail, and somehow just saw the backlash to the backlash. It actually seems most people (Vern, Faraci, Harry, dudes from Chud) have seemed to enjoy it, so I end up feeling like the old curmudgeon who didn’t like it as much as I was supposed to (like Captain America).

  58. Fun movie. The 3D wasn’t as noticeably bad to me as other people have mentioned. It wasn’t as deep as Hugo or Avatar but it was also nowhere near as bad as say the last Harry Potter or Clash of the Titans.

    I would have to say though that opening 15 minutes felt very clunky and exposition heavy. There had to be a better way of getting some of that information to me visually. Someone mentioned that they probably shouldn’t have started with a scene on Mars without John Carter and I would definitely agree. In fact, the whole sub-plot with with his nephew could have been scrapped and they could have started the film with Bryan Cranston confronting him in the bar and just let us find out about the villain as he encounters him in Mars.

  59. “Griff – I actually thought of Super Mario Bros. as well during this with the prologue to a prologue to a prologue beginning. (I think Mario Bros. had multiple epilogues as well, right?)”
    Not to mention that both are about a guy who has to save a princess from a strange world using his ability to jump really high.

  60. Maybe they both would have done better if SUPER MARIO had looked more like JOHN CARTER and JOHN CARTER had looked more like BLADE RUNNER.

  61. John Carter is your run of the mill man-gets-relocated-into-non-familiar-enviornment-and-uses-his-testosterome-to-kill-things-and-save-the-helpless-girl-in-sexist-fashion movie.

    And yes, we HAVE seen that a million times before.

  62. Jareth — not only does this system which places nearly all the value of the film on its first-weeked domestic gross cause studios to back only films which are so instantly digestable and recognizable that they are virtually gaurenteed asses in chairs after a sufficient marketing blitz, but it also means that even *successful* films end up being considered unsuccessful if they make their money in other ways.

    Not that I was a gigantic fan of GOLDEN COMPASS, but I was always surprised that film was considered a failure. Sure, its 70 million US gross is a little anemic, but worldwide it reached *$370,000,000*. The film made money, pure and simple. But somehow it got branded as a flop, and now I’ll never get to see how in the fuck they were going to adapt the third book, which depicts God as a gibbering, senile whisp and features our heroes literally fighting the forces of heaven.

    Same thing with JOHN CARTER, which looks to be headed towards a similar foreign gross (it hasn’t even opened in China or Japan yet). Worldwide, a film like this is allowed a somewhat slower start and more time to find an audience. But somehow it just doesn’t seem to matter.

    As much as I hate linking to AICN, there’s a pretty nice short article there http://www.aintitcool.com/node/54279 which pretty much sums up the problem. Hollywood doesn’t care about making a respectable amount of money. They only want the huge payoffs. Making back the budget plus a few tens of millions isn’t worth their time. Seriously.

    Which means they’re falling into the same trap as the recording industry did. Making only things which are so completely disposable, bland a prepackaged that they’re practically pre-digested. A good way to make that opening weekend, but a bad strategy in the long run, if you want to make anything people will remember by the next weekend.

  63. “But somehow it got branded as a flop, and now I’ll never get to see how in the fuck they were going to adapt the third book, which depicts God as a gibbering, senile whisp and features our heroes literally fighting the forces of heaven.”

    well there’s your answer as to why they never made any sequels, the studios didn’t want to shit where they eat and piss off every single Christian in America

  64. Kenneth – you really thought Deja was a “helpless girl”? What about her introduction to John Carter, when he tells her to get behind her to be safe, gets his ass kicked and then she handles the situation better and makes fun of him for saying that? Nothing revolutionary about it, but they definitely made a point of having her be as capable as him at fighting (not to mention much smarter with her pioneering scientific research that he doesn’t understand at all). And they also chose an actress womanly enough to sell it instead of the usual wispy 22 year old models.

  65. Mr. Subtlety:

    I actually thought that article was idiotic. It was clearly written by someone who never took/doesn’t remember economics class from high school. It’s not that Green Hornet 2 couldn’t or wouldn’t make money. It’s an issue of *opportunity cost* and diminishing returns.

    If you make a Green Hornet 2 you have to factor in not just the cost of making that movie, but the loss of potential profits from not making a different movie instead. Think of it this way: If you invest 100k in stock A and turn a 13% profit when you could have invested 50k in stock B and turned a 20% profit, you’ve actually *lost* money by investing in stock A, even though you have a higher return because your opportunity cost is higher.

    Also, Neil Fuckin’ Moritz is many things, but a guy who makes movies for the sake of art isn’t one of them. Getting mad that a major Hollywood producer is concerned about the bottom line over alleged artistic integrity is just silly. Moritz is where he is because he understands the bottom line. If he were focused on expression or art or whatever other stuff that you would prefer he be concerned with, he would’ve gone bankrupt long ago.

  66. And no, The Golden Compass did not make money. While it might not be in the red (though, I assure you, it will *always* be in the red if the accountants are doing their jobs properly), if you invest $250,000,000 in production, plus $100,000,000 in marketing, you need to do more than $370,000,000 to justify the investment. And if you disagree, can I please borrow a thousand bucks? I’ll pay you back $1100… one dollar a day for the next couple years.

    Basic math here, folks.

    Also, while $370,000,000 seems like a lot of money, it really isn’t. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. The idea behind a movie like The Golden Compass is to create a brand. The movie is just one arm of that, you also have toys, t-shirts, lunchboxes, bedsheets, underwear, board games, gummy bears, posters, theme park rides and so on. And so on.

    When a studio green lights a movie on the scale of The Golden Compass, they’re building their portfolio 5-to-10 years out around the projected ancillary profits. If the movie wildly underperforms, then the studio’s entire bookkeeping is fucked for *years*.

    Remember, the studios are subsidiaries of publicly traded multinational conglomerates and as such they need to produce consistent, predictable returns and continually increase their profits on a quarter-by-quarter and year-by-year basis. This is how capitalism works in an economy that is tied to the stock market. You need to beat last year’s number, or else you risk becoming a bad investment in regards to opportunity cost.

    Also, the simple version of the “Did The Golden Compass make money” debate can be summarized thusly: Does New Line Cinema still operate independently? Does Bob Shaye still run the company?

    Oh.

  67. Pursuant to several columns up above, I have to say that the marketing that used Kashmir in the trailer got my hell of excited for this movie.

    If I could somehow have a movie poster that was actually animated, and showed that scene where John Carter looks out the window and those crazy Martian airships are flying around while Kashmir plays in the background…I would buy that poster, and I would put it up in my basement, and also look at it a lot.

  68. Tawdry – you seem to have a very good understanding of the business side of Hollywood, you should be a producer…

    tell me, if you were a producer, what’s a franchise you would turn into a movie series?

