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Man of Steel fans are basking in the glow of a $125M opening weekend, achieved in spite of a 57% “Rotten” rating from critics, while John Carter fans are shaking their heads and wondering how a similar film with similar elements and equivalent marketing challenges could achieve such success in spite of critics backlash. Let’s break it down a bit.
The Marketing Challenge
Both films faced an uphill battle. John Carter (of Mars, dammit) faced lack of awareness among most of tbe target audience of the underlying source material. Man of Steel faced apathy and a sense that Superman just wasn’t relevant in 2013. The two challenges are different …. are they equivalent? I would argue that Superman had enough going for it that the realistic worst case opening, even with bad marketing, would have been in the $50M range, whereas John Carter’s “bottom” was . . . well, it’s hard to imagine it doing worse than the $31M it did on opening weekend. So the point would be that a performance by Man of Steel in the 50M opening weekend range would have been an equivalent disaster to John Carter’s $31M. But that didn’t happen, did it.
The Marketing Approach
Aside from spending more money ($150M, reportedly, versus $100M for John Carter), what did Warner Brothers do that Disney didn’t? As Scott Mendlesson notes: “Obviously credit goes to Warner Bros’ marketing department, which cut a series of emotionally potent trailers that actually hid most of the big action beats …” Indeed — it’s hard to argue that the WB trailers were infinitely better than the Disney trailers. The decision to find the emotional core of the film was a wise one — and when you contemplate the fact that Disney had, after all, Andrew Stanton directing–it just highlights the strangeness of the decision to make trailers that featured endless battles with a white ape in an arena and virtually zero emotional content.
Of course there is more to the marketing than the trailers — but the trailers and TV spots are the backbone and WB made a series of great decisions, and Disney stubbornly made bad decision after bad decision in their tone deaf promotion of John Carter.
Let’s move on from the marketing to the films themselves.
How Similar was the Critics Response?
Pretty similar, it turns out. John Carter was at 54% “Rotten” on opening weekend before eventually drifting own to 51%. Man of Steel is at 57% “Rotten”. This is close enough that neither film can say that the critics were a positive factor. In each case, success had to be achieved in spite of the critics, not because of them.
What About Audience Response?
Man os Steel had an A- Cinemascore; John Carter was a B+. Other indicators seem to suggest that the audience response to Man of Steel has been slightly better on opening weekend than was the case with John Carter. But chances are, we will see a dropoff next week that is fairly “in pattern” with the dropoff that John Carter experienced in the second weeks.
What About Studio Decisions?
WB made a series of decisions that turned out to be very smart, and Disney made a series of decisions that turned out to be not so smart. WB got Christopher Nolan, architect of the immensely successful Dark Knight series, on board as producer and with that single decision, insured that the film would have a “cool” factor that was vitally needed, given audience apathy and the sense that Superman was a little too bland (too “vanilla?”) for modern audiences. Nolan brought David Goyer with him for the screenplay — another “cool factor” move that made good sense, and thus the hiring of Zack Snyder as director came with a context to it — that context being that the director of 300 (good) and Sucker Punch (not so good) would be part of a strong team and have strong oversight. The team then went forward and made a series of smart casting decisions. They picked an unknown in Henry Cavill to play Superman . . . . and they made a pick that has been universally lauded. Then they supported that choice with an iconic supporting cast — Russel Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane — and for Lois Lane, they went with Amy Adams. Compare that to the John Carter choices — Taylor Kitsch as John Carter was a rough equivalent to Henry Cavill in terms of market appeal (not much going in), and thus the supporting cast decisions become critical. Ciaran Hinds, James Purefoy, and Willem Dafoe just don’t register in the marketing the way that Crowe, Costner, and Lane did. And then you have Amy Adams on the one hand, and Lynn Collins on the other. This is not meant as criticism of the actors themselves or their performances — it is an observation regarding the “cast design” as envisioned by the producers and director. One has great appeal in the marketplace — the other has limited appeal.
