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Steve “Frosty” Weintraub of Collider Interviews John Carter Producer Jim Morris

John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood

Steve “Frosty” Weintraub of Collider.com  was one of the entertainment writers who covered John Carter extensively throughout the entire history o the film.  We’ve linked to his articles from here many times.   One that we didn’t link to is a  lengthy video interview of John Carter producer Jim Morris which Collider published on March 7, 2012, two days before the film came out.  I found it during the time I was doing research for John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood but never shared it here  — so here it is, in the interest of completeness — and here is the link to the Collider article that goes with it.

Jim Morris Time Index

0:10 – Producer Jim Morris talks about his nerves before the screening of John Carter.
1:00 – As a movie that doesn’t talk down to its audience, Morris addresses the level of engagement for those watching John Carter. He also talks about improving upon the shortcomings of the novel and giving John Carter more of a character arc.
2:40 – Morris reveals his favorite movie, actor and director.
3:40 – Morris shares two great stories about pranks on the set of John Carter.
5:50 – With his history at ILM, Morris reflects on the evolution of effects technology and the breakthroughs he experienced on John Carter.
9:15 – Morris talks about the next hurdle to effects technology being totally believable digital characters used in films. He also addresses the need to make the current tools available to the widest possible number of filmmakers.
10:25 – Morris reveals the most difficult technical sequence from John Carter.
11:35 – Casting his vote in the discussion of film vs digital, Morris talks about which version he supports and where he thinks the industry is headed.
13:20 – Morris addresses the fact that theaters are projecting the 3D movies at a lower brightness level than was originally intended.
15:25 – Morris talks about whether or not there are any Easter eggs in John Carter for fans of the source material and whether or not Andrew Stanton’s work with Pixar is mentioned cryptically in the film.

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7 comments

  • Would another round of editing really had fixed John Carter? We still would have had Mopey John,

    First of all, even as it is now, he’s not nearly as Mopey as you make him out to be. On one of my re-viewings of the film I started to make notes just for you to remind you of all the points in the story where he’s not mopey. But . . . . . it’s true that there’s an overall impression that he was. But I do think that an editorial pass to dial back the mopey-ness and dial up his “engagement” moments would have had a lot more effect that you think. Believe me there is a ton of footage to work with. There are reaction shots and alternate takes, and just by shifting the focus to him at a moment when he’s not saying anything but communication more engagement with what’s in front of him (instead of his cave of gold) would have made a very big difference. So much of it, to, is what happens at the beginning — changes in minutes 8 and 10 have a profound effect on how you view the same unchanged scene at minute 20. . . . . So . . . . as far as Carter is concerned, I’m sure a pass would have made a big difference.

    But what you and I both need to realize is that the problems with the film that doomed it with critics have nothing to do with Carter being mopey. That’s your ERB-related problem — critics didn’t savage the film over that, and audiences didn’t either. So that’s our self-indulgent little ERBophile pet peeve that we don’t like a damaged goods hero, because by and large, that worked just find for pretty much everyone except those who already had a concept of John Carter in their minds that was different than that.

    As for the others — Dead Wife and Matai Shang, I agree editing wouldn’t fix either of those — but of those two, again, the only ones griping about the dead wife are we purists who have a notion of John Carter from the books that doesn’t include a love of his life before Dejah Thoris……

  • “The weird part about JC is that everyone — Morris, Cook, everyone . . . only got half the equation. Get him what he needs. No one was an actual force with a counterpoint for him to consider. Was Stanton so strongwilled and overconfident that he was immune to checks and balances? Or was he just not checked and balanced?”

    That’s why I said Morris failed as a producer because he couldn’t stand up to Stanton but he also never had the experience to know how to. Like Stanton he only seems to know how to make movies the Pixar way, with its four re-dos, not realizing that it had never been done before and that clearly it didn’t work. That’s why the film needed a strong producer.

