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Make Your Mind Up and John Carter

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Mark Kermode | 08:39 UK time, Friday, 23 March 2012

Here I pick out some of the most interesting responses to two of my recent posts - whether it is possible not to know what you think of a film and what did you think of John Carter. I know what I did...

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Related Posts on Kermode Uncut
Make Your Mind Up
Getting Carter

Related Reviews
John Carter

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Take your pick from Mark's A-Z

Hear Mark Kermode review the week's new films every Friday from 2pm on BBC Radio 5 live. Kermode & Mayo's Film Review is also available as a free podcast to download and keep.



  • Comment number 1.

    I wonder what the Kermode Uncut budget is? It'd be nice to know what sort of return I get on my licence fee...

  • Comment number 2.

    Now take that "how many decent low-budget films could have been made for $250 million" argument and apply it to THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, which I confidently predict will be a lot less fun than JOHN CARTER.

    And for those whining about the 3D - go and see it in 2D. Admittedly some films don't get a 2D release but JOHN CARTER did; there were plenty of 2D screenings around.

  • Comment number 3.

    NedYoung, It's a man sat in an empty studio, reading out some emails. My guess is t it doesn't cost too much. Chill.

    I saw John Carter of **** in 2D having given up on 3D now. My girlfriend loved it but I found it messy and confusing and I agree with the comment about how many films couldn't have been made with it's budget. 2010s Monsters is a much more enjoyable film and cost only $500,000.

  • Comment number 4.

    I thoroughly enjoyed John Carter, and so did my girlfriend, a science teacher who baulked at ROTPOTA because of its suspect (to say the least) approach to science.

    After all of the negative press, and a shakey opening sequence on Mars, I was very surprised by how much fun it was, how much of a sense of humour it had, how strong the lead female was (despite the title change), and how quickly I got over the "Flingy-flang of the Blinky-bop people" guff, which wasn't even the film's fault. As SWMBO said: "Flash Gordon with better special effects". Coming from her, that is a huge compliment.

    The 3D was very good, I thought, not at all distracting, perhaps even adding to the imersive experience, although I didn't appreciate the extra £2 on the ticket price.

  • Comment number 5.

    Make your mind up.... Melancholia, took a long time to come to a final view (love it leaving the cinema, thought it was pompous two days later, love it again now!).

    John Carter, if the last 10 minutes (great editing, excellent narrative drive, engaging) could have been applied to the rest fo the film, I would have enjoyed it so much more. As it is, just 'meh', but loved the Pixar moments, particurlaly the loyal dog.

  • Comment number 6.

    I don't want to be cynical or sarcastic, but if you (the non-specific variety) want to be a "cineaste", then you must make note of and remember this:

    Blockbuster = AVOID AT ALL COSTS!!!

    To change tack a bit:

    To be honest I didn't enjoy Pulp Fiction first time round. I thought, at first viewing I thought Pasolini's Salò (or 120 days of Sodom) was the most disturbing film I've ever seen, but if I saw it again...

  • Comment number 7.

    It still boggles my mind that Disney put TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY MILLION DOLLARS behind a movie which they couldn't even decide on a marketable title for.

    It's not even an established franchise and is the first live action film for a director and yet it gets the same budget as The Dark Knight Rises - a movie in which you can see the logic behind granting a $250million budget.

    Utter madness!

  • Comment number 8.

    I have a fondness for the old sword and sandal/Sinbad/Harryhausen films that were essentially fairly simple plots, not blessed with SHakespearean acting, generally lacking in big name stars (hence the odds that they are more likely to be remembered for the special effects man than the director and actors). Is this a case of rose tinted spectacles and nostalgia or a mix of able if not stellar directors who could hold a film together, a selection of character actors who could provide screen presence and special effects created by artists and due to their restricted technology not capable of overpowering the whole film.
    I have this nagging feeling that while special effects have made unreal creatures more detailed then transition from special effects masters such as Harryhausen and Trumbull to special effects corporations may have detracted from the presence of these creatures (Yoda as created by Hensons team seemed more real than Yoda the computer generated character in the prequels for instance)

  • Comment number 9.