Continue reading »
Continue reading »
JCF contributor Abraham Sherman has written an epic exploration of the differences between the Edgar Rice Burroughs original, and the Andrew Stanton adaptation, of ERB’ A Princes of Mars. This is a thorough, substantive, and thoughtful piece. Many thanks to Abe for writing this — there is much to chew on here. Read the entire article at Bill Hillman’s ERBZINE.
Here is an intro with link:
John Carter of the Round Table
An Exploration of the Differences Between Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Novel and Andrew Stanton’s Film
by Abraham Sherman
“Twenty-two years before I had been cast, naked and a stranger, into this strange and savage world. The hand of every race and nation was raised in continual strife and warring against the men of every other land and color. Today, by the might of my sword and the loyalty of the friends my sword had made for me, black man and white, red man and green rubbed shoulders in peace and good-fellowship. All the nations of Barsoom were not yet as one, but a great stride forward toward that goal had been taken, and now if I could but cement the fierce yellow race into this solidarity of nations I should feel that I had rounded out a great lifework, and repaid to Mars at least a portion of the immense debt of gratitude I owed her for having given me my Dejah Thoris.”
(Chapter 16 of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Warlord of Mars - www.literaturepage.com/read/warlordofmars-163.html)
With those words, Edgar Rice Burroughs (ERB) brought the opening trilogy of his eleven-book Barsoom series to its thematic fulfillment and placed the capstone upon a lavish accomplishment of imaginative storytelling. In a work that evoked many of the grand settings and figures of myth and legend, particularly Camelot and its peace-making King, ERB gave us a living Mars and the hero John Carter, who came to be known as the Warlord. First published in All-Story Magazine in 1912, John Carter and his literary sibling Tarzan (published later the same year and also created by ERB), went on to inspire much of the superhero and adventure-based storytelling of the last one hundred years. Landmark creative descendents include Superman, Star Wars and Avatar. Jerry Siegel, George Lucas and James Cameron each cited ERB’s John Carter as a major influence on their own flagship creations. Into this literary and cinematic sphere stepped writer/director Andrew Stanton in March of 2012, with a film adaptation entitled “John Carter”, based on A Princess of Mars, the first book in the Barsoom series. Stanton, a lifelong ERB fan who first discovered the world of Barsoom via the 1970′s Marvel comic book adaptations, was the first filmmaker in a checkered eighty-year development history to successfully bring the property to the big screen.
A friend who knows that I’m an Edgar Rice Burroughs fan recently posed a few questions to me regarding “John Carter”. To paraphrase the questions: What do you feel is the most significant change from book to screen? Is Taylor Kitsch’s performance true to the character you envisioned when reading A Princess of Mars? Is the screen version a faithful adaptation of Burroughs or does Stanton bring a different vision to bear on the story? Do you think the filmmakers chose to emphasize certain elements at the expense of others? Overall, what observations and implications have you drawn from a comparison of the book and the film?
Before sharing my responses to each of the questions, an objective analysis of Andrew Stanton’s fidelity to the source material is in order, as well as a concise summary of his goals, methods and results.
This just in from Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.
|All New Carson of Venus Comic Strip
We are expanding our existing Tarzan (R) online comic strip with Carson of Venus (TM), an all-new, full-color online weekly comic strip of interplanetary romantic adventure brought to you by writer Martin Powell, illustrator Tom Floyd and artist Diana Leto.
Be thoroughly entertained with Love Forbidden, Adventure Unending and Terror Eternal
Ian Boucher has written a comprehensive article in What Culture taking on the issue of why Marvel Studios fans don’t like John Carter. I won’t steal his thunder by going into too much detail here — it’s worth reading the entire article. For example, he explores how the much criticized promotion failed to do something that it hasn’t really been criticized for, and that is — failing to convey anything about the “big picture” that would be experience dover the course of the entire projected series of films. Of course Disney didn’t want to do this because it didn’t want to create expectations in that regard — but Boucher writes interestingly about the difference between going to see a Marvel film with expectations in this regard, and the murky sense of what the John Carter big picture was. He also takes on curious dimensons such as the uninspiring “poses” that John Carter given in posters and artwork; as well as the generally different state of mind of a Marvel-indoctrinated potential viewer, and how that state of mind was so different for John Carter — and how all of this amounted to the idea of John Carter failing to jell in the mind of Marvel fans, who could have been a good audience for John Carter had the promotion resonated for them. The critique is not limited to the promotion — it also includes some observations about the film itself, which Boucher generally liked but which had elements that he feels predictably failed to resonate with Marvel-indoctrinated fans.
