Mamo #243: Life on Mars

People have been screaming “BOMB!” at John Carter for longer than is, we think, strictly germane to the potential value (or lack of same) of the franchise. Now that the movie is out – and bombing – what happened? And while we’re on the subject, what happened to Eddie Murphy?

To download this episode, use this URL: http://rowthree.com/audio/mamo/mamo243.mp3

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Gord
Guest

On your leading man discussion, Disney made the same mistake before when they cast Garrett Hedlund for Tron. I don’t know if they were trying to make these guys stars or they hired them because they were cheap. But both lack the charisma of a leading man. I agree with you guys if they cast already known stars, Disney could have really improved both films.

Matthew Price
Guest

It’d be great to see a list of all the people who were “cast” over the years. I gotta think Harrison Ford and Dennis Quaid showed up there a couple times. Even Clint Eastwood might’ve done this if you go back far enough.

Sean Patrick Kelly
Guest

Well, with Tron: Legacy, they already had Jeff Bridges coming back (and I believe he gets top billing), so I guess they supposed they didn’t need more star power when it came to playing Flynn’s son.

Matthew Fabb
Guest

After seeing John Carter last night (which I also did enjoy despite a few misteps) I looked up the wikipedia page of the movie and discovered that they have been trying to make this movie since 1931!! Back then it was Bob Clampett, who was a Looney Tunes director was trying to make it an animated movie. They went as far as putting together some test footage in 1936 using rotoscoping (tracing over live footage). Had the movie been made, it would have beat out Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to become the first American full length animated movie. Unfortunately, film exhibitors thought the movie was too outlandish and it was never made.

Robert Rodriguez was apparently set to direct, wanting to hire artist Frank Frazetta to work directly on the movie. That would certainly had a different looking kind of movie and as much as I enjoyed Disney’s version, I have a feeling that Rodriguez would have been more interesting. However, Rodriguez resigned from the Directors Guild of America so that Frank Miller could be co-director of Sin City and Paramount who then had the rights to the film, could not go ahead with a non-DGA director. So Rodriguez was kicked off the project.

Now Rodriguez is working to do alive action Fire and Ice based off the work of Frank Frazetta. So it looks like Rodriguez will still get his sci-fi/fantasy movie and I’ll be curious on how it stands against John Carter.

Anyways, the wikipedia page has a lot more detail on the various failed attempts, of which I imagine is just a fraction of the story.

Goon
Guest

If people don’t want to see John Carter, it’s their mistake to make. They made they mistake of not seeing Speed Racer, and they’ll make this mistake now.

This is what you get when society is too ironic. John Carter embraces its cheese factor without being tongue in cheek about it, and in the end a pretty simple movie ends up going over peoples’ heads.

Kurt
Guest

Taking the kids to this but probably not for another week or so with the big GHIBLI thing going on in Toronto right now.

Jericho Slim
Guest

Are you kidding me? Speed Racer is everything that John Carter is not. With Speed Racer, you have a strong directorial vision, good actors that all perform with the same consistent and purposeful style, and interesting, over-the-top special effects and color palette. I loved that movie. The Wachowskis basically used their clout (or tricked the studio) to produce an anti-blockbuster, with some of the trappings of a blockbuster.

John Carter is the opposite. This movie was obviously brought to you by the same people who brought you Prince of Persia. No one can convince me that the dialogue, acting, and convenient plot devices were any better in John Carter than in Prince of Persia – both are bland, committee driven exercises. I mean, there’s even a section in the middle of the movie – where the two main characters are questing through the desert – that you could lift from one film and put in the other.

Like I wrote in an earlier post, at least Immortals failed at the box-office while attempting to be visually interesting and taking some chances – you knew while watching it that it was a Tarsem movie. Anybody could have directed John Carter, and it looks like everybody at the studio did.

Will a 12-year-old like it? Sure, just like I’m sure they would like Cars 2. Is the movie totally without merit? No, some of the supporting actors perform well and I think the last ten minutes are fun. I also liked the design of the “evil” city – which we don’t see enough of.

But on the whole, I thought this movie was extremely plain and forgettable.

Goon
Guest

Well, you’re arguing against Prince of Persia with someone who thought it was… OK. I thought Carter had way more going for it in every respect, visually, in the score, design, everything.

Matthew Fabb
Guest

Hmmm… I wouldn’t have made the connection between John Carter & Prince of Persia, I guess in part because of the sci-fi elements in John Carter. Also I guess because Prince of Persia is quite a forgettable film. I saw it on DVD, but don’t recall much of it now.

Also my understanding is that this a project that was basically a Pixar project, that used the Disney branding to keep Pixar in the all-ages realm as this was a PG-13 movie. Also that this is a project that director Andrew Stanton was wanted to do for a very long time, being a fan of the John Carter books since he was a kid.

That said, while I think some of the ships are interesting that overall it’s not like a film like Speed Racer that has it’s very distinctive style. Andrew Stanton and the general manager of Pixar complained that Frank Frazetta’s John Carter artwork looked dated. Yet did not manage to replace it with something quite as distinctive. I have no problem with going out with out and in with the new as long as they replace it with something interesting.