    Looking over the responses about John Carter, there were loads of people who were quite happy to have opinions of a film they hadn't seen. Why does this only seem to happen when there are headlines about budgets or violence or sexual content?

  • Comment number 10.

    The comments Mark read out stating that if Disney (in this case) or other major studios would be better served backing micro-budget indy films with integrity seem to be willfully blind about the nature of filmmaking and film funding. There is a reason why such films are called "tentpoles", and it's not just that they have budgets of a higher elevation. Other films stand and fall on the success of tentpole films; this is in part why so much press and scrutiny surround films like Inception, when they become the unexpected financial success that allows for greater studio flexibility because they weren't part of a plan of anticipated income. John Carter may or may not be a critical success, but no one should be glad of its ruin. That will actually PREVENT studio purchase and distribution of your future Take Shelters and your potential MMMMs.

  • Comment number 11.

    John Carter may be a flop (Disney needs to replace its live action CEO), but if the imminent Wrath of the Titans makes shedloads of money (unbelievably Clash of the Titans made four times its costs) then the big budget, CGI sword n sandals, buff hero in a miniskirt epics will continue unabated. Not to mention other big budget films such as Dark Knight, Prometheus, Avatar 2 etc etc.

    When big budget movies strike it big they more than make up for the failures, in the studios eyes. The bad news about John Carter is that Disney will now have to churn out POTC movies well into the next century to recoup its losses…

  • Comment number 12.

    I may be a toothpick up against a flamethrower here, but I loved 'John Carter' (in glorious 2D) and feel compelled to defend it from the serious drubbing it's getting at the moment. I thought it was the most enjoyable couple of hours entertainment I'd had in the cinema in years and I actually hate most of the multiplex fodder that we are spoonfed. I think the real reason this film 'failed' at the box office is to do with multiplex audiences not being able to cope with a story and characters they don't already know. Consider that the top grossing films at the moment are almost always sequels, remakes, nostalgia trips, or single word concepts. John Carter as a character, as an idea, means nothing to most audiences. For a story that is a century old and doesn't have a legacy of numerous adaptations that's a tough sell, as Disney have now found out. Dropping the 'of Mars' will become a classic example of marketing ineptitude. If the suits really wanted to appeal to a female audience they should have called it 'Princess of Mars' and made more of Dejah Thoris, a terrific heroine - she's a princess, a fighter...and a scientist! Imagine Lucasfilm marketing this movie - we would have had six months of merchandising before release. For John Carter I can barely buy the original novel let alone a movie tie-in. Disney have got the marketing wrong but that doesn't make the film bad. For me the story was engaging - a man who becomes a superman but doesn't want to fight - and was easy to follow. Much has been made of the complex flashback layering of the set up, but if audiences can cope with the convoluted narratives of Pirates of the Carribean or Harry Potter I don't see what the problem is here. Pixar do know how to tell a story and character motivations are clear. I'm sure John Carter will find it's audience and it wouldn't suprise me if it becomes cherished as a family favourite in years to come whilst the likes of Avatar remain largely forgotten.

  • Comment number 13.

    I liked John Carter, it was a bit overblown like Phantom Menace but I thought it was certainly better than many critics had suggested. I've been a fan of Taylor Kitsch since Friday Night Lights and it pains me to see his name associated with one of the biggest flops in recent memory.

    But don't go blaming Mark for its box office failure, he merely pointed out how badly Disney handled the promotion, it's almost like they wanted to sink the film. They got nervous once they realized how much the project was costing and they therefore took to drastic but ill-advised measures

  • Comment number 14.

    With regards to not quite making your mind up after watching a movie, one film stays permanently etched into my mind when it comes to this feeling - MULHOLLAND DRIVE. After investing my time in the full 2hr 27min showing a few months ago, I was not only confused as to whether I enjoyed what I had just witnessed, but also perplexed as to what the hell had just been going on. It took me a good few hours researching and reading about the film and its controversy on the internet, coupled together with a few mental dreams about the actual film to realise its true genius, and I can't wait to rewatch and thoroughly enjoy it once more some day.

  • Comment number 15.

    Hate to change the (thoroughly interesting) subject Mark, but you mentioned on the show today about the rise of 12-certificate ghostly chillers being a reaction to so-called torture porn.