Click on the image or link below and give it a read:
Constantin Films has finally come out with a full theatricaal trailer for their upcoming 3D motion capture Tarzan film starring Kellen Lutz as Tarzan and Spencer Locke as Jane. What do you think? I’ll leave my comments in the comments section like everyone else.
Here is the previous Teaser trailer:
As a one-time quasi-professional guitar picker who gave up doing it professionally several lifetimes ago (er ….. that should be “failed to make it professionally”) but has tried to keep it up over the years — I am just in awe and amazed by the artistry of astronaut (and International Space Station Commander!) Chris Hadfield who music video cover of David Bowie’s Space Oddity Youtubed down from the ISS absolutely rocks. The vocals and guitar were recorded on the International Space Station, and the rest of the music was recorded down here on earth. The video is produced by Hadfield’s son Evan, and edited by Andrew Tidby. Oh — and Hadfield and fellow astronauts Roman Romanenko and Thomas Marshburn just landed safely in Kazakhstan — so Hadfield’s mission turned out a little better than Major Tom’s.
But seriously folks….this is just beyond awesome. Watch. And remember — those aren’t special effects. They are the real deal.
And here is an article on the safe return to earth and more about Hadfield.
And this one: Ten Things About Chris Hadfield
Scott Tracy Griffin’s Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration is a Locus Award Finalist in the Art Book Category. Congrats to Tracy, ERB Inc, and Titan Press. If you haven’t “Liked” the Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration Facebook page yet, you can click here to do so.
Here is the full press release from Locus (Art Book is the last category — that’s where you’ll find Tracy’s book listed).
— posted Wednesday 8 May 2013 @ 3:52 pm PDT
The Locus Science Fiction Foundation has announced the top five finalists in each category of the 2013 Locus Awards.
Winners will be announced during the Locus Awards Weekend in Seattle WA, June 28-30, 2013. Connie Willis will MC the awards ceremony and judge the annual Hawai’ian shirt contest. Additional weekend events include author readings; a kickoff Clarion West party honoring first week instructor Liz Hand, Clarion West supporters, awards weekend ticket holders, and special guests; panels with leading authors; an autograph session with books available for sale thanks to University Book Store; and a lunch banquet, all followed by a Locus party on Saturday night launching Telling Tales: The Clarion West 30th Anniversary Anthology, edited by Ellen Datlow (Hydra House) and celebrating the 2013 SF Hall of Fame inductees.
SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL
- The Hydrogen Sonata, Iain M. Banks (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
- Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen)
- Caliban’s War, James S.A. Corey (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
- 2312, Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
- Redshirts, John Scalzi (Tor; Gollancz)
- The Killing Moon, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
- The Drowning Girl, Caitlín R. Kiernan (Roc)
- Glamour in Glass, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)
- Hide Me Among the Graves, Tim Powers (Morrow; Corvus)
- The Apocalypse Codex, Charles Stross (Ace; Orbit UK)
YOUNG ADULT BOOK
- The Drowned Cities, Paolo Bacigalupi (Little, Brown; Atom)
- Pirate Cinema, Cory Doctorow (Tor Teen)
- Railsea, China Miéville (Del Rey; Macmillan)
- Dodger, Terry Pratchett (Harper; Doubleday UK)
- The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, Catherynne M. Valente (Feiwel and Friends; Much-in-Little ’13)
- Throne of the Crescent Moon, Saladin Ahmed (DAW; Gollancz ’13)
- vN, Madeline Ashby (Angry Robot US; Angry Robot UK)
- Seraphina, Rachel Hartman (Random House; Doubleday UK)
- The Games, Ted Kosmatka (Del Rey; Titan)
- Alif the Unseen, G. Willow Wilson (Grove; Corvus)
- “In the House of Aryaman, a Lonely Signal Burns”, Elizabeth Bear (Asimov’s 1/12)
- On a Red Station, Drifting, Aliette de Bodard (Immersion)
- After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, Nancy Kress (Tachyon)
- “The Stars Do Not Lie”, Jay Lake (Asimov’s 10-11/12)
- The Boolean Gate, Walter Jon Williams (Subterranean)
- “Faster Gun”, Elizabeth Bear (Tor.com 8/12)
- “The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi”, Pat Cadigan (Edge of Infinity)
- “Close Encounters”, Andy Duncan (The Pottawatomie Giant & Other Stories)
- “Fake Plastic Trees”, Caitlín R. Kiernan (After)
- “The Lady Astronaut of Mars”, Mary Robinette Kowal (Rip-Off!)