  69. I’d turn the spec scripts I’ve written into a franchise! Actually, that’s what I’m trying to do…

    One of my dream projects is a surrealist biopic of Kurt Vonnegut told in the style of his novels.

    Also, there are several biblical stories I’d like to do as science fiction films. Specifically, I’d love to do a film about Moses as a space opera, but it would be impossible because the climax of the story is Space Moses praying to Space YAHWEH 515 times to be allowed to enter the promised land and then only being allowed to look at it.

    Like, the story of Moses, if you really get into it, is one of the most moving and tragic narratives in all of literature. I’m an Atheist, but the poetry of the Torah has made me cry. Look into that shit. Not the movies, not the Sunday school versions. The real shit. The Torah, the Midrash.

    Did you know all of the Israelites who crossed the Red Sea and were ‘freed’ died in the desert?

    Did you know that Moses prayed to Yahweh 515 times to be allowed to enter Canaan and then G-d came down and told him, “If you pray for this one more time, I will have to let you enter the promised land, and I don’t want you to enter the promised land. So stop praying.” And Moses listened?

    Did you know that Moses only ever got to *look* at Canaan from the edge of Mount Neebo and then died just before the Israelites were allowed into the promised land?

    Did you know that Canaan was filled with giants who were the offspring of human and angels (called the Nephilim) and that Elohim took away the angel’s dicks because they were sexually irresistible to humans and were totally abusing that power?

    DId you know that Adoni instructed the Israelites to commit genocide upon the Canaanites and destroy them so thoroughly that mankind would never forget them?

    Did you know that Moses couldn’t speak and that his brother Aaron did all the talking for him?

    I’m sorry…I’ve gotten way off topic. Point is, I wanna do scifi movies about the Torah, but I’m too realistic to fool myself into thinking that anyone would ever fund them.

  70. Tawdry — no no, I understand all that. I was trying the issue of profitability into the other topic I was discussing, which is how exaggerated in importance that opening weekend rush becomes when they’re working on the scale they’re currently trying to maintain. In order to do they kind of thing they’re describing, they basically have to have the ancillary market up and running *before the film even comes out*… meaning that nothing has time to find its feet and allow an audience to come to it.

    I understand how COMPASS and CARTER read as spectacular failures to the industry. It’s just as shame, is all, since they’re really not guilty of *losing* money so much as not making the amount of money they were expected to (they basically will break even on the box office, and should turn a profit on the DVD and ancillary merch.) As you say, small consolation to studios that were banking on them being cash cows for years. But still a shame because it results in an obvious solution of focusing only on blander, instantly brandable big-ticket films.

  71. So I’m actually a JOHN CARTER hater on this board. It feels weird. I’m usually championing the movies everyone else hates. (LOST WORLD is actual better than JURASSIC PARK. Check it out.)

    I thought JOHN CARTER was just a mess. So many problems there’s no one thing that could fix it. The story is a mess of boring exanations. The action is dead. Just swinging swords or shooting lasers with no build or drive, maybe a kill shot like we’ve seen in other movies (the rock thing in the arena comes to mind.) kitsch is bad but a more charismatic lead wouldn’t have really changed anything. No sense of wonder in anything. Just here are some Martians that we made with the computers because we can make them look like that now.

    Collins is good (I like her tummy) and I did dig the escape attempts and jumping montage. I was just shocked how I imaginative Stanton seemed. Brad Bird took a generic franchise and made it playful and elegant, in an era that trends towards jumbled and incomprehensible. Man I really think Bird got all the talent in that family.

    I think JOHN CARTER is worse than JONAH HEX, STAR WARS prequels and WILD WILD WEST. Those are all movies I can see something in and tell the critics to lighten up. I think predicting failure is interesting inasmuch as it reflects the disconnect between artists and their audience, but really it works out nice for the prognosticators when they’re right and it’s ignored when they’re not. Werent there AVATAR predictions a few billion dollars ago?

    So it’s no I’ll will towards the filmmaker or studio. I’ve just gotta keep it real. I actually thought the critics went too easy on it to just say it’s flawed or misguided. It’s a ton of problems. JOHN CARTER OF ASS. :)

  72. Remember that thing Nietzsche said about G-d? Well, it’s true of home video sales too.

    The current business model for Hollywood is based upon DVD revenue, but DVD is just about ready to start singing duets with Whitney Houston and Blu-Ray was a stillborn. For about 10 years you could break even on just about anything because of the home market. But that’s dried up. Too many double-dip releases. Too much saturation. And once you start selling movies for 5 bucks in what amounts to an oversized candy bin at Wal-Mart and renting them out of glorified soda machines for cheaper than an actual soda…well, you’ve devalued the entire enterprise to the point where it cannot recover.

    Streaming and cloud systems will certainly make a difference (which is great news for writers, since the one major victory of the last WGA strike was that writers get twice as much from a streaming rental or sale as they do from a physical equivalent) because they remove the cost of physical production. But with bandwidth increasing to facilitate this, bootlegging of massive film files also becomes easier.

    The rise of DVD brought in a bunch of MBA cats who don’t care about film at all. Hopefully the end of DVD will separate the chaff from the wheat and Tinseltown will go back to the old-fashioned approach of making movies instead of brands. But that’s probably just the idealist in me…

  73. See, that’s your problem, Fred. You watched “John Carter of Ass.” No wonder you were underwhelmed! Try watching the real version instead of the porno spoof next time!

  74. Also, I have seen Super Mario Brothers and Wild Wild West at least a dozen times each, but I have never seen The 400 Blows.

  75. Tawdry – are you sure about blu ray being “stillborn”? it just boggles my mind that in this age of HDtvs most people don’t opt for the format that best takes advantage of them

    and I have never understood the “gotta watch it NOW” mentality of people when it comes to streaming, I used to stream movies myself on my latop till Netflix ruined the picture quality of it and I said “fuck that” (and then Netflix raised their price so high that I had to cancel it altogether), but I just don’t understand why someone would choose lesser picture quality just because it’s more convenient, but that’s just me I guess

    man, the internet is such a double edged sword, for all that’s cool about it it’s also changed so much for the worse

    I wonder what the future of Hollywood will be? this may sound ridiculous but I could honestly see movies going the way of the dodo, let’s hope that doesn’t happen

  76. Griff: I think it’s obvious that we aren’t talking a VHS-to-DVD leap here in terms of picture quality, when it comes to Blu-Ray. Also the many reports about how shitty certain classic movies look on Blu-Ray, (Predator, French Connection…) scared probably many people away. It did it with me!

