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  1. #1
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    Movie talk: John Carter

    John Carter is from Pixar genius Andrew Stanton, the man who wrote the Toy Story films and wrote/directed Finding Nemo and WALL*E. By those standards, it would be safe to assume this would be a fabulous film. It is not like he did not have money to spend on it. The film's budget is said to be $250 million and Disney has spent another $100 mil in marketing for the flick. If you have not seen a commercial for it, you must be blind or living under a rock.

    What's more, the John Carter of Mars (Barzul, as the Martians call it) series is considered one of the seminal science fiction works of the past century. Edgar Rice Burroughs, best known for writing the Tarzan stories, is credited with writing a series that had a profound influence on many of the hero/sci-fi stories that we are more familiar with. George Lucas openly acknowledges that the John Carter books inspired him to write Star Wars. Many say you can see elements of John Carter in Superman and other popular heroes. This is rich material from which to fashion a story.

    So, I came into the screening with high expectations and hopes.

    Sigh.

    The action is fine and the effects are all strong, you can see the money they spent on the screen, but it lacks a truly engaging story. The main story seems, at times, to boil down to thousands of people being willing to sacrifice themselves to prevent one attractive woman from marrying a mean dude. Ummm, really? The reason the bad guy wants to marry the woman is never really made all that clear. There are multiple bad guys, some of whom have the motivation of wanting to take over the planet but some of them seem to be motivated by... uhhhh... I am not sure. It may be that they just want to bring chaos, but that seems like an awful weak motivation. It is just a mess at times.

    But, the worst part is that none of the characters have much emotion or heart. Stanton got more emotional connections out of fish, robots, and toys than he does out of actual living-breathing actors. In fact, The character that the audience cares the most about in the film is a super-fast alien dog-type beast. It hurts a bit that the film lacks the charisma of a big star. Taylor Kitsch is not the next Johnny Depp or Brad Pitt... that much is clear.

    I don't want to totally trash it. This is not a terrible film. Like I said, the action pieces are nicely done and, for the most part, Stanton avoids the now-tired Hollywood trend of too many quick cuts in the action scenes so we can barely tell what is going on. But, when there are few characters we actually care about, the action loses all of its tension and excitement.

    I also want to put this caveat out there -- I coach a youth baseball team that my son is on. It is full of 11 and 12 year olds. I took the entire team to the John Carter screening to get their opinion on it. Almost all of them loved it. A couple were so-so, but most of them thought it was great and really enjoyed it. So, I guess it is a good flick for 7-14 year old boys.

    Maybe that is what Stanton was going for.

    -Jason "this sucker is going to lose big money for Disney, I suspect. It is probably going to make maybe $30 mil this opening weekend and will need to be HUGE overseas to have a chance to make back the $250 mil it cost to shoot" Evans
    Don't ask me why, but my mother is making me Tweet. Says it will be good for my career. So, follow my ramblings, mostly on the film industry, @TVFilmTalk

  2. #2
    Tim Riggins in Space?

    (note I shamelessly stole this from someone on twitter)
    "Something in my vicinity is Carolina blue and this offends me." - HPR

  3. #3
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    Sigh. I feared as much. I voraciously read the series as a pre-teen (not all that long after they were written, compared to the time it took to get the movie out).

    I'll still go, hopefully my expectations have been adjusted to where I will enjoy the film.

    BTW I recall the planet being called Barsoom by the Barsoomians.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by BD80 View Post
    BTW I recall the planet being called Barsoom by the Barsoomians.
    My bad. You are correct. Barzul is a curse or something like that in the "ancient language" in the Inheritance Series. I am reading the last of this very disappointing series now, which is why I got them confused.

    It is worth noting that changing the name of the planet does not improve the emotional connection of the film

    -Jason "I slammed it too hard... it ain't awful, not by a long stretch... but it ain't Stanton's usual quality" Evans
    Don't ask me why, but my mother is making me Tweet. Says it will be good for my career. So, follow my ramblings, mostly on the film industry, @TVFilmTalk

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by JasonEvans View Post
    ... Barzul is a curse or something like that in the "ancient language" in the Inheritance Series. I am reading the last of this very disappointing series now, ...

