Discussion in 'Archive: The Amphitheatre' started by StarDude, Oct 9, 2007.
I agree. I find the doomsaying so annoying that I'm going to see it tomorrow in protest.
It's an interesting piece of work. The design is amazing and genuinely unique. The acting is actually kinda solid (didn't mind Kitsch at all, for starters - he's a far better young action lead in a massively expensive Disney film than, say, Garrett Hedlund for starters). The world of Barsoom is really fascinating and rich and complex, and in terms of condensing that information without spoon-feeding the audience is something that Stanton really does well.
The problem with the film though, sad to say, is Stanton's direction. The master shot exists, man! Use it when you have such exceptional art direction and effects at your disposal! Too much of the film is just close-ups of whoever is talking at the moment without variation, and that extends to the action sequences - some are done well, but some critical ones, including the two duels between Kitsch and West, are far too claustrophobic and lack geography, as does the final battle as a whole. Might not sound important, but it really, really is. It robs the film of much of the visual dynamism that is evident in its below-the-line aspects. I suspect that this is somewhat Dan Mindel's doing as well, since much of Star Trek and Mission: Impossible III is claustrophobic close-ups, although the action geography of the former was actually pretty good. Brad Bird's work on Ghost Protocol by contrast was very strong, and ultimately just a little bit more spectacular.
The story also does become a bit of a mess and lacks true focus as we move on. Stanton uses the Star Wars template and throws the audience right into the action, but what makes Star Wars work is that the story crystalises and comes together in a fairly simple way. This doesn't, as Carter embroils himself further and further in the politics and intricacies of different cultures on Barsoom. The saving grace is that there is a certain giddiness and energy to the set-pieces, and Giachinno's score is quite marvelous. It's a curio piece that dodges much of the mistakes of those crappy 80s sci-fi fantasy films, and it doesn't lack for ambition, but it's not as cohesive or slick as it should or could be.
That's a terrible surname, but he's from British Columbia, so he gets a pass from me.
I hate it when the press starts that feeding frenzy. Let the damn audience have a chance to make up their own minds.
If there's a silver lining in JC's opening, as suggested above, it's the $70 million foreign box office take, and the Friday-Saturday increase, if the $30 million U.S. weekend estimate holds up. I can see JC making about $420 million total worldwide.
It's good that it managed to do slightly better than anticipated, but it still has some impossible goals to attain to break even.
I caught the film Friday, though only in 2D. On the whole, it's much better than the trailers would have you think, though it's not anywhere to the point where I'd say it's great or even "very good", but it is above average for it's genre- not as basic as it could have been, but neither overly convoluted.
The bookending scenes on Earth are great and the film has a great sense of humor throughout whose presence surprised me, so that was most welcome.
Also that terrible "on this very day, we will end it" speech is not in the movie (they redubbed it for previews so as not to have to explain the alien species names being used in the actual speech in the film- as such, it makes a lot more sense and flows much more smoothly in the actual film).
However, it's not without some large flaws (ignoring similarities to SW, Avatar and such)- the Princess has some decent stuff to do for most of the film, but she is saddled with some terrible lines and a very weird dichotic portrayal by the script- they try to make her be the strong, independent warrior women whose also super smart, but then have her switch back to a weaker "I should just get married" female cliche and back again and they never mesh well as a consistent characterization.
Kitsch, though, is the movie's main flaw. He's never bad (and, in the Earth scenes, he's actually quite fun) but he's generally very dry (though seemingly not trying to be) with a Christian Bale Batman voice and just never manages to achieve the gravitas/personality needed to really appeal John Carter to the audience.
Again, he wasn't actively bad, but generally never good either. He just didn't have the star power needed to hold up a film like this.
Saw this today. Much better than I expected. After the poor trailers and the general obnoxiousness of WALLÂ·E, I feared the worst, and those fears seemed confirmed when the movie opened with some unwieldy, jargony exposition. But after that . . . the movie was good fun. Yes, it was yet another bit of White Savior propaganda, and had its share of clichÃ©s, but it was not nearly as dull as Avatar. It actually put a smile on my face several times. It does have some problems -- chiefly, that John Carter has very little personality, and that there's way too much jargon and exposition and not enough character development. Rumor has it that the Director's Cut of this movie was about 3 hours long but that Disney made him cut it down to its current runtime of just over 2 hours; if this is true, I suspect that the longer version will play quite a bit better with more character moments to allow us the become better engaged in the somewhat obtuse plot. Despite its problems, though, the most important thing is this: the movie was enjoyable. It looked good, it sounded great, and it was the kind of fun that keeps me coming back to the theater for effects movies despite how poor the experience often is (for one reason or another). It's a movie I'd be happy to watch again, and will definitely shell out for a Director's Cut if it's released.