    Apart from that, here is an interesting column about what maybe keeps Blu-Ray from succeeding:

    http://www.denofgeek.com/movies/1253399/whats_going_wrong_with_bluray.html

    About streaming: I get why it’s so popular. If we had a good streaming offer here in Germany, I would rent many movies that way. I often lay in my bed at night and think “Damn, I would love to watch THAT movie NOW!”.
    But when it comes to OWNING the movie, I (and I’m sure everybody else here too) prefer the good, old disc.

  77. Umm… I loved it. And all the internet hate in the world won’t change that. It was a Disney movie in the best sense of the word. It actually reminded me a lot of Tron (guy gets zapped into a strange world and participates in gladitorial games and rides around in cool vehicles). I’m not saying it was as good as Tron, but it harkened back to a day when the Disney live action studio had their shit together.

    Oh, and if you don’t love Woola, you are one cold-hearted bastard.

  78. Pegsman – HG is lathargic in its pacing, and I kinda agree with that infamous Vincent Canby review where he said HG is a movie that admires itself for 4 hours.

    All those flaws aside (exploding horsey!), I kinda liked it because it exists and having extraordinary cinematography with a good cast. It’s also quite depressing, so that doesn’t help its case I suppose.

    Also the soundtrack was pretty good too.

  79. Heaven’s Gate is excruciating! Talk about flat characters and tinkertoy plotting. The visuals ARE great, but balance of suckiness is restored by the gawdawful sound mix that makes dialogue inaudible. I saw it at a museum screening a while back run & attended by people who revere the movie; love is blind, I guess. Or deaf.

  80. Jareth Cutestory

    March 15th, 2012 at 8:27 am

    Mr. Subtlety: Quick question: does the record industry currently spend disproportionately ludicrous amounts of money on the “disposable, bland” music that you described compared to, say, what they’d spend on a new or unknown act or a nostalgia act with a niche audience? Is Sony throwing more cash into the production of their latest hitmaker than an indie label is giving to one of their artists? If so, does this money actually go to songwriters/musicians/studio time, or is it mostly spent on promotion/Clear Channel payola?

    I get what you mean when you describe something like Katy Perry or Adelle as “prepackaged,” but I’m not sure how that is any different from, say, New Kids on the Block in the 1990s or Stacey Q in the 1980s or The Archies in the 1960s. Has this tactic of creating “predigested” music expanded greatly? I honestly don’t listen to enough pop music to have a grasp on the current landscape.

  81. Griff-“are you sure about blu ray being “stillborn”? it just boggles my mind that in this age of HDtvs most people don’t opt for the format that best takes advantage of them”
    Really, you don’t get why people might take a cheaper, satisfactory format over one that’s more expensive and dependant on having a tv format not everyone owns? Blu Rays don’t seem to have become a dominant format, more like “deluxe” versions of DVDs.

  82. Jareth Cutestory

    March 15th, 2012 at 8:51 am

    Also: firmware updates. Fuck that shit. Any home viewing system that requires an MIT degree to operate is not getting my money.

  83. I’m a fan of blu-ray myself. Lots of people might find it a frivolous expense, and I understand where they’re coming from, but it does look and sound MUCH better than DVD.

    If you care, and you’ve got the money, it is the superior medium.

    And Jareth, the firmware updates are a pain in the ass, but my BD player does them automatically. It just is a pain in the ass when I turn on the player to watch something and it pulls the old “Hang on for 10 minutes while I download and install this update!”.

  84. Jareth Cutestory

    March 15th, 2012 at 9:14 am

    Bob: Is there any truth to the accusation that firmware updates aren’t improving the functioning of the disc, but are rather adding a bunch of anti-pirating crap into your system that actually inhibits the functionality of your system?

  85. Blu-rays are in my opinion not THAT superior. We´re not exactly talking leaps in quality
    like goin from vhs to dvd. The picture is a bit sharper. Soundwise,they may be superior.
    But I don´t buy movies to listen to them….

  86. Inspector Li, flat characters and tinkertoy plotting? Heaven’s Gate is political cinema at it’s best and the closest any American movie has come to, let’s say, the works of Eisenstein.

  87. I hardly remember anything about Heavens gate. But I´ll stand by pegsman on this one. Because I do recall being pleasantly surprised by it.

  88. RRA, Canby hated just about everything, except for Woody Allen, so I wouldn’t put any weight on what he said about Heaven’s Gate. But again, it’s not a movie for everyone…

  89. Jareth Cutestory:

    Be careful when you insult Katy Perry ’round these parts… Seriously. I tool around town in my steel toes and odd, anti-social punk garb, but I’m totally blasting Katy Perry on my headphones.

    Also, OF COURSE the Blu-Ray firmware updates are just anti-consumer…I mean, anti-*piracy* bullshit.What else could they be? Did your VHS player need an ‘update?’ how ’bout your DVD player? There is no reason whatsoever for your Blu-Ray player to have to be connected to the internet or have updates. It’s a retarded rouse and that’s a huge part of the problem; the chauvinism of the entire format. It presumes you are a thief and punishes you for doing things on the up and up. It’s just like those obnoxious DVDs where you can’t fast forward through the FBI warnings and anti-piracy trailers and real trailers. If you want people not to steal your product, maybe a good first step is to make sure that the legal version of your product isn’t inferior, eh?

  90. I hate those anti-piracy ads that are like “You wouldn’t steal a car…” How do you know? You don’t know me. You don’t know what I’m capable of. Stop pre-judging a motherfucker.

  91. They don´t know what I´m capable of either. Stealing cars? Bootlegging your crappy movies that´s not worth paying for in the first place?

    What if I am Paul Kersey? Mild mannered average joe at day and vigilante at night. Gunning down people at my own discretion.

    Naw, murder, that´s ok. As long as you are not copying our movies.
    Shit, they are making it out as it were a crime against humanity downloading their shitty shit.

  92. Mr M — You wouldn’t steal a car, would you? Well, probably not, but I would totally make an exact copy of an existing car for free. Who the fuck wouldn’t?

    Jareth — Basically, what’s happened with both film and music is that anything interesting has moved to indie labels or studios. Big studios used to be able to take a chance on oddball projects, help them grow and find their feet. Now, they just wait until they’re already a brand and try to buy them up. In a way, it’s better for consumers because big studios aren’t the sole gateway to the public, and we get a wider range of voices than we ever did. But it hurts big idea projects that might be a little unusual but need some serious capital to really get where they need to go, and means that most of them never get beyond niche markets.

    Tawdry — make that Kurt Vonnegut bio RIGHT NOW. But who do you see playing Vonnegut? Would it be crazy to suggest Michael Parks?

  93. pegsman – Canby dug OUTLAND, which I’m a fan of. He gets a pass in my book.

    Inspector Li – I won’t defend it glowlingly as much as pegsman will, but I still argue HEAVEN’S GATE is worth watching.

