A Review of the Commentary Track of John Carter DVD/Blu-ray calls film-makers “drunk with power”

Other Stuff

Well, here’s something a little different — a review from The A.V. Club  of the commentary track on the John Carter DVD/Blu-Ray.  I believe this is by someone who specializes in trashing commentary tracks (this is from a category “Commentary Tracks of the Damned”) and those who make them, but it will be enjoyed a healthy portion of red meat by certain of our readers.  Never let it be said I only put the favorable stuff up here.


John Carter’s commentary track showcases three filmmakers “drunk with power”



  • Failing to a shocking degree in domestic release, such that Disney at the time said it expected to lose $200 million in operating costs on the film; the film has reportedly finally recouped its production budget, though not its marketing budget
  • Failing to give stars Taylor Kitsch (of Friday Night Lights fame) and Lynn Collins (True Blood) as much complicated, believable humanity as their many, many mo-capped CGI co-stars
  • Resembling Avatar too closely, from its outsider-saves-the-noble-savages plot to its focus on alien vistas and seemingly endless big, blockbuster-worthy battles, but lacking Avatar’s visual innovation

Defenders: Director Andrew Stanton, producers Jim Morris and Lindsey Collins (no relationship to co-star Lynn Collins)

Tone of commentary: Cheerful, upbeat, and just a bit smug. The commentary was clearly recorded before the film’s theatrical release: Stanton talks about having only done a few interviews so far, and about franchise plans and the elements that will need to be repeated in everyJohn Carter sequel. There’s no mention of how the movie was later discussed in the news media as one of the biggest flops of all time, and dissected at length for what went wrong.

Instead, the filmmakers spend a great deal of time on standard commentary-track chat: the percentage of CGI vs. live-action footage in various shots and sequences, the order shots were taken, the symbolic meaning of various story developments or costume choices, and so forth. They discuss their admiration for Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter novels, and the goal of making a timeless film that evokes those timeless books, then congratulate themselves on having nailed it. They sometimes talk like the film was an exhausting grind, and sometimes like it was a party—particularly during the scenes shot on a river, because sailing to work is fun, even when all the bathrooms are a 20-minute boat ride away. Morris says it was the biggest film any of them had worked on, but that just kept them from worrying too much: “I think our naïveté helped us get through a lot of stuff that probably would have crushed many people.”

They also chat a good bit about shooting in Utah, at one point sharing a valley with “a dinosaur excavation,” a group of researchers testing Mars Rover designs, and another living in pods to simulate astronauts in a Mars base camp. “But we were the ones doing God’s work,” Collins jokes.

What went wrong: Given the $250 million production budget, the filmmakers have no recourse to two of the three most common filmmaker complaints: lack of time and lack of money. In fact, they repeatedly chuckle over some of their expensive choices, like having a bridge built to get the cast and crew to a remote area, or keeping a huge team of Italian shoemakers on hand just to churn out boots. At one point, Stanton says that halfway through the shoot, he realized that on a production this big, everyone had to be ready at every moment for anything the director demanded, so he got “drunk with power” and abruptly demanded a couple of chickens for a scene he was shooting. They arrived within 15 minutes. He and Collins describe his reaction as, “I want a pony!” “I want a cow, and a monkey! I want it now!… I want chickens and a pony and a bridge that takes me from the highway to that cliff!”



Read the rest at The A.V. Club


  • Dynamite also published a Warlord of Mars Annual that centered on Tars Tarkas since I noticed that wasn’t mentioned. In addition they’re also publishing a Tarzan comic under the title Lord of the Jungle with the first six issues adapting the first novel and the recent issue a bridging story between Tarzan of the Apes and the Return of Tarzan.

  • Dynamite has also released a Dejah Thoris series. I’ve read Colossus of Mars and it was fine . There’s also Pirate Queen of Mars. Amazon announces two other releases: The Boora Witch and Dejah Thoris and the White Apes of Mars.

  • Dynamite’s APOM adaptation ran thru issue #9.

    Issues #10-12 are a short intermediary story called “Heretic of Mars”,
    about Dejah and Carthoris while John is back on earth.

    Issue #13 starts the GOM adaptation as John returns to Mars and lands in the Valley Dor. GOM ends with issue #18 when Dejah, Thuvia and Phaidor are locked in the Temple of the Sun.

    Issue #19 & 20 are about the aftermath.

    Issue #21-25 adapt WOM. Issue 21 is the current one out now.

    You can order each issue directly from Dynamite:

    I think they also had books of collected issues.

  • MCR wrote
    I also laughed when Stanton said he was being smart and economical. If this is being smart and economical then you have to wonder what his definition is for being dumb and expensive.

    True dat.

    I have a question that you might know the answer to:

    I have been enjoying some of the JC trade comics, but I am getting very confused by the competing Marvel and Dynamite products. Really enjoyed The Fall of Barsoom one, and have the Marvel Prequel thing. The first Warlord of Mars that pretty much took you through APOM was really good, it had the style of art work that I really enjoyed. I was very disapppointed with the art work when I got the trade of Gods of Mars. It was then that I realized I had shifted from Dynamite to Marvel in that purchase. Did Dynamite continue with a direct adaptation of the GOM storyline, if so where can I find it ?

  • Well I didn’t get that exited Bob.

    That said, the sad thing is that this commentary shows what went wrong with this film-three people being irresponsible and not having the skills they needed to really make this film right. All three of them just seem to believe they did no wrong and that everyone was attending to their every need which is pretty much why Stanton went Heaven’s Gate and became as arrogant as he did in his interviews afterwards. It only seemed to be when the press turned against them did they get defensive over the budget.

    I also laughed when Stanton said he was being smart and economical. If this is being smart and economical then you have to wonder what his definition is for being dumb and expensive.

  • Please excuse MCR’s temporary absence, he is cleaning his shorts after jizzing into them while reading that review, he will return shortly to say I told you so in as many ways as possible.

    MCR, if your status is single, THIS is the woman for you.

    Sorry. Couldn’t resist, no harm intended.

Leave a Reply