    -Jason ... Evans

    Sigh. Not full of good news today are we?

    Please tell me "The Avengers" won't suck.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by BD80 View Post
    Sigh. Not full of good news today are we?

    Please tell me "The Avengers" won't suck.
    The Avengers won't suck. The Avengers won't suck. The Avengers won't suck.

    The most stunning thing about JE's review is the amount of money Disney has sunk into this. $250 million plus $100 million in marketing?! For a March release with a no-name (well, not a big name anyway) star? Made from a series of books that, while classic, aren't exactly popular mainstream reading among the teen/tween set? That seems like a HUGE financial gamble. Am I missing something, or is that kind of money starting to become reasonable to spend on a non-summer-tentpole flick?
    Brian Zoubek on what was going through his mind walking to the free throw line with 3.6 seconds remaining in the 2010 National Championship game and Duke up by 1: "Fifty percent [of me is] thinking, This is what I've been dreaming of doing my entire life. Fifty percent I'm crapping my pants."

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by JasonEvans View Post
    John Carter is from Pixar genius Andrew Stanton, the man who wrote the Toy Story films and wrote/directed Finding Nemo and WALL*E. By those standards, it would be safe to assume this would be a fabulous film. It is not like he did not have money to spend on it. The film's budget is said to be $250 million and Disney has spent another $100 mil in marketing for the flick. If you have not seen a commercial for it, you must be blind or living under a rock.

    What's more, the John Carter of Mars (Barzul, as the Martians call it) series is considered one of the seminal science fiction works of the past century. Edgar Rice Burroughs, best known for writing the Tarzan stories, is credited with writing a series that had a profound influence on many of the hero/sci-fi stories that we are more familiar with. George Lucas openly acknowledges that the John Carter books inspired him to write Star Wars. Many say you can see elements of John Carter in Superman and other popular heroes. This is rich material from which to fashion a story.

    So, I came into the screening with high expectations and hopes.

    Sigh.

    The action is fine and the effects are all strong, you can see the money they spent on the screen, but it lacks a truly engaging story. The main story seems, at times, to boil down to thousands of people being willing to sacrifice themselves to prevent one attractive woman from marrying a mean dude. Ummm, really? The reason the bad guy wants to marry the woman is never really made all that clear. There are multiple bad guys, some of whom have the motivation of wanting to take over the planet but some of them seem to be motivated by... uhhhh... I am not sure. It may be that they just want to bring chaos, but that seems like an awful weak motivation. It is just a mess at times.

    But, the worst part is that none of the characters have much emotion or heart. Stanton got more emotional connections out of fish, robots, and toys than he does out of actual living-breathing actors. In fact, The character that the audience cares the most about in the film is a super-fast alien dog-type beast. It hurts a bit that the film lacks the charisma of a big star. Taylor Kitsch is not the next Johnny Depp or Brad Pitt... that much is clear.

    I don't want to totally trash it. This is not a terrible film. Like I said, the action pieces are nicely done and, for the most part, Stanton avoids the now-tired Hollywood trend of too many quick cuts in the action scenes so we can barely tell what is going on. But, when there are few characters we actually care about, the action loses all of its tension and excitement.

    I also want to put this caveat out there -- I coach a youth baseball team that my son is on. It is full of 11 and 12 year olds. I took the entire team to the John Carter screening to get their opinion on it. Almost all of them loved it. A couple were so-so, but most of them thought it was great and really enjoyed it. So, I guess it is a good flick for 7-14 year old boys.

    Maybe that is what Stanton was going for.

    -Jason "this sucker is going to lose big money for Disney, I suspect. It is probably going to make maybe $30 mil this opening weekend and will need to be HUGE overseas to have a chance to make back the $250 mil it cost to shoot" Evans
    Awesome, i have a 9-10 year old team im going to take to see it.as long as they are happy.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by JasonEvans View Post
    I also want to put this caveat out there -- I coach a youth baseball team that my son is on. It is full of 11 and 12 year olds. I took the entire team to the John Carter screening to get their opinion on it. Almost all of them loved it.