    If anything, I do kinda agree with pegsman that I don’t think it was thinly plotted or poor characters. I chalk up it to one problem: Did Cimino really need 4 hours to tell that story? I would say no. A common problem with filmmakers trying to emulate Leone or Lean, they associate length of film with quality, which is total bullshit.

    Lean and Leone at their best just were awesome at PACING. I respect GATE and will defend it when occassion calls for it, but the pacing is what I believe throws people off.

    Tawdry Hepburn – you heard about the Katy Perry porno “parody”?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99ZHvdODFjI

  94. Well…as a dude who wants to work in film and as a dude who has many friends who work below the line in film…piracy does suck and it does take jobs away.

    You know the hundreds of names you see in the credits? Those are the people who lose out. When a movie’s gross is hurt by piracy, studios don’t stop making movies, they just find ways to make the same movies more cheaply. Normally, that means getting around union contracts, shooting overseas and using lobbyist pressure to get states to give tax incentives for filming there. Basically, when you bootleg a movie, you’re taking a union job away and voting to federally subsidize corporate filmmaking. You’re still paying for that DVD, but now it’s your TAX MONEY.

    I really don’t like state subsidies for filming. The studios already benefit by fucking over the unions. They save hundreds of thousands by filming outside of CA. Just heaping on incentives is unethical when we don’t have money for upkeep on schools, for proper mental health facilities, for health care, ect. And I know that there is a return on investment and that it brings jobs to the local economy, but it still smacks of corporate welfare to me. It’s that same “Job creator” argument I keep hearing from Rush Limbaugh et al. and I don’t buy it.

  95. Mr M — You wouldn’t steal a car, would you? Well, probably not, but I would totally make an exact copy of an existing car for free. Who the fuck wouldn’t?

    — I literally laughed out loud.

    Also, I didn’t know about the Katy Perry Porn Parody. But I DID know about “Ellie Idol.”

    You’re welcome. Unless you’re at work, in which case I am sorry for getting you fired.

  96. Jareth Cutestory

    March 15th, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    Mr. Subtlety: I think I get it. Major labels used to at least tolerate stuff like Captain Beefheart on their roster because they knew James Taylor or whoever would rake in the cash for them; now they want a full slate of James Taylors. That sucks.

    On the positve side, labels like Warp seem to be thriving without selling out, and mainstream artists sometimes abandon the major conglomerates for smaller, more principled labels, like when Tom Waits and Nick Cave joined Anti.

    Also, we’re getting to the point where low budget films can look as good as studio films. Music has already passed that point. If indie films find a way to get distributed properly, I can see the major studios completely collapsing.

    Tawdry: I’ll refrain from making any comments about the quality of Ms. Perry’s music, but it’s pretty apparent that absolutely every aspect of her persona and output has been focus-grouped and committe-groomed for maximum profitability. That’s all I’m saying. Let your freak flag fly.

    Also, Majestyk stealing cars is exactly the kind of cowboy antics that are gonna get him kicked off the force.

  97. So?

    Someone spent a LOT of time and money making sure that I would love everything about Katy Perry. “Thank you” is all I can say. And to her credit, I think she does some of the actual song writing. Circle the Drain is pretty clearly about why she dumped Travis McCoy. E.T. is pretty clearly about her fucking a black man for the first time (Travis McCoy as well?) “Not Like the Movies” is about her trepidation with dating/marrying Russell Brand. “I Kissed a Girl” is totally about going out to a party in my college town (her hometown too). And “Peacock,” and “Ur So Gay” are awesomely subversive bit of silliness.

    I don’t care that it’s manufactured. I LIKE that it’s manufactured! I just choose to see it as postmodern. And since I’m a fan of deconstructionist literary theory, the fact that it’s not intended as postmodernism (for the most part), is totally immaterial. This is also why I’ve been getting into Korean pop music.

    The music makes me happy, and that’s all that I care about. I used to be into listening to shit that no one else had ever heard of. And I still love Amanda Palmer and Regina Spektor and The Mae Shi and Foxy Shazam and Neutral Milk Hotel and a bunch of random indie artists, but I don’t care. I don’t listen to music radio ever. I just hear music socially or through facebook links or whatever and I like what I like. I don’t even know if someone is on a major label or not. I can’t imagine why that would matter to me.

    The breaking point for me came when I was at a big hipster music festival in LA called “FYF Fest” (Fuck Yeah Fest…Fest) and I was standing with a group of friends. We were in between two stages, both of which were playing fun, exciting music and they were discussing which band to go watch based upon which one was more ‘hip’ and ‘up and coming’. And, I was on some, um, substances, and I remember blurting out, “I don’t care who’s cool! I just wanna dance!”

    And that’s been my philosophy ever since.

  98. RRA, I know Canby was okay, even if he didn’t like The Godfather II. I was just makling a cheap point.

    I think the problem with the handling of piracy is that the companies sees everything in black and white. I’m with them when they say that pirating new movies before they’ve even had a chance to make some money hurt the people who’s worked on them. But no one’s gonna tell me that I’m hurting people if I download a 40 year old Italian spaghetti western that’s not even out on dvd.

  99. pegsman – that´s how I look at it as well. If there is no way to get a hold of an obscure movie in a legal way, I go the path of illegallness, since there is noone to fill that gap on the market. If someone sits on the rights to that particular movie and don´t release it, well…that´s their ass.

    However, if they DO release it…..yeah I´ll buy it then.

  100. http://youtu.be/ALZZx1xmAzg
    Also, how’s Adelle “prepackaged”? I may be sick of how much play some of her songs got (dear god, I never want to hear “Someone Like You” ever again), but I don’t deny she’s talented. Also, the way she looks and talks isn’t how I’d label someone as “prepackaged”.

  101. Yeah. Adele is not prepackaged. If she were…she wouldn’t look like she does. I respect her skill and think she has a great voice (and I think she writes all her own songs?) but she isn’t much to look at. Not that she has to be or that she would be ‘better’ if she were traditionally beautiful, but if she were a prefab superstar, I think she would weigh a lot less and have a completely different fashion sense.

  102. Pegsman:

    You’re creating a stawman argument. You and I both know that the vast majority of people downloading movies aren’t looking for, say that Fellini triptych horror film that never made it to DVD, they’re downloading something that just came out, or isnt even out yet.

    Of course out of print movies like Rolling Thunder don’t hurt anyone, but movie studios live and die by their back catalog…or, they did before DVD collapsed like a morbidly obese man trying to run a marathon. A screenwriter’s livelihood depends on residuals, sure. But the grip and electric department, who never see any residuals, get paid and get health insurance for 6 months after the shoot, and the studio needs to factor in a film’s long tail in order to gauge if a film is even working.