Anyways, I enjoyed the movie, thought it had some issues but didn’t find it that great. I’m now more interested in the history of the movie being made with various false starts than the movie itself.

Jericho Slim
Guest

That’s the rub, Matthew. I think that we want to give JC a pass because we know about its troubled production, and we know that the source material is the “ur-text” (as you called it) for so many other stories, and we know that the righteously motivated director is probably going to get unfairly blamed for the movies failure, etc. It would be a good story to us if, in the end, the movie was actually good despite all of the odds stacked against it; that it was just the victim of circumstance and a close-minded, mainstream audience – kind of like Speed Racer.

On the other hand, we are harsh to the Prince of Persia (or Clash of the Titans) because we see it as a blatant cash grab and the source material is a video game. That’s not a romantic narrative.

But the screen don’t lie. The reason I compared it to Prince of Persia (which I unfortunately saw in the theaters), was that it has the same flaws as that movie: clunky dialogue between the romantic leads; uninspired acting; a main character who has powers that can solve any problem, but for some reason only uses them when it suits the plot; etc., etc.

Regardless of the path taken, the results on the screen are the same. If this movie was based off a toy line and directed by Michael Bay, what would we be saying?

Goon
Guest

I like Speed Racer more but when i brought it up, it had to do with tone and embracing cheesiness without winking. But I think you’re a fool to compare this to Prince of Persia. On every technical level this is far more inspired, there is a sense of wonder and inspiration, and not just a franchise delivery device at here.

Bay is an even larger overreach.

Goon
Guest

Meanwhile my Criticalmasscast co-host has instead been trotting out this comparison:

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which has me likely to rent it as soon as possible.

Jericho Slim
Guest

Like Matthew Fabb says below, I’ll guess we’ll have to agree to disagree. I’m glad some were able to enjoy the movie, and I hope that it does prove profitable for Disney. I just didn’t feel any wonder or inspiration. Foolish as I may be, PofP felt to me exactly the same as JC, with magic substituted for the sci-fi element.

And I think Speed Racer openly embraced its cheesiness, while JC took itself way too seriously, and might have produced some cheesiness as a by-product of trying to bring the story to the screen.

I think JC is obviously better than Transformers (every movie is), I was just comparing the narrative of the making of the two films, not the films themselves.

Matthew Fabb
Guest

I personally think the second weekend shows how a movie has done via word of mouth. The first weekend is mainly about the marketing of the film that Disney failed in so many ways.

I went out with a big group of friends Saturday night for dinner, all of them are a big bunch of geeks (I know them all for years back from U of T’s sci-fi and gaming club). A movie like John Carter should be right up their alley, but half of them went home after dinner as their thoughts on the movie based on the marketing was “meh”. Anecdotal evidence is always the worst kind when it comes to talking about Canada & the US bock office, but when what should be part of your core audience is uninterested, there is a problem.

There’s a fan edit of a trailer, taking pieces of publicly available footage and making their own trailer and it is so much better than anything that Disney did.

“If this movie was based off a toy line and directed by Michael Bay, what would we be saying?” I would say that the toy line has produced some amazing stories over the years and it would be so much better if Michael Bay stepped away from the franchise? 😉

Anyways, Jericho Slim, I think at this point the bunch of us will have to agree to disagree with the quality of the movie. It doesn’t seem that anyone here on this board absolutely loved John Carter, but a few of us still enjoyed it despite some flaws in the movie.

Goon
Guest

I absolutely loved it 😛 I just absolutely loved Speed Racer more

Jericho Slim
Guest

That’s the big takeaway. Speed Racer is definitely the shiz-nit!!

Matthew Price
Guest

Really loving all the current comparisons on JC, from Prince of Persia to Star Wars to Avatar, but let’s face it, there’s only one movie where the plots are identical.

A main character who spends the first 2/3rds of the film refusing to embrace his destiny, paralyzed in indecision, followed by a climactic attempt to break up a wedding?

Obviously, the real comparison is to The Graduate.

Jericho Slim
Guest

Nice! I’ll throw some Jay Cheel chum in the water: “Krull” is also a good comparison.

Jericho Slim
Guest

John Carter must read: The Inside Story of How John Carter Was Doomed by Its First Trailer.

http://www.vulture.com/2012/03/john-carter-doomed-by-first-trailer.html

So, maybe we should be pointing the finger of blame on the director, and not the studio.

If this article is to be believed, I was wrong in calling John Carter a committee-driven exercise, but I stand by my assertion that it looks like it was directed by a committee.

Maybe Heaven’s Gate is the movie we should be comparing John Carter to.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

But I quite like HEAVEN’S GATE! Just have not made it down to the cinema for John Carter yet.

Jericho Slim
Guest

Heaven’s Gate is definitely on my list of shame.

antho42
Guest

We should start the summer box office predictions early. This is an interesting year for blockbusters.

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