    Perhaps this would be a good future blog topic? SHAMEFUL PLUG AHOY: I wrote a piece about this not so long ago in which I SHAMEFULLY cited you -

    I'll be quiet now.

  • Comment number 16.

    Now you just need to catch up on our Greatest Oscar Failures responses and we'll be back to a blank slate!

  • Comment number 17.

    There is an inescapable law of the universe, like thermodynamics or gravity. It is the IMDB Rule of 10 and it states that no matter how bad you think a film is, somebody out there will think that it's the best film in the world and have rated it 10/10 on IMDB.

    There is a corollary IMDB Rule of 1, which states that no matter how much you like a film, someone will think that it's the worst film in the world and will have given it 1 out of 10 on IMDB.

    What's interesting about John Carter of No Fixed Abode on IMDB is that more people have given it 10/10 than have given it 1/10 through to 5/10 combined. Could be a cult film in the making.

    It's a shame it's doing so badly though because it's a big-budget film with no big-name stars. It's likely in the future that for a big budget studios are going to require big stars. So potential movies are going to have to attract studio and star approval: if anything big budget movies are going to get more conservative and less interesting...

  • Comment number 18.

    Compareing John Carter of Planet Flop and the Dark Knight Rises is pointless. It how the budget is spent thats inportant. John Carter spent its on CGI aliens, CGI Sets, CGI Action and very very little on script and actors. The Dark Knight Rises as we have seen over the the last year has spent its on great actors, great locations, great action and (hopfully)a great script.

    Like Nolans Batman or not you have to agree that every dollor of his budget will be up there on the IMAX screen for everyone to see where as John Carter's was not.

    You can't buy the success that Nolan has had, but studios like disney will keep trying, spending a bigger budget and making a bgger flop and then spending an even bigger budget and making and even bigger flop and so on and so on.......

  • Comment number 19.

    I try to spend time researching potential good films BEFORE making the "all or nothing" decision to go and see them. Cinema for me is about watching the best films and always being a special experience (large screen, friends?, arthouse cinema, pinto). The balancing act is to spot the good films without learning much about the plot details and ensure your steady "track-record/sixth sense for a good film" is not going to become scrambled after picking a stinker, for the next one!

    I watched an Iranian film: "Crimson Gold" and did not know what to think except when I got into the daylight blinking, it struck me: "God that was miserable cr@p!". I really should have left after 20mins but the grand director/Iranian (don't hastily judge it?) had hoodwinked my better judgement. Yup it was aweful.

    Conversely I was literally psyched to go watch Pan's Labyrinyth: I knew it had all the details I was interested in (eg director of Cronos) and was at an art house cinema (London) with my flaties and when it finished, I realized it was very different to what I expected: Less really enjoyable and more, by god that's quite moving and sad and wonderful (& I hope my flatmate who's of a more delicate and unrefined taste isn't too shaken up [that scene with the rabbits], poor girl!).

    So drawing an ellipse back to John Carter, it's probably a fun film that I can wait for the tv premier to catch. Sometimes you get it wrong before during and after a movie, I suppose, but hopefully BEFORE!!

  • Comment number 20.

    Is it just me, or does it look like Mark is in an elevator with a computer?

  • Comment number 21.

    I have yet to see John Carter but I have seen plenty of movies that are completely as bad (i.e. Troy, 300, Pirates of the Carribean 3). The sad part about popular cinema, is that John Carter will probably make its money back, and they will do an even worse sequel. Yes this causes me a degree of depression about the future of cinema, but this has been and will be a prevailing trend. Movie making is big business. Why would a studio ever pay for a low budget, quality movie when they know they can spend 200 million making a terrible, 3D, garbage movie that will make loads of money?

    Compare it to a movie like Moon, the fantastic Sam Rockwell movie that cost all of 5 million to make. The movie was absolutely incredible, but yet barely made its money back. This is the fate of movies. Maybe John Carter will lose money, but there will some other movie, just like it, that will be god-awful and yet make boat loads of money.

    Pretty cynical post, but I believe the best thing you can do is show your support for those low budget gems and dont give in to the mass marketed hoopla behind these megabudget disasters.