    When you got up this morning and went to work, were you doing it for altruistic reasons? I bet not. Why should film studios, who are spending more money than you or I will ever have on even the smallest of wide releases, be any different?

  103. The verdict is in: Heaven’s Gate is in the queue.

    I have to agree with Tawdry about pirating. I used to steal a lot when I was a poor undergrad, but now that I have a reasonable revenue stream, and now that you can sample plenty legally, I don’t steal music any more. The same is mostly true of movies and TV shows. Since there’s so much respectable material out there, I can bide my time for a year or so in order to watch a television show I’m interested in. With Netflix it’s just not worth the time or the hassle to pirate.

  104. Fun Adele Fact: If she’s #1 for another week on the Billboard, she will tie Prince’s old record for most weeks at #1 for an album that he scored with PURPLE RAIN.

    She should cover “Darling Nikki.”

  105. Everybody should cover “Darling Nikki.”

  106. Everybody HAS covered Darling Nikki.

  107. Tawdry – you’ve heard that conspiracy theory that all modern pop music is Illuminati propaganda brainwashing us for the coming NWO and FEMA death camps right?

    I find that shit both hilarious and disturbing, it’s just like in the 70’s with “Paul is dead” and “it’s fun to smoke marijuana” except with more mass murder

  108. RRA, I agree that the HG pacing is a big nail in its coffin. But there’s a difference between developing slowly and taking forever for so little. The opening college graduation, e.g., goes on and on and on, and for all the time it takes it gives a disproportionally tiny amount of interest in the characters, the themes, and the story. My feeling is that Cimino was hopped up to do a movie about the historical events, but never found a way to make the people or drama compelling, so he tried to compensate with period detail and production spectacle … but those ought to be trimmings to the drama, and instead they absolutely squashed it.

    I’m with you, Pegsman, that it’s political in a way most American movies wouldn’t dare be, especially today. But I think it does a terrible job of making the historical events vital. It doesn’t inspire, it doesn’t illuminate; it has a grim and unsurprising perspective that it grinds out in slow motion. The Eisenstein that I’ve seen has a pulse! Plus (IMO) Cimino presents characters who aren’t supposed to be Brechtian cogs but emotional entry points. He’s not writing an article, he’s taking the form of a narrative movie, and a good epic might give us emotions and discoveries that make the situation really hit home. HG feels more involved with its own stateliness and appearance and importance than with what the Johnson County Wars meant at the time, or in 1980, or now.

  109. Tawdry – Its funny how Prince bitches about others covering his songs, yet he does a shitload of covers at his concerts. (Including Michael Jackson recently.)

    Griff – FEMA Death camps? Well New Orleans was a big camp then. (Too soon?)

    Inspector Li – I do agree with you that he could’ve made the characters more interesting. But I think a problem is that GATE’s production set-up was very very quick in coming together and going in front of the camera (he was shooting GATE when he won his Oscar for DEER HUNTER)

    If he took time the develop it, work on it, and not spend a fortune trying to figure his big masterpiece movie while on the fly on somebody else’s cash…or for that matter, having an experienced producer of such big shoots out there to help him run that circus and not pointlessly waste as much money as they did.

    In the end, Cimino made the biggest budget “Red” Western* ever. Oh the irony.

    Come to think of it, another bigass movie from around the same time that had some of the same problems was Warren Beatty’s REDS, though when he’s boss, he has notorious troubles of just saying fuck it with the budget. (Deep contrast with Eastwood, who’s always budget concious.)

    Except of course, I really liked REDS. I’ll defend that fucker even more than GATE. A little draggy here and there, but more focused and more effective I suppose at what Beatty was trying to gun for. Definately a DOCTOR ZHIVAGO rip-off, but it works. I do think it says something eternal about dedicated activist ideologues trying to “save the world” through their political religion, even abandoning their own core principles for the sake of blind naked partisanship.

    Beatty was slick though to pre-empt conservative bitching at the movie by screening it to Reagan at the White House. And he liked it.

    *=I read Kris Kristofferson somewhere where he claimed Alexander Haig and the GOP buried GATE because of its politics. Which is total nonsense. How would it threaten them? Why would they care about it?

  110. RRA – you can’t imagine some of the crazy shit on the internet, there’s some seriously dark and depressing conspiracy theories out there

    basically according to some on the internet we are living in the American version of Nazi Germany and it’s only a matter of time till there’s a second holocaust against average American citizens, seriously…

    of course it’s all bullshit, but you still have to ask yourself, what is it about our culture that inspires such paranoia? is it just crazy people being crazy or is there just something seriously fucked up about modern society that would make people think the Government is literally out to kill them and their families? and this shit is EVERYWHERE on the internet, it’s not just a few crazies, but it’s all over sites like youtube

    maybe it’s not anything new, maybe there’s always been extreme paranoia like that, but I just don’t understand it at all…

    sorry to go off topic, but I just find it a fascinating subject

  111. I’m sure we can all agree that the real tragedy of the JOHN CARTER debacle is that some young pornographer will never get to realize his dream of THIS AIN’T JOHN CARTER XXX with people painted all green except for the cocks.

  112. RRA, Did the script come together quickly though? It doesn’t really matter – what’s on the screen is what counts, for good and for ill – but I thought that it was a previously written script that Cimino couldn’t get financed until Deer Hunter made him king of the hill. A while back I read Final Cut, which could well be coloring my impressions of Cimino as irresponsible. I do respect the guy’s intentions. Plus, ya don’t have to be red to hate the antagonists (even though that’s not all good – the baddies as presented are so clearly wrong that it’s hard to bring the movie’s lesson to a world where there appear to be more shades of gray.)

    Co-sign on Reds being the better picture.

  113. Tawdry, I wasn’t trying to defend illegal downloading per se. But at the same time I refuse to shed a single tear over the imaginary losses the movie business claim to have each year. The movie business as it is is a capitalistic dinosaur that fight progress out of shere greed and that flushes billions down the toilet on projects that no one really wants.

    Li, Cimino’s interested in what leads up to an uprising, what people are willing to sacrifice and what types who become leaders in that situation. Kris Kristofferson’s character is of course a stand in for many revolutionary leaders through history; a well educated leader who inspires other to fight the good fight and who find life almost meaningless when it’s all over. I find that very inspiring. Granted, Cimino chose a kind of documentarian style that leaves a little to be desired in the drama department, but I think it fits the capitalism vs communism subject very well. And you bet your ass this scared the hell out of the Reagan administration, RRA.