    Quote Originally Posted by wavedukefan70s View Post
    Awesome, i have a 9-10 year old team im going to take to see it.as long as they are happy.
    If parents keep taking entire baseball teams to see this movie, then Disney doesn't have to worry about making their money back.
    Mmmm, BBQ!

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by JasonEvans View Post
    John Carter is from Pixar genius Andrew Stanton, the man who wrote the Toy Story films and wrote/directed Finding Nemo and WALL*E. By those standards, it would be safe to assume this would be a fabulous film. It is not like he did not have money to spend on it. The film's budget is said to be $250 million and Disney has spent another $100 mil in marketing for the flick. If you have not seen a commercial for it, you must be blind or living under a rock.

    What's more, the John Carter of Mars (Barzul, as the Martians call it) series is considered one of the seminal science fiction works of the past century. Edgar Rice Burroughs, best known for writing the Tarzan stories, is credited with writing a series that had a profound influence on many of the hero/sci-fi stories that we are more familiar with. George Lucas openly acknowledges that the John Carter books inspired him to write Star Wars. Many say you can see elements of John Carter in Superman and other popular heroes. This is rich material from which to fashion a story.

    So, I came into the screening with high expectations and hopes.

    Sigh.

    The action is fine and the effects are all strong, you can see the money they spent on the screen, but it lacks a truly engaging story. The main story seems, at times, to boil down to thousands of people being willing to sacrifice themselves to prevent one attractive woman from marrying a mean dude. Ummm, really? The reason the bad guy wants to marry the woman is never really made all that clear. There are multiple bad guys, some of whom have the motivation of wanting to take over the planet but some of them seem to be motivated by... uhhhh... I am not sure. It may be that they just want to bring chaos, but that seems like an awful weak motivation. It is just a mess at times.

    But, the worst part is that none of the characters have much emotion or heart. Stanton got more emotional connections out of fish, robots, and toys than he does out of actual living-breathing actors. In fact, The character that the audience cares the most about in the film is a super-fast alien dog-type beast. It hurts a bit that the film lacks the charisma of a big star. Taylor Kitsch is not the next Johnny Depp or Brad Pitt... that much is clear.

    I don't want to totally trash it. This is not a terrible film. Like I said, the action pieces are nicely done and, for the most part, Stanton avoids the now-tired Hollywood trend of too many quick cuts in the action scenes so we can barely tell what is going on. But, when there are few characters we actually care about, the action loses all of its tension and excitement.

    I also want to put this caveat out there -- I coach a youth baseball team that my son is on. It is full of 11 and 12 year olds. I took the entire team to the John Carter screening to get their opinion on it. Almost all of them loved it. A couple were so-so, but most of them thought it was great and really enjoyed it. So, I guess it is a good flick for 7-14 year old boys.

    Maybe that is what Stanton was going for.

    -Jason "this sucker is going to lose big money for Disney, I suspect. It is probably going to make maybe $30 mil this opening weekend and will need to be HUGE overseas to have a chance to make back the $250 mil it cost to shoot" Evans
    Thanks for the review. Does the movie explain where his superior abilities come from or how he got there? On Apple's movie previews page it just says he is "inexplicably transported."

    Also, I don't mean to hijack this thread, but I just don't understand our culture if people think it's OK to send a first grader to a PG-13 movie. Just because they are boys and have been trained to act tough does not mean that images of violence and chaos are not disturbing to them nor does it mean that they are able at that age to distinguish between fantasy and reality in the way we take for granted as adults.
    The Gordog

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by JasonEvans View Post
    the John Carter of Mars (Barzul, as the Martians call it) series is considered one of the seminal science fiction works of the past century.
    I was very surprised to read this -- I had never even heard of the series before reading your sentence, and I've read a fair amount of sci-fi. Looking it up, I see that it just barely qualifies as a "work of the past century". The first story was written in 1911, but published in serialized fashion 100 years ago.

