Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Hollywood Babble On & On #869: What Went Wrong?

Remember a little over a week ago I wrote that people weren't sure if Disney's John Carter was a bomb or not, well, I guess it's official because Disney has announced that they're taking a $200 million bath on the production.  You know we can always take the word of Hollywood studios when it comes to movie money.

Well, this is a case where we can put on our smug know it all caps and try to figure out what went wrong, so the mistakes made on this film are not made again.

Let's begin--

1. THE PRICE WAS TOO DAMN HIGH.  When all the audience is hearing was how the budget of a movie could have fed a Third World country for a year, they're going to get suspicious.  When it was released most critics were unable to see beyond the price tag, and seemed to hold it against the movie.

2.  THE TITLE.  Calling it John Carter, instead of the original working title of John Carter of Mars was reportedly the idea of director, Pixar auteur, Andrew Stanton.

Bad idea.

The source material is about 100 years old.  Those who didn't know who the hell John Carter was, they saw cowboys, they saw aliens, and assumed it was some sort of rehash of the disastrous Cowboys & Aliens instead of a story of a man from Earth having adventures on Mars.

3. THE MARKETING. Selling this movie was extremely lackluster. For every ad that looked interesting there was five that made it look like yet another soulless CGI fest. They should have emphasized the fact that John Carter is an old fashioned hero in every sense of the word, sans post-modern irony, meta-commentary or obnoxious posturing.

Then came the failure to capitalize on the fact that most ordinary movie-goers who went to see it, enjoyed it. Disney failed completely to use that positive word of mouth to the film's advantage.  This throwing in the towel when they couldn't just throw money at the problem is making poor old Walt Disney spin in his cryogenic storage chamber.

4. THE 3D.  There are only two ways 3D can still sell a movie. 

A) The movie is marketed towards really stupid children who like to see candy colored cartoons shill them products between annoying catchphrases and slapstick antics.

B) The audience already knows it's going to be a great movie.

Unless you have one or both of those factors working for you 3D is a negative.  That's because most movie goers have been burned too many times. They pay the extra money, wear the glasses that give them a headache, and what do they get for their trouble? A lighter wallet and a headache.

Now that you know what I think contributed to John Carter's failure, tell me what you think in the comments.


  1. Blast Hardcheese20/3/12 8:12 pm

    I'm always up for some Monday morning quarterbacking. I can summarize a lot of what you covered in one problem:

    Insufficient faith in the source material, starting from the title (A Princess of Mars vs. John Carter? C'mon) down to the characterization.

    This shouldn't be "John Carter, random beefcake douchebag, goes to Mars". This should be "John Carter, gentleman adventurer from Virgina, goes to Mars"

    Look at one scene from the Disney trailer, versus the same scene slightly recut in the fan-made trailer making the rounds recently.

    Dejah Thoris asks "You are John Carter of Earth?"
    JC response in Disney version: "Yes."
    JC resposne in fan version: "Yes, Ma'am".

    Such a slight thing, but it made it so much more alive.

  2. Apparently Disney is considering selling its "adult" film imprint Touchstone. (http://www.nypost.com/p/news/business/theater_review_OMxSrX05m9nJ2yLJIGipmM) Maybe it's because of different staffs, but Disney seems to be doing okay with brands like ABC, ESPN, Hollywood Records, and Marvel. Why are they so clueless when it comes to grown-up movies these days? They even seem to consider movies like Wild Hogs and The Proposal flukes, having turned down sequels.