I just copied this from the Box Office thread -
It was a better movie then The Lorax too, or at least I thought so. I agree with the article - they made the film for older film goers. I think it was marketed terribly and Disney is gonna pay for it, but not much. I can see it being a big cult hit with the geek squad in the next twenty years. But they can forget about a franchise. Seriously, nary a mention of Burroughs, no mention like " from the creator of Tarzan " or " from the legendary author Edgar Rice Burroughs ". The television spots were terrible. I can think of three dozen shots shots in the film they shouldve went with, plus changing the title so close to the release was stupid. Not going with original title of the first story was stupid, come to think of it. Still, it was pretty good and i'm not pissed about seeing it on the big screen. The effects were great, the music was great, the action was good, and the acting was bad in a good way - it was everything you want from a scifi actioneer. Ah well, its a one shot. At least the stories got nice new publications in the bookstores.
The film was much better than recent Disney fare. It's biggest problem is that it is clearly edited down from a longer film, and I suspect most common criticisms about would not apply to the intended cut. I went in prepared for the worst and then was surprised how much I enjoyed it.
The general negativity toward it seems odd, especially if compared to more recent fantasy films that were nowhere near as well made. Certainly the best Disney live action film in years.
It's not completely unfair to expect miracles from a company that turned an aging pirate theme park ride into a $4 billion movie franchise, but JC isn't going to be one of those miracles. This seems like the kind of movie they can eventually turn into a popular Mars theme park ride. I have nothing against average movies that have faint praise heaped on them by lovers of the genre, but I feel over the years Disney has been mostly very bad for the sci fi genre. The Black Hole, Mars Needs Moms and John Carter potentially hurt the genre by losing so much money so visibly and potentially deter other studios.
If Ender's Game hadn't already gone into production, for example, John Carter might have killed it for another decade. Big budget flops like Cowboys and Aliens and John Carter are a convincing argument not to make these kinds of movies.
But on the other hand, maybe we'll continue to have a renaissance of low budget, creative productions like District 9 and Chronicle. If someone can make a movie like District 9 for $30 million, then no sci fi movie needs a $250 million budget.
That the film hasn't blown people away is less of an issue. Most of the negativity has been more aimed at Disney's handling of a film of this nature than the actual film itself. To support a $250 million film with such a horrid marketing campaign and then dump said movie in March- a month that has had exactly 1 movie gross enough to cover such a budget and marketing cost, just seems astounding.
The more pressing question is why couldn't this movie have been made for $125 million? Particularly for a movie with a cast of nobodies, there's no excuse for the budget. If they had kept the budget at $125 million or less, the bad marketing would not be the center of all the media attention.
Nobodies like Willem Dafoe, Samantha Morton and CiarÃ¡n Hinds? Really, though, Stanton is apparently one of those perfectionist filmmakers, shooting and reshooting to get takes just right. Little details on the screen probably gobbled up lots of resources getting just right -- stuff like the gravity sequence, choreographing battle scenes, a bazillion takes of cutesy and comedic moments to get the comic timing just right, etc.
He supposedly tried to approach the film like an animated movie, so I suspect the majority of the budget went to the effects budget for the landscapes, ships and mo-cap, even though on the surface it doesn't look like it cost that much.
Did some of the budget carry over from past development attempts, perhaps?
I have always wondered why this films costs got so high and my thought was that yes it's cost got out of hand by the way Disney handled the whole project rather the actual cost of producing the final product but that's just a guess. The other thing that frustrates me is that the cost of a film should never influence how a critic looks at a film, calling a film a flop tends to tell people the movie is bad and they will thus stay away. Yet the critics really aren't calling the film "bad" only that it will never make enough money. Which is totally unfair to the finished product, as having the film be a flop financially has nothing to do with the quality of the film.
This article from the Chicago Tribune makes some good points. This is not a disaster in the same category as Heaven's Gate or Water World.
Disney's John Carter
Here's an article that discusses why and how the full blame for the failed trailers rests squarely on director Stanton's shoulders:
But while the lack of ?wow? footage may have been the result of inexperience, the flat, uninspiring story painted by the trailer was also due to Stanton?s blind fealty to the source material. John Carter is, at heart, an action movie as much as it is a romance: Adding to the handicap of having no blowout battle footage, Stanton wanted to honor Carter's origin and the film's love story ? it was as if he thought that to underplay the source book's title A Princess From Mars would be to slight it. And so the resulting teaser offered a slow, ethereal peek into the film's flirtations, with a rushed trip through Carter?s journey: ...
There is also the fact that, "Because the Barsoom books were so influential to cinema's greatest sci-fi auteurs, just about everything in it had already been plundered and reused by other hits. And as a result, the more that was revealed of John Carter, the more derivative it looked, even if its source had originated these ideas. "Every great scene in the book has been reaped,? explains Don Murphy, the producer of movies like Transformers and Real Steel, who?d tried to bring John Carter to the big screen almost a decade ago, but abandoned the effort...."
Despite all this I'm very much looking forward to seeing the film and I hope it continues doing well overseas.
I was not aware that Stanton himself had gone on the record saying that the movie needed to gross $700 worldwide to justify a sequel.
Look, the fact remains that for a lot of us, even for those of us who are genre fans, this movie would have been pretty disappointing even if it had not been such an expensive, poorly marketed mess.