    This got me thinking about what I consider the seminal works of sci-fi. Here's a quick list of a few titles that come to mind (starting with 1984, and ending with Neuromancer, published in 1984, I believe):

    1984
    Martian Chronicles (I have a signed copy at home)
    Fahrenheit 451
    Childhood's End
    Foundation Series
    Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
    Dune
    Neuromancer


    What else should be on this list?

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by JasonEvans View Post
    If you have not seen a commercial for it, you must be blind or living under a rock.
    I'm not blind, so I guess I live under a rock. I've never heard of John Carter, nor noticed any ads.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by cato View Post
    I was very surprised to read this -- I had never even heard of the series before reading your sentence, and I've read a fair amount of sci-fi. Looking it up, I see that it just barely qualifies as a "work of the past century". The first story was written in 1911, but published in serialized fashion 100 years ago.

    This got me thinking about what I consider the seminal works of sci-fi. Here's a quick list of a few titles that come to mind (starting with 1984, and ending with Neuromancer, published in 1984, I believe):

    1984
    Martian Chronicles (I have a signed copy at home)
    Fahrenheit 451
    Childhood's End
    Foundation Series
    Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
    Dune
    Neuromancer


    What else should be on this list?
    The Foundation series ultimately morphs with Asimov's Robot series, but I'd argue the latter belongs on the list regardless.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Gordog View Post
    Thanks for the review. Does the movie explain where his superior abilities come from or how he got there? On Apple's movie previews page it just says he is "inexplicably transported."

    Also, I don't mean to hijack this thread, but I just don't understand our culture if people think it's OK to send a first grader to a PG-13 movie. Just because they are boys and have been trained to act tough does not mean that images of violence and chaos are not disturbing to them nor does it mean that they are able at that age to distinguish between fantasy and reality in the way we take for granted as adults.
    His superior abilities are the result of his Earth musculature in the lesser gravity of Mars. The books had him mystically drawn to the Red Planet, typically when he was near-mortally wounded during the Civil War. He had a special connection with the planet which is not fully described, but generally he is considered the consummate gentleman warrior in an ugly war, where there is no clear demarcation between the "good guys" and "the bad guys." Mars is the planet named after the God of War - and is where he can be the gallant warrior he was born to be, fighting opponents who are clearly "bad" and fighting for the honor of the Princess.

    I never considered the series to be "Sci Fi," but more fantasy. Is it great fiction? Maybe no. But it was innovative and great fodder for a young boy.

  14. #14
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    The movie makes a brief mention of the gravity difference between Mars and Earth allowing him to be so strong. Plus, the very first moment he arrives on Mars, there is a funny scene of him trying to walk and flying all over the place. I found it obvious the reason why he was like this and none of the kids seemed confused by it.

    He is not "inexplicably" transported to Mars. There is a very specific way it happens that becomes a significant part of the rest of the story. I'll leave it at that. Also, he is not a gentleman warrior on a planet full of savages. In fact, he is an angry, bitter civil war vet at the beginning of the movie -- hardly a sympathetic character.

    As to the notion that 1st or 2nd graders would enjoy this movie despite it being PG-13, I am a tad surprised it even is PG-13. There is a good bit of fighting, but almost no blood or gruesome violence. There is no sex, no cursing, no nudity. It is certainly up to individual parents whether to take their child to a film like this, but I found it to be very mild by PG-13 standards. If you want to know more, I highly recommend you visit the John Carter page at KidsInMind.com, which does a fabulous job of detailing the exact content of movies in terms of sex, violence, and language.

    Finally, it is becoming abundantly clear that Disney is going to lose its shirt -- domestically**, at least -- on this film. It did a pathetic $500k from midnight showings last night. The advance ticket sales, according to folks like Fandango and MovieTickets.com, are not at all impressive. I have seen forecasts of a $30 mil opening weekend, but I bet it is only in the mid-low 20s.

