And You Thought It Was Safe(?)

John Carter (2012)

Our review of the long-awaited (by some of us) adaption of Edgar Rice Burroughs ‘ A Princess of Mars. Good news is: it comes to us from the director of Wall-E and writer of three Toy Stories. Bad news is: he still works for Disney.


5 Comments so far
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Yup. It’s good. As you say, not great, but hell, good is a damned sight better than most $250 million movies manage to achieve. No, there will never be a sequel to this movie, but, considering the support it got, that’s okay. Better one good movie than a good movie with a bunch of terrible sequels.

Comment by David Lee Ingersoll

The Nightbreed and/or Buckaroo Banzai fans might have something to say about that last statement. Hell, with Stanton at the helm, I figure they’ve got at least one more good one in ’em before they all reach Point Spider-Man and start getting sick of the jobs. But he’s back down in the dungeons, working on Toy Story 4. Because 4th entries in long-running, fan-favorite franchises always turn out to be awesome…right? Right.

Comment by David DeMoss

Pretty much echoing my own views here. I read the books a few years back and enjoyed them; I found the CGI pretty unconvincing; and while there’s a certain amount of ripping off the visual styles of things like Star Wars, what the hell, at least there’s no cute alien muppet for the kiddies to Identify With. This is overstretch I can live with.

The odd thing for me is how much and how quickly the “worst film ever” comments started to come out – just as soon as the opening weekend totals were in. I assume Disney couldn’t move fast enough in avoiding any possible blame attaching to its holy marketing department. Compared, indeed, with Mars Needs Moms – which was still a flop, but doesn’t seem to have been a career brick wall for anyone the way this has become for Stanton and even Kitsch.

Comment by RogerBW

I’m pretty sure Simon Wells already hit his career brick wall (and gave himself a clinical case of exhaustion) back in 2002 when he made that year’s Time Machine remake. He spent the rest of the 2000s in Dreamworks’ storyboard department, which makes me think Mars Needs Moms was his big, fat Second Chance. And despite blowing it rumors say his next movie will be a thriller starring…Hayden Christensen. Which is either a reward or a punishment. Though I suppose it could be both.

Stanton’s in a similar position. No one at Pixar’s dumb enough to break up the Toy Story team, especially not with John Lasseter as Disney’s “chief creative officer.” (And thank Issus their coup was successful.) And in a three years we’ll all get to “enjoy” his next directorial effort: Finding Nemo 2. Because that needed to be made…

It seems to me that once your movie flops the studio presents you with a minimum three options. 1) Go back to your old job, assuming you had one, and maybe they’ll give you another shot once someone purges middle management and all the people who greenlit your last flop leave, taking their bad memories with them. 2) Direct this shameless cash-in sequel/remake/thing with a recognizable name that’s guaranteed to turn a profit, if only because of recognition. This would explain the careers of, say, Peter Berg. Outright firing (which would be Option 3) is a rare and special thing to see these days. Despite the accounting department’s carping, it’s nearly impossible for a single film to put any appreciable dent in the Big Six. We’ve gone 30 years without another Heaven’s Gate, and everyone’s looking to keep it that way. And in a world where Disney recouped whatever John Carter cost in less than a weekend thanks to The Avengers, calling it a flop is pretty meaningless….unless you work inside the Mouse House, deep down in the unglamorous bowls where the real decisions are made. So I think you’re right: complaining loudly, and often, about how much money this thing lost was a purely political gambit. Hopefully it saved someone’s (or a lot of someones’) job(s).

Comment by David DeMoss

I agree with you on the options: there’s never a shortage of generic cash-ins that need to be made, and I can see even a great director going for it sometimes if he needs to get himself back to where he can have a bit of independence on the project he really cares about. (I’m more puzzled by something like Movie 43, which seems to include all sorts of actors I’d have thought wouldn’t have any interest in such a project.)

Sadly, I think the real legacy of John Carter for the next few years will be an avoidance of properties that haven’t been filmed before and of thinky sci-fi, and even more pressure for sequels, sci-fi action and marketable names.

Comment by RogerBW

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