  114. Griff — There’s a very famous essay about paranoia in American politics. It’s called “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” and it’s pretty interesting. He goes over several right wing paranoid groups, although he does say that there are plenty of left wing crazies, but that they just have not been as successful with the general public. Check it out:

    http://karws.gso.uri.edu/jfk/conspiracy_theory/the_paranoid_mentality/the_paranoid_style.html

  115. pegsman – I always took the Kris character to be like a Teddy Roosevelt: an Ivy League well educated aristocrat who went out west and became a cowboy. (Not the same situation, but Kris was an Army Ranger, Rhodes Scholar, and country/rock personality. I’m sure that’s why Cimino casted him.)

    Inspector Li – you’re correct, but you misunderstand me. It’s one thing to write without restrictions or deadlines, and just indulge yourself because fuck it, why not? An unsold script is basically fan fiction.

    But then it did sell, and instead of having to reign yourself by discipline by the budget or seriously trying to frame this concept in your head as a movie with a plot and narrative and not simply an idea. I’m reminded of that anecdote from ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST when Leone realized his script would literally be 4 hours and yeah, that shit wasn’t going to cut it. Paramount wouldn’t accept it, and quite frankly, it was unnecessary.

    But Cimino didn’t. He was given a blank check to fly his freak flag, and boy he flew it.

    I can’t respect Bach though in one regard, even though I liked his book: Reading it, him telling that story of Cimino turning back on his oral promise to not cast an actress if Bach wasn’t convinced…I’m sorry, but that was a pivotal moment when Bach the STUDIO BOSS should’ve told Cimino no. Once Cimino got what he wanted and castrated Bach’s authority, well he wrote himself and the studio’s death certificate.

    That opening sequence though, I’m not against the idea of it. I think the whole broad narrative scheme was about the idealism of the American dream, and pursuing it out west in the expansion of the country, the Manifest Destiny and all that shit. The movie was about the death of that dream and the ending, him accepting his original east coast roots by going back home, marrying for money, and indulge himself to oblivion. (And most Americans say, that’s a “bad” ending? I don’t blame them.)

    Plus I liked that dancing sequence, if only because by Victorian standards, social dancing was basically a public expression of sex. (And yeah, you can crack the gay jokes if you wish.)

    Funny enough, the infamous local AsimovLives (is he even still alive?) is a bigger admirer of GATE and even pointed out a detail I never noticed: Sam Waterson and his moustache does evoke Hitler. Whether intentional or not, who knows. (I bet on the former.)

  116. RRA, one last difference: If professional screenwriter Cimino was shopping around a script, I’d expect it to have already passed some authorial stress test. If it didn’t, and he still angled to persuade United Artists (RIP) to invest so much in his fan fiction, that hits me as (again) self-indulgent and irresponsible. Not immoral, but not admirable either. There’s something glorious about giving an artist a giant canvas with the instructions “follow your heart”, only with great power comes great responsibility (hokey as that sentiment has become.)

    I’m gonna drop out b/c I can’t post from work and I can’t bear to be the thread-killing post again, but thanks to you and Pegsman for discussing this. Unlike the panel after the scarring museum screening, you guys give me more insight on what the supporters see.

  117. Jareth,

    No idea about what the firmware updates are actually doing, I really couldn’t care less though. I haven’t noticed any change in functionality, so it makes no difference to me.

    One thing I do know about Blu-Ray and my fancy new 3D TV? It allowed me to explore all that 3D has to offer. Got a documentary about the Hubble telescope that’s really cool, Drive-Angry 3D, etc. The really wild thing though: 3D porn. Yeah, I bought one. (This Ain’t Dracula: XXX) It’s a cool concept, and it’s hilarious seeing how much money they must’ve put into the production of it, but is isn’t ALL good.

    The problem is, porn is one of the few areas of cinema that really benefits from a nice, soft SD picture. When you get HD, things can get a little too… visible. We’re talking razor-burn, bad skin, all the stuff you know must exist but would prefer to pretend doesn’t. And then you make it all 3D and things get even worse. Oddly shaped fake boobs, giant wieners thrusting out of your TV screen in even-larger-than-life. Terrifying stuff.

    Sorry for the mini-rant against 3D HD porn. Just thought it might factor in to the whole blu-ray discussion.

    \Shows self out
    \\Pops in THIS AIN’T DRACULA, hangs head in shame

  118. Man, wouldn’t it be awesome if this made more money in its second weekend than in its first, and more money than that in its third, etc? And, given enough time, singlehandedly dismantled the movie industry’s belief that a movie’s opening weekend is the final word on the public’s interest in the movie itself? I know that won’t happen, but I wish it would– I thought this movie ruled! (Granted, I saw it in Imax 3D in a theater with Tempurpedic recliners and it was only $12, but through that prism it fuckin ruled!!)

    This was a small thing (and also is a spoiler) but in particular I appreciated how they bothered to include a scene early on that showed how Tars Tarkis’s tribe has some sort of rotational leadership position that can change at any time– that way, when the inevitable point came where John Carter becomes their leader, it felt significantly less “Take up the white man’s burden” than that type of plot development usually does. If that was taken from the original book or whatever, that would be cool. I’d like to think that the guy who wrote Tarzan was an anthropology nerd and not a racist.

    I feel like Stanton is probably one righteous dude. Marketing instincts do not make the man.

  119. PS, if Lynn Collins does not someday play Wonder Woman, there is no justice in the universe.

  120. Inspector Li – Just because a script might’ve been “vetted” previously, doesn’t mean it was ever “good.”

  121. Also since Potpouri keeps crashing on me, I give thumbs up to the announced JURASSIC PARK re-release.

  122. If you guys can pipe down about Michael Cimino for a moment (man, never thought I’d have to use THAT sentence again) I would like to say I had almost no interest in this one but took a look at it this afternoon based entirely and Vern’s review. Pretty much thought that he’s exactly right, this thing is just tons of perfectly balanced smart/stupid fun. Looks great, moves along nicely, likeable characters, great spectacle, fun sequences all throughout. Its a bit overcomplicated, but never really feels unwieldy because it’s just so damn enjoyable.

    Not 100% sold on this Taylor Kitsch guy, but he manages to at least register as an acceptable focal point around all these other characters and craziness, so that probably says something right there. Willem Dafoe is king shit of fuck mountain, as always. Woola is the shit. Enjoyed the Tharks more than the humans, but that’s OK cuz there’s plenty of them in there. Not the greatest action sequences in the world, but managing such a mammoth plot into something fun and rewarding is almost a lost art in itself these days, and the thing is worth seeing for that reason alone.

    Seriously, give it a shot. It’s good. George Lucas must be watching this and just repeating “why the fuck didn’t I think of doing that?!”

  123. Where ever I turn they’re going on and on about what a failure John Carter is, making damn sure no one else will go see it in the near future. Why? They did the same thing (perhaps not the same people, but still) with Ishtar, Waterworld, Gigli, The Postman, Heaven’s Gate and The Avengers. Is this how they get their kicks, or are they really that stupid?