I went into the movie knowing very little about John Carter in general, except that the material had been very influential among the likes of Lucas & Cameron. I came out of the movie feeling I'd never really had any reason to care very much for any of the characters, and I still have absolutely no idea why we were supposed to care for one side of the Martian conflict, aside from the fact that they had a pretty princess. Having seen the movie just 5 days ago, I have absolutely no recollection of what, if anything, was truly at stake in the conflict, aside from whether or not John Carter gets the girl. (The stuff about the forced marriage seemed particularly creaky)
That might have worked 100 years ago, but I don't think it makes for very compelling entertainment in this day and age, when we have had far more engaging explorations of what adventure might be like for humans outside of Earth - anything from BSG to Serenity, which seemed way more fresh and interesting than "John Carter".
Yes, I know some people enjoyed it, and I respect that, but for the life of me, I can't figure out what they saw in the movie.
That is the first genuinely damning review I've read, MandalorianDuchess, that addresses the achievements of the film without focusing on the marketing or the budget. Thanks for the fresh insight.
Really? I also have never read Burroughs and was unfamiliar with the source material (aside from having seen the Frazetta cover for the book), but while I agree that there could have been some better character development, I thought they emphasized the stakes over and over. The very first scene in the film shows a brutal warlord gaining deadly new tech. Throughout the film we hear about how if one side in the conflict falls, there will be no one to stop the other from pretty much destroying everyone else on the planet. We see abandoned cities and are told they've been left derelict because of that warlord. And then later in the film there's a revelation that raises the stakes a bit so even if we don't care if Mars is wiped out we still have some ultimate stake in the outcome of the conflict. . .
Well, I'm sorry to say, but I really needed someone to jolt my memory, because all of that didn't really register much (or at all) while watching the movie.
Perhaps it's just too theoretical a threat, since we now know there is no apparent life in Mars, anyway. I'm sure 100 years ago, it would have been easier to suspend disbelief about the whole thing, because we hadn't been to the Moon, or Mars, or launched the Voyager probes, etc.
Maybe the reason those things didn't register at the time is that I was already having to suspend my disbelief as to why we should believe that such civilizations existed at some point in Mars; or perhaps more concretely, the fact that we now know there is no life on Mars would simply lead me to conclude (unconsciously, perhaps) that John Carter's efforts would ultimately be futile, because by the mid-20th century we would know there wasn't anybody there (certainly not anybody that looks like what JC encounters).
It's funny- even if the press is negative, I think far more people are aware of the movie and talking about it because of all the shock over the budget and marketing debacle than they would be otherwise.
If this had just been the $100-130 million movie that it looks like, people would have just written it off as a non-starter film and continued to ignore it. But now they're actually paying attention to it.
Heck, I myself had largely written the movie off until a few weeks ago when I was shocked to find out it cost so much despite how it looked and how carelessly Disney had handled it. Then I kinda wanted to route for it as an underdog, as futile as that might be.
But all the details on how this terrible things surrounding this film went are probably more interesting and entertaining the film itself .
The opening narration introduced that mobile city that drains the natural resources of the planet (this is, supposedly, why they say in the film Mars no longer has seas). Helium kept it in check, but then those immortals tipped the balance by empowering that warlord. That's all in the prologue (except for the seas part, which was mentioned later on).
Then towards the end when the main immortal is revealing their whole plan to Carter, he says that they encourage this sort of behavior so that the mortal inhabitants of a world wipe each other out in warfare and kill off their planet's resources. The immortals feed on these actions somehow.
The final implication was that, after Mars, the immortals would go after Earth (or, at least, had begun studying Earth to prepare for such an action)- thus even if Carter forgot baout Mars and went home, Earth would still be threatened eventually.
OK... some of it is slowly starting to come back to me.
But as I said earlier, it would definitely have been easier to buy into this fantasy back when it was first published, because at that time we didn't really know what we'd find in Mars. Now we know, and that helps rob the movie/story of some of the allure it might otherwise have had, imho.
And believe me, I really wanted to like it... and yet I somehow ended up liking it less than "Dune" - which I've always thought is a mixed bag, at best.
Yes, I know it's going to be a money loser for Disney.
But at least it's got some overseas traction. World-wide it's
currently at $179,272,000 and that's after being out for
10 days. Domestically it's a disaster at 53 million dollars so far,
but foreign may minimize the losses.
Not to mention DVDs/ITunes/etc sales.
Saw this movie a few days ago and really enjoyed it. Reminded me of a much better remake of that 1980s Flash Gordon movie, which was awful .
Knowing that the source material was so old was pretty interesting; you could totally see the influences these stories had on much later films, especially Star Wars and the films that inspired that. I remember distinctly thinking when the Princess arrived onscreen "hey, it's prototype Princess Leia!" Thought the flying vehicles were kinda silly (we can fly!....at the speed of a riding lawn mower!) but overall a pretty enjoyable film.
Objectively, I know how bad Flash Gordon is, but I love that movie anyway.