- “The Deeps of the Sky”, Elizabeth Bear (Edge of Infinity)
- “Immersion”, Aliette de Bodard (Clarkesworld 6/12)
- “Mantis Wives”, Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld 8/12)
- “Elementals”, Ursula K. Le Guin (Tin House Fall ’12)
- “Mono No Aware”, Ken Liu (The Future Is Japanese)
- After, Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling, eds. (Hyperion)
- The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Twenty-ninth Annual Collection, Gardner Dozois, ed. (St. Martin’s Griffin; Robinson as The Mammoth Book of Best New SF 25)
- The Future Is Japanese, Nick Mamatas & Masumi Washington, eds. (Haikasoru)
- Edge of Infinity, Jonathan Strahan, ed. (Solaris US; Solaris UK)
- The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume Six, Jonathan Strahan, ed. (Night Shade)
- The Best of Kage Baker, Kage Baker (Subterranean)
- Shoggoths in Bloom, Elizabeth Bear (Prime)
- At the Mouth of the River of Bees, Kij Johnson (Small Beer)
- The Unreal and the Real: Selected Stories Volume One: Where on Earthand Volume Two: Outer Space, Inner Lands, Ursula K. Le Guin (Small Beer)
- The Dragon Griaule, Lucius Shepard (Subterranean)
- Subterranean Press
- Angry Robot
- John Joseph Adams
- Ellen Datlow
- Gardner Dozois
- Jonathan Strahan
- Ann & Jeff VanderMeer
- Donato Giancola
- Stephan Martiniere
- John Picacio
- Shaun Tan
- Michael Whelan
- An Exile on Planet Earth, Brian Aldiss (Bodleian Library)
- Science Fiction: The 101 Best Novels 1985-2010, Damien Broderick & Paul Di Filippo, eds. (NonStop)
- Distrust That Particular Flavor, William Gibson (Putnam)
- The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature, Edward James & Farah Mendlesohn, eds. (Cambridge University Press)
- Some Remarks, Neal Stephenson (Morrow)
- Spectrum 19: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art, Cathy Fenner & Arnie Fenner, eds. (Underwood)
- Trolls, Brian Froud & Wendy Froud (Abrams)
- Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration, Scott Tracy Griffin (Titan)
- J.R.R. Tolkien: The Art of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, Wayne G. Hammond & Christina Scull, eds. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
- Steampunk: An Illustrated History, Brian J. Robb (Aurum)
Lisa V. Tomecek is is the author of the upcoming novel Oath of Blood and is a friend of Edgar Rice Burroughs, The John Carter Files, and assorted denizens here at JCF. I’ve had the pleasure of corresponding with her lately on Facebook — and today she’s published a wonderful post on her blogsite. Here are the first two paragraphs and a link to the rest of the article. Highly recommended. And by the way, there’s a lovely mention of JCG and the letter recently published here by 82 year old ERBophile Thomas McGurk if you click on the link at the end of the excerpt.
Of Deserts and Dead Sea-Bottoms
I am one of those people who finds meaning in ritual. Not necessarily a spiritual or religious kind of ritual–though those can certainly have their merits–but the word at the root sense of its meaning: the repetition of meaningful action. I find these sorts of things, when purposefully done, to have a refreshing and grounding effect on the psyche. They help to clarify things that have become clouded, to clear out the cobwebs that slowly and surely accrete in the corners of our lives.