  124. A fan-made trailer that looks a lot better than any of the real ones: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BxeHQY1NuM

  125. I talked to another friend yesterday who had just seen and liked John Carter. I think I’ve talked to around 10 people who have seen it and all liked it. The crowd seemed to like it when I saw it. But I guess it’s a self-selecting group – the kind of people who would go see it.

  126. I don’t know, I still wouldn’t see that movie. As much as the marketing campaign sucked, no matter what you do with the footage, the movie just doesn’t look that good, at least not good enough to justify the kinds of returns they expected to get in their investment. Having not seen the movie, I can’t speak to its actual quality, but in trailer form it just looks like the same old frantic CGI bullshit.

  127. But isn’t frantic old CGI bullshit what most people want? Why is this a failure and The Mummy II a hit?

  128. The Mummy II came out 12 years ago. Frantic CGI bullshit was still fairly new.

  129. Okay, let me put it this way; why the hate campaign? Why do some movies, like the ones I mentioned earlier, get the evil eye while others get a thumb up even if we all know they’re bad?

  130. But seriously, I don’t know. All I know is that’s why I don’t want to see it, because I’m pretty sick of that kind of thing. I can only speak for myself, but there must be others like me.

  131. Obviously, there’s thousands of you. What I don’t get is why people start these rumours about certain movies. John Carter might not be Raiders but it sure as hell ain’t Tennessee Buck either. Someone wants this movie to fail and I want to know why!

  132. It’s a Thern conspiracy to stop the truth from getting out, I reckon.

  133. every couple of years a movie comes along that the media and audiences alike just have it out for, regardless of whether the movie deserves it or not

    and ironically, the movies that get so lambasted are usually not that bad

    nobody really knows why that is, but you’re right, it’s unfair that something as awful as the Transformers flicks make shitloads of money while something decent like John Carter gets shafted

    I think at the end of the day, the fundamental problem is that most people don’t know what the fuck John Carter of Mars is, whenever Hollywood adapts an obscure property they’re always taking a risk

  134. which is a shame because they’re are plenty of wonderful, but obscure properties out there that would make for a good movie

    but at the end of the day, everyone knows what the fuck Transformers is, but I had only heard of John Carter after reading about it on Aint It Cool

  135. What property was AVATAR based on? INCEPTION? Any of the other movies Brad Bird directed? Audiences had no prior conceptions of those movies’ stories or characters, and yet they were huge hits. The difference between them and JOHN CARTER is that their trailers made them look exciting and interesting. JOHN CARTER looked generic and dull from the get-go. The hero looks bland, the aliens look stupid, and there are no real money shots in the trailer. You guys can make this a culture war between adventurous cinephiles and the ignorant masses if you want, but I don’t buy it.

    It is weird that everyone is dogpiling on it, though. I don’t condone that critical hive mind thing, but I also don’t really care. I am not a Disney shareholder so I could give a fuck if their film division posts a loss this quarter.

  136. I don’t really care if it’s a commercial hit either, but I hate that too many people think that the movie’s no good just because it didn’t make billions.

  137. Actually I think Mr. M is onto something. The trailers and shit really do look like the same ol’ CGI parade we’ve seen a million times before. There’s nothing in the trailers that really makes it stand out from any number of pricy spectacle-heavy studio behemoths that fail to deliver anything very fun.

    The reason I liked JOHN CARTER has almost nothing to do with the spectacle. It’s actually just literally a fun, likeable adventure movie. Vern is 100% right that the marketing should have been about Woola, not the big white apes. The thing that sets it apart from the usual dreck is that is actually has some personality, which the ads really hide as much as possible by trying to sell generic CGI monsters.

  138. Mr. Majestyk – well see that’s the thing, when Hollywood releases a movie based on an obscure property, they just have to work extra hard to sell it in the trailers and whatnot, which is what Disney failed to do

    ya know this sort of thing has happened before to Disney, does anyone remember The Rocketeer? there was a good movie that was based on an obscure (but cool) comic and that unfortunately flopped as well

  139. I don’t know about “obscure property”, Griff. Carter has been around since 1911, and in comics since the 40’s. He appeared in a movie as late as in 2009 (Princess of Mars). How well known does a character have to be to get people excited in your part of the world?

  140. I’m willing to bet he’s pretty obscure these days

  141. Knox Harrington

    March 21st, 2012 at 7:22 am

    I don’t think the John Carter gangbang has anything to do with people really hating the movie. It’s a simple case of numbers. The damn thing cost $250 million! That’s huge. That’s close to Avatar levels of money. Plus, it was directed by one of the Pixar guys. Pixar = success, right? So when a movie costs a quarter of a billion dollars and only makes $50 million, people are gonna notice.

    Maybe if it was an undisputed masterpiece, they would have been less harsh. But when the general consensus is that it’s “Fun, but obviously flawed”, well…

  142. I can’t help but notice that all the influentual talk show hosts make fun of John Carter these days, then they turn around and proclaim that Hunger Games will be the biggest hit in 2011. It’s that easy.

  143. I’m not sure I fully understand this HUNGER GAMES thing. Is it not an action film for teenage girls?

    March 2012

    Bring your daughter.

    To the slaughter.

  144. Mr M – I love that tagline

  145. You can thank the Iron Maiden song I stole it from, which I assume a dubstep remix of which would be used in the trailer.

  146. I saw this one the other day and enjoyed it. It is not a great film, but it is probably better then all of the Pirates of the Caribbean films. However, it does not have any performances as strong as Depp’s to anchor the film. If I were to guess as to why the film is floundering at the box office it is in part because there is a “been there done that” feel to the movie. I have never read the books, but it is my understanding they are incredibly influential. Over time other films and media have borrowed from or have been influenced by John Carter. Watching the film there are themes and ideas that are very familiar. For example, I am sure John Carter was a big influence on George Lucas in crafting the STAR WARS films. The problem is we as culture have spent years and years consuming media influenced by John Carter, so when presented with the source material part of the magic is lost and It seems kind of stale. Especially when many of the films it has influenced have presented and/or expanded on the themes or ideas of the source material more effectively than this film does.

  147. I saw John Carter today and it feels like I spend 8 hours in the theater. Myself and my group either hated it or where just bored by the whole thing. I found it very difficult to even care about any of it. I knew I was in trouble when a joke that should be hilarious to me just felt flat. Taylor Kitsch is one problem but everybody is boring in this movie.

    I’ve read many people wondering why this didn’t make much money and the actual reason is that the movie just isn’t very good or interesting.

