Tag Archives: John Carter of Mars

4 Reasons John Carter Faltered At The Box Office

We were all pretty excited about John Carter when it hit theaters… that is everyone who knew it existed. I can’t begin to tell you how many questions I fielded about this film from my coworkers who hadn’t even know it existed until it began failing at the box office. So the question stood: How does a film that spent millions of dollars on marketing, lose $200 million and bomb at the box office?

Disney’s huge film John Carter hit theaters last week and has since begun its downward slide into the box office flop home base. Even though our critics here gave the film a great review, many other critics scored it poorly. As a result, Disney is expected to lose roughly $200 million because of the project.

We expect the film to generate an operating loss of approximately $200 million during our second fiscal quarter ending March 31. As a result, our current expectation is that the Studio segment will have an operating loss of between $80 and $120 million for the second quarter.” Said a statement from Disney.

So what happened between the post-production and the release? It was slated (at least by the studio) to be one of the big hits on the year, so far as the studio was already working on a script for the sequel. (I think it is safe to assume that isn’t happening now). Yet now the film, which cost $250 million to make, has grossed much less than that at $30.6 million domestically.

So there are basically 4 reasons why this film flopped at the box office (although it might do better on DVD who knows).

The Reviews:

Aside from the one published here, the reviews for this film was subpar to say the least. The film only gained a 53 rating on Metacritic, which is surprising because it’s rare that a family-friendly release is smashed by the critics. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times rated the film 2.5 out of 4 stars. Owen Glieberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a D rating, feeling,

“Nothing in John Carter really works, since everything in the movie has been done so many times before, and so much better.”

Other critics proclaimed the film to be to long, and undeniably boring. The reviews pretty much all so-so.  Not to great, but not terrible. But who wants to go spend 20 dollars to see a film in theaters that is only so-so? The film may do better when released on DVD but it doesn’t appear to be going as far as the studio imagined in the theater.

The Marketing

I think this is where they made their biggest mistake.  There was so much that they could have done to draw attention to the film, but in the end they just didn’t. They could have touched on the fact that the film was directed by the guy who wrote and directed hit Pixar films WALL-E and Finding Nemo. Or they could have mentioned it was based on one of the most loved novel series by well-respected novelist, Edgar Rice Burroughs. Or that the 95-year-old story influenced much of sci-fi culture, as we know it now. But no, there was no mention of director’s abilities, or even a simple line like that the story came from the writer who created Tarzan.

But the trailers just got worse.

The movie’s very first teaser trailer left most audiences saying, “what IS that?” And by the time the Super Bowl ad for the film had played, people weren’t paying attention to it. The studio released so many incredibly similar ads and trailers for the film, that by the time it actually hit theaters, no one cared anymore because they couldn’t really tell what the film was even about. Even a former studio marketing chief stated that,

This is one of the worst marketing campaigns in the history of movies

They went on to say that,

It’s almost as if they went out of their way to not make us care.

Which, as it turned out, most people didn’t by the time the film was released.

Oddly enough, for a film that banks on the action aspect of its story, the first trailer and some others were utterly devoid of the effects and action points that was the biggest selling point for the story. Most trailers should have a “wow!” factor that hooks in audiences from the beginning. But unfortunately, John Carter didn’t.  Especially the first trailer that was meant to have been the summer hook for the film lacked any special effects or “wow!” factors that would make the audience want to see the film (and even wait a year or so to do so, like the Hunger Games.)

The lack of a good trailer stemmed from the fact that regrettably, the director, Stanton, didn’t have any of those special scenes ready for the summer trailer release. He was new to the live-action world of filmmaking and most scenes even remotely awesome for the trailer were still unfinished by the time the first trailer was expected to be released. So basically they had nothing to create a decent trailer with.  Thus audiences received a lackluster and boring trailer that didn’t explain much about the storyline or hook us in to want to see more.

Even worse, when the first full-length trailer came out in November, to compensate for the unintentional bad first trailer, it was entirely in the other direction. All action shots with no explanation of the storyline, the character or the film and why audiences should want to see the man on Mars.

It seemed they couldn’t just find a happy medium.

They also landed on an incredibly bland title for a sci-fi film. The original novel is called A Princess of Mars as a part of the Barsoom series. Any variation on any of the titles from the series would have been better than a name that sounded like the “ER” character got sent to space.