One of the great mental cleansing rituals to which I subscribe is the vacation, and within the context of vacation, if I am to be traveling, the passing of the long hours with audiobooks. It should come as no surprise, then, that when my husband Ryan and I set out this past week for the deserts of West Texas in what was part research trip, part escape from the drudgery of daily life, we passed the time in just that way. Nor should it come as any shock that, being the sort of person I am (and, thankfully, the sort of person he is) we filled those hours with the adventures of Edgar Rice Burroughs‘ first hero, the peerless John Carter of Mars.
That, too, is a bit of a ritual–at least for me. I tend to associate the deserts of the Southwest withBarsoom, and any time I point myself in that direction, I am inclined to touch base with the part of me that finds so much significance in those stories. But I am (of course) getting ahead of myself. As befits the subject, there’s a long story that will make sense of why and how and when all that began for me–and why it still matters today, especially as concerns my own writing life.
Read the rest here.
John “Bridge” Martin, one of the great stalwarts of the Burroughs Bibliophile universe, has shared with us ”John Carter, Stanton Style” an epic poem that is as vivid and engaging as anything Homer or Virgil might have produced. Here it is — enjoy! (and learn more about John at the end).
John Carter, Stanton Style
By John “Bridge” Martin
How could they ever make a film of Burroughs’ Mars sensation? Continue reading »
How could they put “A Princess” on the screen?
Animation? Harryhauseuen? Superdynamation?
If ’twas to be believed, it must be seen.
Continue reading »
This year, May 1st is the fifth anniversary of the death longtime keeper of the Burroughs flame Danton Burroughs, grandson of Edgar Rice Burroughs who died on this date in 2008. I knew Danton well and treasured my friendship with him, but there are countless more among the ERB faithful who knew him longer and better than I. In my case, my good fortune was that when I met him for the first time, with a little nudge from Bill Hillman at ERBzine, I wrote about that first wonderful evening in an article that I’d like to share on his death anniversary.
Before I get to that — a word about Danton’s manner of passing, which was recorded in the LA Times as follows:
Tarzan creator’s heir protected the legacy
Danton Burroughs, who spent his life marketing and protecting the work of his grandfather, Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs, died May 1 at his home in Tarzana, the San Fernando Valley community named after his ancestor’s most famous fictional character. He was 63. Burroughs, who had been battling Parkinson’s disease, died of heart failure a day after a fire at his home destroyed a room filled with family memorabilia.
What the article didn’t say was that Danton, who suffered from chronic asthma in addition to Parkinsons, refused to leave what was essentially the smoldering ruins of the treasure trove of memorabilia he had worked so hard, and so lovingly, to protect. The doctor’s urged him to get away from the smoke, give his lungs a break, but he refused.
The LA Times had it right. He did die of heart failure, just not the kind the writer of the obituary had in mind.
If you have a minute — do read
which includes some great photos as well.
My personal recollections pale beside the many wonderful pages maintained by Bill Hillman/ERBzine remembering Danton:
JOHN CARTER AND THE GODS OF HOLLYWOOD — BOOK TRAILER (WELL, FEATURETTE) . . .
Purchase an Author Signed Copy of the Amazon Best Seller
by Michael D. Sellers
Amazon #2 in Movies/History & Criticism
"A fair, factual, and enlightening assessment of what went wrong . . . the best corporate history I've read since Disney War." Daniel Butcher, Between Disney.
"A winning book . . . . I have no reservations in recommending John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood. Even if you only remotely hold an interest in the film or the moviemaking method, do yourself a favor and purchase this book. I cannot remember an instance when I read 350 pages of anything in 24 hours, but my level of captivation in how methodically and interestingly the content was presented should substantiate why John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood is a must-read. Grade A." Brett Nachman, Geeks of Doom.
"A must read for every fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs and John Carter and every film buff intrigued by the 'inside baseball' aspects of modern Hollywood." Richard A. Lupoff, Author of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Master of Adventure
John Carter Fan Trailer 1 – by The John Carter Files | 210,000 Views
John Carter Fan Trailer 2 “Heritage” – by the John Carter Files | 150,000 Views
100 Years of John CarterA tribute to the artists who have interpreted John Carter
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