    -Jason "I hope this does not end Andrew Stanton's career as a live-action filmmaker -- I think he can do better than this" Evans

    ** - I bet it does very good business overseas. This is the kind of movie with lots of somewhat mindless action that does very well in markets where they do not speak English.
    Don't ask me why, but my mother is making me Tweet. Says it will be good for my career. So, follow my ramblings, mostly on the film industry, @TVFilmTalk

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by cato View Post
    I was very surprised to read this -- I had never even heard of the series before reading your sentence, and I've read a fair amount of sci-fi. Looking it up, I see that it just barely qualifies as a "work of the past century". The first story was written in 1911, but published in serialized fashion 100 years ago.

    This got me thinking about what I consider the seminal works of sci-fi. Here's a quick list of a few titles that come to mind (starting with 1984, and ending with Neuromancer, published in 1984, I believe):

    1984
    Martian Chronicles (I have a signed copy at home)
    Fahrenheit 451
    Childhood's End
    Foundation Series
    Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
    Dune
    Neuromancer

    What else should be on this list?
    I always include Count Zero as paired with Neuromancer. Also Gibson's wonderful short Johnny Mnemonic.

    For pure entertainment value, Snow Crash (the first 20 or 30 pages is absolutely wildly funny and entertaining...screw it the whole book is wildly fun and entertaining.

    War of the Worlds, of course.

    The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Don't Panic. Bring your towel.

    Ender's Game

    Back on topic: JE - any explanation of why Disney banked so much on this movie? I know it had kind of tortured path to getting to the theaters. But a quarter billion PLUS marketing on a March release with a non-marquee star?
    Brian Zoubek on what was going through his mind walking to the free throw line with 3.6 seconds remaining in the 2010 National Championship game and Duke up by 1: "Fifty percent [of me is] thinking, This is what I've been dreaming of doing my entire life. Fifty percent I'm crapping my pants."

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by CameronBornAndBred View Post
    If parents keep taking entire baseball teams to see this movie, then Disney doesn't have to worry about making their money back.
    It's only 3.25 for regular 5.75 for 3-D.they actually wanted to see act of valor(i want to see it too).i told them to pick something else.that wasn't a option.i gave them lorax,journey2 or john carter.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by davekay1971 View Post
    Back on topic: JE - any explanation of why Disney banked so much on this movie? I know it had kind of tortured path to getting to the theaters. But a quarter billion PLUS marketing on a March release with a non-marquee star?
    The Pixar guys really, really wanted to do this film. The word is that they made a deal with Disney -- give us the money to do this and we will make Cars 2 (even though they did not want to and had little idea of the story for the film), which will make like a billion dollars in merchandising for you. Pixar even agreed to set Cars 2 all over the world to allow Disney to get extra play in foreign markets.

    So, we had to endure Cras 2 so the Pixar guys could give us... John Carter. Sigh.

    I really think Stanton thought he had something amazing here, but once it got on screen, it was just a tad blaah. Disney gave it a March release because they did not think it would play well over the summer, I think. Though it is worth noting that this kind of fantasy film has done fairly well in the March release slot in recent years (300, Clash of the Titans).

    -Jason "your movie answer man" Evans
    Don't ask me why, but my mother is making me Tweet. Says it will be good for my career. So, follow my ramblings, mostly on the film industry, @TVFilmTalk

  18. #18
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    Oh, I forgot to post it, but here is my radio segment on Star 94 (one of the big FM stations in Atlanta) from this past week where I talked about John Carter a bit.

    -Jason "you may be able to tell, we tape these in advance and they edited out some of my comments on Andrew Stanton" Evans
    Don't ask me why, but my mother is making me Tweet. Says it will be good for my career. So, follow my ramblings, mostly on the film industry, @TVFilmTalk

  19. #19
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    Carter made $30.6 mil over the weekend, slightly better than I had expected but a disastrous number for a movie with this kind of budget and marketing behind it.

    So, for anyone who saw it, was my assessment off?

    -Jason "do folks want to hear what I thought about 21 Jump Street?" Evans
    Don't ask me why, but my mother is making me Tweet. Says it will be good for my career. So, follow my ramblings, mostly on the film industry, @TVFilmTalk

  20. #20
    Sure! The redband trailer for "21 Jump Street" made it look rather funny!

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