Filmonic: “Will John Carter Be the Next Cult Classic?”

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John Carter was infamously one of the biggest box office bombs in recent years, reportedly losing around $200 million dollars. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred when a movie preforms this awfully at the box office it is written off as a total failure, remembered only mockingly or as a cautionary tale.

Every once in a while, however, a movie will find a second life after its initial release, developing a following of small but devoted fans. Speculation that Carter would find a new audience on DVD has come from everyone from RedLetterMedia (of the famed 170 minute Phantom Menace review) to John Carter’s director himself, Andrew Stanton, who recently said he hopes the film joins other cult movies and finds an audience over time.
Read more at http://filmonic.com/will-john-carter-be-the-next-cult-classic#LelvqRI8f9vjRPKi.99

4 comments

  • Oh brother. This reminds me of those 22 Rules of Pixar Storytelling piece posted a few months back. But let’s see how John Carter failed with Stanton’s rule:

    “Make me care.”

    Care about what exactly? It was hard to care for a lead character who didn’t care for anyone or anything other than himself. Making Carter either a self-centered jerk, a whiny moper or a reluctant “It’s not my problem” guy made it real hard to care for him or his journey. As for the rest of the story considering how poorly written the rest of the characters were (with the exception of Dejah and Woola) and how confused the storyline became it was hard to care.

    “Audience wants to work for their meal, they just don’t want to know that they’re doing that.”

    “Unifying Theory of 2+2….don’t give the audience 4.”

    Both of these seem to fit Stanton’s idea of not giving the audience much information-which helped with that poor marketing-and having the audience work things out for themselves. Well that’s all well and good if you’re making 2001 or a Terence Malik film but here things needed to make some sense. Instead they didn’t. 2+2 didn’t add up to 4 here. Instead they added up to a poor plot that made no sense; characters doing things that was incomprehensible (why not kill Carter when you had him paralyzed Shape Shifter Shang? Nope instead talk him-and the audience-to death.) and Macguffins so poorly defined that they became uninteresting or gimmicky (I’m surprised that Thern Medallion didn’t tell time, cook dinner and bring zombies to life). A movie has to make sense. And before someone jumps up and defends this as setting up a sequel, you know Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, the first Star Wars-none of them had this confusing a setup or useless characters standing around for no purpose.

    “Every great character has a great spine…an itch to scratch.”

    The only thing Carter seemed to want to “scratch” was to get back to his cave of gold. He had no spine, no arc to care about.

    “The secret sauce of storytelling: invoke wonder.”

    What wonder? Utah? The film failed to invoke wonder both visually and with the story Stanton decided to tell.

    So in short yeah Stanton can talk to talk as Tom C. said. But he clearly needed lessons on how to walk.

  • Indeed, Stanton can talk the talk, but he sure couldn’t walk the walk. Of all of his good pointers, beliefs and rules to go by, he sure did a 180 and went the cliché-ridden, bland lame-action family adventure road. He invoked wonder alright..I wondered, why would anyone choose the bad ’80s style Flash Gordon-approach in 2012? That ship was bound to sink! I was utterly disappointed to the point of disgust. Andrew Stanton (of Mediocrity)

  • You’ve likely seen or posted this, but I came across a 20-minute talk Andrew Stanton did for something called Ted. I think it’s interesting to hear Stanton talk about story. He mentions John Carter briefly, shows a short opening scene, and also shows a clip of Lawrence of Arabia, which he said he was greatly isnpired by.

    Nothing Stanton says will change opinions of those who hate the way he interepreted ERB’s books, but Stanton’s beliefs on how to draw audiences in to a movie and how to tell a good story make sense to me. Some key quotes and the Youtube link:

    “Make me care.”

    “Audience wants to work for their meal, they just don’t want to know that they’re doing that.”

    “Unifying Theory of 2+2….don’t give the audience 4.”

    “Every great character has a great spine…an itch to scratch.”

    “The secret sauce of storytelling: invoke wonder.”

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