Many also commented that the film seems too reminiscent of another blockbuster failure, the film adaptation of Prince of Persia. (And who wants to be reminded of that film?) A desert setting that makes everything look brown and dirty? Check. Long, and not so luscious locks on our main hero? Check.

The Director

Don’t get me wrong. I am not bashing Stanton; I think he is a brilliant director. But his first live-action film shouldn’t have been this one. Mainly because this was a book that he, as a fan of the series, had a fierce loyalty to that wouldn’t budge. He had this kind of ego regarding the film, and just couldn’t fathom that people didn’t know about the original series, and therefor wouldn’t be interested in seeing his adaptation. And because of his creative control, despite urges from the marketing departments, Stanton won every argument, resulting in the failure of the ad campaign and ultimately the flop of the movie.

One Disney executive added:

You only get one shot at making a first impression … and that first trailer, it never jumped off, never did anything to catch that wave of anticipation that all new movies crave. That’s what so critical for a movie like this.

It seems that Stanton was pretty invested in the film looking like he always imagined it to be when he a child, and in turn the rest of the world, who hadn’t read the novels, didn’t quite get it.

The Inspiration

I think something that is often overlooked regarding the film faltering in the box office. The movie just seemed so…. Done already. The original series inspired so much of modern science fiction that looking at John Carter now seems like the themes and characters are over played even if it was the original inspiration.

One of the most obvious is the Star Wars franchise in which much of the film is derivative of the Barsoom series.

Check it:

Princess Leia and Princess Dejah. Oh yeah and they both wear those sexy bikinis.

Evil Sith an Evil Sith Insects.

That thing Leia stands on next to Jabba also happens in Carter.

The Banthas were also inspired by the banths.

Avatar was also reminiscent of the novels by Burroughs.

“Every great scene in the book has been reaped,” explained Don Murphy, the producer of movies like Transformers and Real Steel. “It’s all been done before, so you actually have to find a way to make and market it in a way that’s actually less faithful to the original material.” (Murphy had also tried to bring John Carter to the silver screen almost a decade ago, but was never able to fully get it going.)

However, despite urging to deviate from the source text, Stanton refused, probably feeling like the film was going to be the next great sci-fi series like he always imagined.

Conclusion:

Basically, you should never attempt to adapt a film that you glorify. When you do this, like Stanton, you lose the ability to look at it objectively and figure out how to work with it. Stanton tried and it flopped. He wasn’t ready for the live-action world, he wasn’t willing to compromise, and thanks to the terribly marketing of the film most people don’t even know what the film is about or that it existed over the weekend.

It seems it was doomed to fail before it even began.

Finding John Carter On Mars Is A Win – A Review

Why are you interested in this adaptation?

Elena-

Mostly because it’s a sci-fi movie, and I do try to watch most of them.  To be honest there’s not a whole lot of a deeper or more compelling reason than that.  Nothing in the trailer excites me, and if there were more going on at the movies this weekend John Carter probably loses me.  But when my other options are The Lorax or Good Deeds, you know, Mars starts sounding like a fine destination.  Fine.

Rachel-

So, I secretly hope that this movie is amazing. How could I not want to see this? Published in 1917, A Princess of Mars, on which John Carter is largely based, is the first of a long series of novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs (the Tarzan guy). We can arguably connect most of the planetary science-fantasy stories of the last 100 years to this book. Conan, He-man, Dune, Heinlein’s The Number of the Beast, Star Wars…the list is endless. Sure, it’s outdated and weird, and the science isn’t even close, and they were inspired by those old theories that you could see evidence of ancient civilizations on the Martian surface (Google the canals of Mars), but this is science fiction HISTORY. Crazy stuff, sure, but mostly awesome.

And come on… THAAARKS! Plus, Michael Chabon wrote the script, and it’s being directed by Andrew Stanton. There’s a part of me that thinks this just might be great.

What would make it awesome?

Elena-

Um…can I be real here and say that, given the amount of CG I saw in that trailer, that I don’t think there’s anything this film can do to be excellent?  If I have to pick a path for it, how about some just ridiculous popcorn B-movie fun?  There’s a place for that, and maybe this movie could be it.

Rachel-

Despite the sexist overtones, I REALLY want it to look like the artwork I’ve associated with the stories. They just come hand in hand. I find it impossible to disconnect the story itself from the Frazetta naked asses and most especially the super lush, beautiful old-style illustrations of Frank E. Schoonover (who very graciously put some clothes on the princess for us.)