    But would it have helped? I recently finished reading Final Cut, the book about the making of Heaven’s Gate and it had the same issues, a producer that had zero real producing experience and a director who had no care about “checks and balances.” But anytime the studio challenged Cimino it was the same thing, he either ignored them or made out that they were out to get him and ruin his masterpiece. I get the feeling Stanton is the same way, that it wouldn’t had matter if Dick Cook was still there running Disney Stanton would have ignored any concerns and just used his Pixar clout as an excuse. It was bad enough that this film failed, it had to do it because no one could say no to one person. Not the producers, the studio or even ERB Inc.

    “It feels like another pass or two through the editing would have resulted in a much smoother film.”

    As usual I’m disagreeing there. Would another round of editing really had fixed John Carter? We still would have had Mopey John, Dead Wife Carter, Shape Shifter Shang, that damn opening that Stanton was determined to keep…no amount of editing would have fixed that.

  • And I understand that a producer’s job is to accomdate the director and provide him the resources he or she needs. But they’re also the ones who have to keep an eye on budget, time and whether or not the director is not running wild. And I get the feeling Morris failed at that and just let Stanton run wild and go Heaven’s Gate because he didn’t know any better than Stanton did.

    Noooooo!!! Especially the first part. I’ve been a producer and “accomodate the director” wasn’t the job description. You’re supposed to have the director’s back with all that “have the director’s back” implies. Sometimes you enable him, get him what he wants . . . . and sometimes you save him from himself.

    The weird part about JC is that everyone — Morris, Cook, everyone . . . only got half the equation. Get him what he needs. No one was an actual force with a counterpoint for him to consider. Was Stanton so strongwilled and overconfident that he was immune to checks and balances? Or was he just not checked and balanced?

    Or, was it just a function of him not having the “usual” four re-do’s that Pixar does, and what we got was not fully baked? I really feel like that was part of it too. It feels like another pass or two through the editing would have resulted in a much smoother film. . . . . .

    Oh well . . . anyway. I should also issue a disclaimer. I produced 12 movies or something like that but I never had an Andrew Stanton as director. I was the Bruckheimer of my little kingdom . . . . the directors weren’t Gods.

  • “I also wonder about all those moments in the movie that are just swallowed up in the editing, and which you have to watch multiple times to “get” . . . There are so many moments like that in the movie where, if you’re not willing to give it a second, third, and fourth viewing, things get lost on the “average” viewer — and all of these are things that increase the engagement with the story and the characters.”

    Well that’s a problem right there. This film shouldn’t had required you to watch it four times to “get” it. It’s not 2001 or Blade Runner or a Terence Malik film. It shouldn’t be so complicated that a normal viewer gets confused and zones out of the film. Even masters like Hitchcock knew if you confuse the audience they lose interest.

    Besides that’s not the issue here. The issue was that Jim Morris, like everyone else involved with this film, had no respect for Burroughs and was so busy believing the infallible Andrew that he swalled the Kool-Aid hook line and sinker. Yes I understand that moviemaking is hard. If it was easy everyone would do it as they say. And I understand that a producer’s job is to accomdate the director and provide him the resources he or she needs. But they’re also the ones who have to keep an eye on budget, time and whether or not the director is not running wild. And I get the feeling Morris failed at that and just let Stanton run wild and go Heaven’s Gate because he didn’t know any better than Stanton did. He had no live action producing experience to offer guidance or knew when to step in and actually play producer. If there was a capable, experience producer I doubt this movie would have reached 250 million.

    But generally it’s just the standard “ERB was a hack” attitude that he shared with Stanton, Chabon, Mark Andrews and the rest that just rubs me the wrong way. That was inexcusable period.

  • Yes, MCR does have a way with words!

    But yes, Michael, you’re exactly right about the missing beats in the saving Woola scene. As an ERB reader it’s frustrating because Stanton is smashing three different scenes from the book together and it doesn’t really work for the movie. I’d rather he had kept the “apartment” white ape but perhaps kept it in shadow so as not to spoil the arena sequence. Carter never really “bonded” with Woola, although I do like him yelling “bad dog!” at the end of the air battle.

    Likewise there is too much cramming of info in the post-air battle/Thark temple sequence. Pretty much the only pre-kiss scenes Carter and Dejah have together are when they’re reading ancient Martian script!