  148. I agree with Vern.

  149. THE SYNTHETIC MEN OF MARS. That´s the best book in the series.

  150. Finally got around to this one. Kinda boring, frankly. Went on forever. Took me all goddamn night to get through it because I kept getting distracted and wandering off. Too many factions (I hate factions. They lead to too much crosscutting and loss of momentum), too many dudes in robes (I hate dudes in robes. What is the deal with robes? Why are they supposed to be so cool? They drag on the ground and get dirty and look super heavy and impractical, and they must be incredibly hot on a world where most everyone is running around in battle panties to stay cool), too many British actors doing Shakespeare In Space (I hate Shakespeare In Space. Seriously, how many times do we have to see “stuffy and British = any culture that’s not America” before directors stop doing it? You put all this effort into trying to make an original fictional universe and then make it sound exactly the same as every sci-fi/fantasy movie ever.).

    Kitsch was bland as could be. Too young and baby-faced for the part by about a decade. He kind of grew on me by the end, but he gave off a Casper Van Dien vibe right from the get-go that he never quite shook. Plus, I never really got a handle on how powerful Carter was supposed to be. He decimates whole armies single-handedly yet he was easily taken hostage by literally every faction in the movie.

    The action was competent but never particularly exciting. I’m really tired of sword battles. Unless you stock them with some killer action vignettes they’re just the same swinging and chest-clutching over and over again.

    Nothing really special going on, character or drama-wise. The only time I ever cracked a smile was when somebody delivered a real howler of a line with lots of made-up words in it. Oh wait, I did like the blatant jab at DUNE when the princess (a decent character, I guess, but I thought all the henna on the humanoid Martians was lame) delivers this ream of exposition looking right at the camera, but then makes fun of herself for being corny and you realize she’s practicing in the mirror.

    On the positive side, as far as beloved sci-fi novels that take decades to get to the screen and then flop hard, I’d say JOHN CARTER does beat DUNE. I didn’t hate it. It’s just an okay movie overstuffed with plot to the point of exhaustion. I probably would have liked it a lot more if it had run an hour and 45 like a normal movie.

  151. Here’s the thing about John Carter – the boy seriously needs a tan. I mean, who can spend so much time nearly naked out in desert-like environments and retain that kind of pallor? No one, that’s who.

  152. The sun of Barsoom has no UV rays.

    Hear hear Majestyk.

  153. Tawdry, how do you work Kilgore Trout into your Vonnegut pic? The bits in Breakfast of Champions rule. Trout is like Phillip K. Dick, except instead of a meandering 60 page short story with one good idea Trout is a lightning bolt of pure awesome in a single paragraph.

  154. Trout would be a character. I don’t wanna reveal too much, because one day I actually want to *make* this movie. But suffice it to say, Vonnegut wrote several novels that were clearly thinly veiled autobiographies and all 3 of them have basically the same story. So, I’d take parts of his real life and parts of his novels and mash them all up with Vonnegut as a man unstuck in time.

  155. Cool, I’d definitely love to see that. Since Champions is my favorite novel and most of the rest of his stuff is great, it’s sad no one has been able to turn out a decent film based on his material.

  156. That’s because Vonnegut himself is such a big part of all the stories. Breakfast of Champions changed my life, literally. But I’m not 100% on how the fuck you make that a movie without it basically being about Vonnegut. So…I wanna make a franchise of films based on Vonnegut novels using Vonnegut as the main character. Like, he never wrote fiction, all that shit actually happened to him when he got unstuck in time.

  157. Caught JOHN CARTER a.k.a TARZAN IN SPACE on NetFlix. Surprisingly good fun if you get past the first few minutes. The opening narration is just terribly bland and give me no sense of excitement or anything that makes me want to give a shit. But when Carter finally gets his ass to Mars the movie kicks in and becomes a real fun ride. The plot is the usual flimsy sci fi/fantasy-stuff with a lot of visual elements borrowed elsewhere, but the action is surprisingly thrilling, it has its own charm and lacks the kind of nauseating family friendly comedy I dreaded. I liked it.

  158. That reminds me:

    MAJESTYK MAKES AMENDS 2014 continues with a return visit to Barsoom. I didn’t really hate this movie the first time, but it didn’t particularly work on me. Thought it was overlong and kind of boring. I still agree with everything I said above about all the goddamn factions and all the unmotivated English accents. (I would like to throw in that the casting was, for the most part, as obvious and uninspired as humanly possible. It’s all the same faces we’ve seen in similar roles again and again. Might as well cast Hugo Weaving and Ian Mackellan.) But it’s a little improved on second watch. The first half is intriguing as a stranger-in-a-strange-land story. It’s fun to watch Carter figure out his environment and test the limits of his new powers. But I think the movie loses a lot of momentum once Carter escapes from the green guys. He just kind of wanders around getting captured for the next hour or so amidst vague palace intrigue that he doesn’t have much of a stake, and there’s nothing all that thrilling in the end battle to compensate. One thing I hate is the cheesy intercutting of Carter’s wholly generic personal tragedy breaking the rhythm of that one big fight scene. It’s trite for the script to go the “dead family as character motivation” route for the 40 millionth time, but it’s doubly so to introduce this element in the middle of an action scene more than halfway through the movie to establish backstory that nobody asked for. I mean, at that point in the plot was anybody really curious about what made Carter such a gruff loner? I’d have thought being on the losing side of the Civil Fucking War would be enough justification without throwing in some boiler-plate monochrome flashbacks right when the action is starting to get good. That whole sequence reaches for emotional catharsis that is entirely unearned and out of sync with the swashbuckling tone of the rest of the movie. I think the movie really starts losing me at that point and it never fully gets me back.

    But as a collection of colorful scenes, it’s a decent low-impact Sunday afternoon kinda adventure. The green Martians are cool, especially before they start speaking English, and the action scenes are fun, particularly the lightship battle and the arena fight with the white apes. The movie improves greatly the less I expect of it (Kitsch in particular seems less like an animated torso with a vestigial head on it this time), so maybe the third time will be the charm. Still an egregious misuse of funds, but not a total waste of time.

  159. I thought I missed something at the beginning when the “dead family flashback” showed up halfway through the movie, but I guess it was just sloppy storytelling,then.

  160. TOMORROWLAND made me want to revisit the first two parts of Disney’s Gigantic 2010s Live Action Box Office Bomb Trilogy (DG2LABOBT) and I’m happy to say that part 1, JOHN CARTER, holds up and I’m very sure that it will gain the cult classic status, that so many other of Disney’s previous bombs will hold.

    But I still can’t believe that it was actually more expensive than AVATAR.

  161. *not “will hold”. Just hold, since they are already holding this status.

  162. #2 is LONE RANGER, right? Or does TRON LEGACY count?

  163. Yeah, LONE RANGER. TRON wasn’t a big enough bomb to really count IMO. (Although I have to revisit that one at some point too.)

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