From what I’ve seen of the trailer everything looks nice and red. They’ve kept the barbarian-style clothes, and I’m REALLY impressed with the Barsoonian ships. They look awesome.

I guess what I’m saying is, I want the damn movie to be pretty. That would be awesome.

What would make it suck?

Elena

If it takes itself really seriously and is half-CG (as its trailer makes it look).  Basically…if this shit is like Avatard, Mars Edition it is going to suuuuck asssssssssssssssss.

Rachel-

I don’t really care of there’s a lot of CGI as long as it looks good and it’s not a half hour of blurriness like Transformers.

It will suck if the story is a disaster. This is an adaptation of a pretty sprawling novel that has its own problems with pacing, so this could all go horribly wrong. It could be full of confusing lore and never explain anything about why this culture as at war or how anything works. I’m a little worried about the super-powers. The telepathy and the super-strength. The science behind it is pretty silly now; I hope it’s not something the entire audience laughs at every time it happens.  I’m pretty worried about it. I think Chabon can handle it, but it’s all the executive driven decisions I’m scared of.

This whole movie could be a hammy, horrible, convoluted mess.

Any additional thoughts on production/trailer?

Elena-

Why is this movie 2 hours and 10 minutes?  I may not have read the book it’s based on, but I know this much about Edgar Rice Burroughs:  he wasn’t writing fucking Dune.  You don’t need a mini-series to tell that story.  What the hell?  I better come out feeling like it was shorter than it was…and I especially better not feel like it was LONGER than it was!

Rachel-

Yea, I agree. More than two hours? Is this Lord of the Rings? This is a movie based on the king of all pulp novels. Yes, there are going to be large-scale battles in this movie but they don’t need to be Helm’s Deep!

In general I’ve been enjoying the trailers coming out. The Tharks look great, everything looks pretty damn epic. I just don’t know how sincere it’s going to be. Will this be the podraces on Tattooine horrible or will I be enamored of the cinematography? Will I want to be Princess Dejah for Halloween, or will I want to kill her and all the girls I see dressed as her on Halloween? I’ve been hearing via word of mouth that the film isn’t that great, so that isn’t encouraging. But I might like it, I mean… I still watch Conan marathons. This might be a matter of preference.

 

Reaction to Film:

Elena-

That…that wasn’t NEARLY as bad as I thought it was going to be!  In fact, dare I say it was actually kind of good?  I mean, it wasn’t like top 10 SF films of the decade material, but it was eminently watchable.  And here’s the thing, and why I never take for granted that a film which I expect to be bad can’t possibly be as bad as I’m expecting:  Avatar was WORSE than I expected, and I expected that James Cameron self-indulgent-whack-fest to be bad (for me as an audience), so I am by no means damning John Carter with faint praise when I say it was better than I expected.

That is not to say there were not…flaws.  There is still a visual divide between characters that are live-action and characters that are animated.  The gulf is not as wide as it once was, and the animation looked good, but it still looked like animation.  Until it doesn’t I am going to point it out as a flaw.  I expect to go to my grave still complaining about this issue.

John Carter’s jumps were also problematic.  They looked like someone in Earth-gravity being hoisted aloft or an animated object being zoomed along a CG trajectory.  The bounces lacked the true buoyancy that happens in lower gravity.  Actually those scenes reminded me of the jumping about in Gentleman Broncos, which is very much an ode to this type of pulp SF story (and, by the by, well worth the watch)…but to extend my point, the rendition of the SF storyline in that movie is very much meant to be comedic.  It’s okay if the jumping doesn’t look real because that’s not really the point (in fact looking too real might undermine the point in that movie), but since John Carter was actually taking itself mostly seriously, the silly-looking jumping was an issue.

Now let’s talk about some good things.  I loved the casting for John Carter and the Princess (seriously…why bother calling her anything else, especially her goofy-ass Never-Ending Story sounding name?).  The rest of the casting didn’t bother me or excite me, and Mark Strong got to add yet another villain to his villainous credits list.  Also the Princess had amazing eyes, and while I am fairly sure it was contacts/CG I’m not totally sure, so they sold it better than the Dune movies have so far.

The dog?  Was fucking awesommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmme.  Best part of the movie!  And proof that whatever form life takes, the human-dog bond is universal.  (Okay, at least galactic.)

However.