    I also think there needed to be a brief action scene in the desert trek sequence to break up the marching; something that reveals to Dejah the depths of Carter’s compassion, as there isn’t a sense in the second act that Dejah is falling in love.

    But then, none of the film makers asked for my opinion beforehand, the swine!

  • MCR you have such a gentle way with words!

    Well, my thought about the “audiences are smart” comment is that yes, that’s a good thing, but not when you’re using it to justify questionable decision-making that your own “Brain Trust” has questioned (i.e. the opening).

    I also wonder about all those moments in the movie that are just swallowed up in the editing, and which you have to watch multiple times to “get” . . . for example, in the book, when Woola protects John Carter from the white ape (not arena ape, apartment ape in Korad) and is injured, Tars (I think it’s Tars) is about to put Woola out of his misery and JC intervenes on behalf of the brute. Such a nice moment . . . display of JC’s character, and a contrast between his character and that of the Tharks ……and you can feel the Tharks looking at him and going — who is this guy, taking a stand for a calot? It becomes part of JC’s “prove your mettle” quest. The same moment happens in the movie but you’d never know it. JC intervenes when the Tharks are tormenting Woola, punches a guy, and before we have a chance to even contemplate the “defense of woola” . . . .a) we get “you killed him with one blow”, completely pulling us out of the woola moment, and then JC, b) “Wait a minute, I understood you,” and we’re on to the fact that the Thark koolaid worked, and JC can understand and speak Barsoomian.

    Now in all my vast (!!) experience as a producer working with directors, and as a director, I’ve never known a director who wouldn’t look at a scene like that, separate the beats, and make sure the audience has a chance to absorb and react to each beat. Most directors would probably have opted to give JC a moment before he hits the Thark …. he lands beside Woola, then faces off with the startled Tharks . . . . “No! Leave the [gropes for word] dog thing alone.” Audience absorbs JC’s defense of Woola . . . we LIKE JC, not mopey, protecting cute Woola . . . THEN the Thark attacks and JC kills him with one blow . . . . .

    I mean . . . every single director I know would have done something like that — would have been worried about the audience buying into the JC character, and would want to be sure and give that character beat a moment to breathe and be absorbed. MCR it might even have affected you a little bit if JC had stood there beside Woola, saying ‘No!” with a little fighting half-smile on his face . . . . .and that would have been okay, because as grumpy as Carter is about being on Mars, jumping into a fight with the Tharks and protecting a helpless brute would bring out the “joy of battle” kinda thing and help balance the crankiness that Stanton was working with. Kinda like the way JC was in the arrival/rescue of Dejah scene, when he wasn’t cranky and enjoyed the battle.

    There are so many moments like that in the movie where, if you’re not willing to give it a second, third, and fourth viewing, things get lost on the “average” viewer — and all of these are things that increase the engagement with the story and the characters.

    Was Stanton thinking: “The audience is smart, they’ll get it, I don’t need to hightlight it,” with each of these moments?

    But having said all that . . . . I just can’t get on your bandwagon of insults at Stanton and Morris. Moviemaking is a tough thing to do . There are a lot of moving parts, there is pressure to keep things moving . . . . and the philosophy of “trust the audience” can sometimes be a brilliant one if the choices are deft. In this case, I don’t think they were as deft as they needed to be if the fim was to get an across the board “wow” from audiences AND critics. But the choices he did make are consistent with his articulated philosophy, so there’s that.

  • “As a movie that doesn’t talk down to its audience, Morris addresses the level of engagement for those watching John Carter. He also talks about improving upon the shortcomings of the novel and giving John Carter more of a character arc.”

    Yeah I love how this movie didn’t “talk down.” It just insulted everyone who had never seen a movie or read a book. along with Edgar Rice Burroughs and his fans. Plus we saw what happened when they gave him their “character arc.” Maybe Morris should have just stuck to producing cartoons and Disney had forced an actual real producer on Stanton, not just another “Yeah Andrew, you’re bigger than Jesus and the Beatles!” worshipper.

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