Doggie?  With his super-fast zoom run, utter fearlessness, and absolute loyalty?  Brought up a pretty damn huge problem with the military strategies of the various peoples of Mars:  WHY. THE. FUCK. DIDN’T ANYONE HAVE A MARS-DOG ARMY?!  That made no sense.  How could they miss the usefulness of that kind of animal in attacks?  So that was bit of a plot hole.

Another was John Carter’s Superman status.  So, I get that his magical physical abilities happen because he’s used to Earth-gravity.  Fine.  But…what happens in a year after he’s been living on Mars?  I mean, best case for him is that he’s equalized to everyone who is from Mars and built for it.  More realistically is that his bones start disintegrating and his muscles atrophy and he goes from being the secret weapon to the same as any other Mars-man/useless.  That’s not such a happy ending, is it?

Finally I want to give some props to the framing device.  Because it was ace. At first when the movie started with the whole random nephew reading his uncle’s diary, I thought, Jesus Harold Christ, not another stupid framing device that I was tired of after one 19th-century lit class.  But the frame turned out to be actually relevant to the story and took the ending up a notch, from bittersweet to kick-ass.  So that was good and worth mentioning.  Don’t roll your eyes at the frame until you get to the end!

Yeah.  In all it was a good two hours at the movies, and I’ll go see any sequels.  It might not be profound or profoundly memorable B-movie crazysauce, but it was fun enough and good enough that I don’t feel cheated out of 130 minutes of my life.  So I’m going to file John Carter (Of Mars) in the Win column and call it a night.

Rachel-

I LIKED IT!!! I really did!

I mean yeah, it had its issues. It was too long. It had a couple of slow bits; that I didn’t mind so much on the first watch, but I suspect I would if I saw it several times. It glossed RIGHT ON OVER all those issues of racism and classicism and the critique of the industrialized world beating out the “cultured imperialists”. Just RIGHT ON BY. Whatever. I understand why Disney did not want to deal with all the baggage a hundred-year-old novel that started a genre might come with.

They changed quite a lot to make it a tighter story, and to make it more appealing to a modern audience. Some of it I am quite grateful for. Princess Dejah, for instance, was intelligent, capable and did not spend the entire movie being repeatedly kidnapped and sexed. Good job, Disney. They left out the telepathic stuff. Probably a solid choice. That could have been hokey. They handled the super strength really well and quickly, and, yes…it IS funny to watch a guy moon leap everywhere he goes, and they acknowledged that.

The bit at the beginning with the Apaches and the Colonel…kind of clumsy. I think it was much longer and had to be edited, because seriously where is the MARS in this movie? I did absolutely LOVE the flashback to John burying his wife and child when he was fighting that one Thark army. It was actually really well done and does a great job highlighting the fact that when we romanticize violence, we forget that war is terrible and leaves innocent people dead. I think that might have been one of the best scenes in the film. The editing choice there was really spot-on.

Elena-

TOTALLY agree. That flashback sequence gave me chills.

Rachel-

They changed some details with the Tharks, as well. For example, it was Tars Tarkas that was aware that Sola was his daughter in the film rather than the other way around, and they completely cut out the deal with Kantos Kan being an arena prisoner that escapes with John Carter to Helium. Totally understandable, as they decided to expand Dejah to be far more involved in the plot than she originally was.  I’m really grateful for that. They did that in a really clever way. She still needs John’s help, otherwise what is the point? But she isn’t just this naked (seriously, in the books she doesn’t wear any clothes. The comment she makes about her outfit being vulgar is pretty hilarious in that light) princess who needs to be CONSTANTLY rescued by the big, strong white man from Earth. They really did that right. All credit to Michael Chabon for that. He did a great job with all this material.

I also thought they did a great job with the CGI. Sure, Woola never looked like he was REAL, but the CGI wasn’t distracting. The ships and the cities and the vistas in general (love the use of tilt-shift for several of the big wide shots) were all really enhanced by effects. Some of the battle scenes got a little CGI heavy. Maybe it was the 3D making the film a little dark, but I didn’t really detect that hated shininess that CGI can cast.

Speaking of Woola. WOOLA IS THE SHIT. Calots are awesome. I love that they made it sooooo ugly. They could have gone with a more lizard-like dog, but no. They went with a weird geko-turd. Love it. Ugly things make me happy. He basically stole every shot he was in. Woola appreciation society. I am in it.

Elena-

ME TOO!!!

Rachel-

Lookit that ugly, runty horrible scrotum-looking thing! We love him so!

That might sum up how I feel about this movie in general. It’s kind of a weird movie in that it’s an adaptation of a book that is now so dated as to almost appear as a farce, or at least an uncreative rip-off of everything produced in the genre for the last 50 years. Except it’s not. It’s the original weird, epic, pseudo-science-fantasy planetary adventure story. Everyone is naked! Everyone seems not to be choking or freezing to death! It’s a crazy world! Just remember to call it Barsoom!

John Carter Sequel Already In The Works?

Disney’s John Carter adaptation hasn’t even been released yet and the writers has already begin work on the sequel. Comingsoon.net recently reported that Stanton and his co-writer Michael Chabon have begun talking and planning for the sequel.

John Carter is the big screen adaptation of the series written by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The sequel is tentatively being called, John Carter: The Gods of Mars, based on Burroughs’ second novel.

This IS only talk though. The project hasn’t actually been green lit by Walt Disney Pictures, but chances are that if John Carter does well in the box office that the sequel will move forward. After all, Disney will need to contend with hit series movies like the popularity of The Twilight Saga and the upcoming Hunger Games. With the popularity growing in the field of franchised movies, Disney will definitely want to jump of the bandwagon with their own movie series to promote.

Word is, is that the movie  is awesome enough to merit a sequel but those of us who haven’t gotten a sneak peek of it, will have to wait till the film opens on March 9th.

A Look at the Extended John Carter Super Bowl Spot

 

The Super Bowl; which features two teams of athletic and over muscular men battling one another in an arena; helped Walt Disney Pictures debut a new spot for the upcoming John Carter movie. While there are parallels to draw from this, there are instead more braincells to kill with visual explosions by watching the new trailer below.

Having covered some of the John Carter media push, I’ve had this to say.

“Almost a hundred years in the making, the theatrical adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs classic sci-fi novel is due to hit theaters March 9. Originally penned by Burroughs in 1913; when the public obsessed over the planet mars as if it were a sparkling bloodsucker and many pieces of fiction churned out as much life on mars paraphernalia as possible; the Barsoom series which it was originally called, has been retold and remade many times over.”

“The movie version which is directed by Academy Award winning filmmaker Andrew Stanton is still a Walt Disney Pictures venture and will abide by the very safe standards set by Princesses Jasmine and Ariel. The film will feature a cast starring Taylor Kitsch as John Carter, Willem Dafoe as Tars Tarkas and Lynn Collins as the Princess Dejah Thoris.”

Lynn Collins as the Princess Dejah Thoris

The movie which will open in 3D, 2D and IMAX 3D on March 9 had it’s trailer extended, featuring a montage of superhuman on alien violence, mosaic use of imagery to dull my short attention span and a heart felt inspirational speech made to the alien equivalent of medieval Scots a la Braveheart; I swear I saw blue face paint on John Carter’s face during that speech!

 “Carter finds himself dragged into another war zone, only to discover that as the alien from another planet; Earth; he has superpowers here on Mars. The power set is thanks to the 62% less gravity that he’s used to; pretend that you’ve had weights and restraints you’ve been wearing all your life taken off. We’d get to keep our milk money for once.”

Upon examination, it’s wasn’t paint, it was blue colored blood from a xenomorph Carter probably killed in the arena. Aside from comparing scenes to Braveheart 1995, the plot begins to sound more like Avatar. So like Avatar, a wounded military officer; haunted instead of maimed; goes to an alien planet, befriends the natives of the land, then leads the natives to battle for their freedom while rediscovering himself.

So this begins to make me think of this as a koan. Which came first? I know that Warlord of Mars, the novel that John Carter is adapted from that was written nearly a hundred years ago. I also know that the film adaptation does not reflect the whole Barsoom series, so it must have been condensed or adapted so the story will fit modern day attention spans and big screen releases. I also know that Avatar was released in 2009 but essentially mimics the novel. So who copied who? Was it Avatar that drew from the 100 year old novel, or was it John Carter the movie that drew from Avatar?

John Carter: Extended Super Bowl Ad:

Full Trailer Released For John Carter

Walt Disney Films has finally released an official full trailer for the upcoming film John Carter. The film is being directed by Andrew Stanton and stars Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Samantha Morton, Mark Strong, Ciaran Hinds, Dominic West, James Purefoy, Daryl Sabara, Polly Walker, Bryan Cranston, Thomas Hayden Church and Willem Dafoe. Continue reading