    As for movies having changing opinions as I got to know them... when I first saw 300, I will admit that I really did like it. I liked the visuals, the fighting, and the somewhat unique style. However, I have see a few more times and will admit that my liking of the movie has exponentially decreased every time that I see it. The horrendous dialogue, the awful acting, the absurdity, the cheesy pro-democracy inserts. It literally gets worse and worse every time. Now I cannot stand that movie.

  • Comment number 22.

    As an aside - "Wrath of the Titans" is out soon. What's the tagline this time - "Titans Will Wreak"? ;-)

  • Comment number 23.

    I was going through old pictures and I just happened to find a John Carter comic from March 10, 1978, I believe. It's titled, John Carter, WARLORD of MARS by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I wonder if this comic would be worth anything beyond the 35 cents price when I bought it. Let me know through my e-mail, [Personal details removed by Moderator]. Thanks. First, I have to read through it. I also have a few underground comics from the late 60's early 70's, names like BIG ASS Comics,ZAP comix,COCAINE Comix,FETS 'N' HEADS Comics, Mr Natural, SCANLANS magazine and a few military underground anti-war papers. Let me know.

  • Comment number 24.

    Your comments about JCM are ill-conceived Mr. Mark. I am convinced that you were unreceptive to the movie. Please watch it again and RETRACT YOUR COMMENTS.

  • Comment number 25.

    The money is an issue mainly because at those levels it is pretty much the only issue! Everything else about the film now has that question indelibly attached to it - "was it worth it" - making what would otherwise be a fun, but wholly unremarkable Sci-Fi romp into something much, much less... purely because of the money issue.

  • Comment number 26.

    I really liked John Carter. But then, I was a fan of the original Edgar Rice Burroughs books, which I read when I was about 12-15 years old. As an adaptation of the original books, it works very well indeed. But the target audience is, I feel, young boys, who'll probably love it. If you view it through simply those eyes, instead of the eyes of a Guardian critic looking for deeper stuff, then it's a hugely enjoyable adventure romp. Aliens, sexy girls in chain mail bikinis who can wield a sword, special effects, nasty villains, strange beasts, and lots of fighting: what's not to love?

    OK, so it isn't Three Colours Red or some dreary Ingmar Bergman or worthy Mike Leigh: but it doesn't pretend to be. It is what it is, just judge it on that. I think Disney are being extremely presumptuous in declaring it a flop, and I predict that it will eventually make its money back, and then some... Just because it didn't have an amazing opening month, and take trillions of dollars, is no reason to write it off. It ain't Star Wars, for sure, and I don't suppose it will have quite the same pop cultural impact, but it's still an enjoyable two hours, and I think you're being far too harsh on it, Mark.

    Let's face it, Burroughs wrote the Tarzan novels, and nobody takes them that seriously: they're just enjoyable entertainment. This film is in exactly the same vein: it's pulp fiction transferred to the screen, and done very well indeed, better than most previous efforts at this genre. If you enjoy Tarzan, and Conan, and Jason and the Argonauts etc, you'll love this. I did, and I'm happy to admit it.

    John Carter will find its audience, even if it's only on DVD. Which I'll definitely be buying.

  • Comment number 27.

    Funny, but i just watched Hidden (cache) for the first time.The end of that film could start an arguement in an empty room. Is it terrible,beguiling or great i dont know,dont ask me . and i just watched it. Plot Spoiler - Why.why WHY!!! do i need to know who sent the tapes so much. AARRGG.

  • Comment number 28.

    My "general" rule of thumb; if a block-buster has done badly it's generally good and if a blockbuster has made its money it's generally bad.

  • Comment number 29.

    The fact Andrew Stanton didn't seem to care how much John Carter cost is just breath-taking arrogance. It makes me question his artistry and motives for future films, and I won't watch WALL-E the same way again (WALL-E is almost like two separate films, as though Stanton got bored with the artistry of the first 30 minutes and what he really wanted to do was some generic robot-bashing on a spaceship).

  • Comment number 30.

    Oddly enough i loathed Megamind upon first viewing- it was in 2D the audience- was awful- screaming children, i couldnt admire the visual gags or in jokes, i was frustrated- might even blame it on high blood sugars- but upon home viewing i thought it was a fantastically daft, masterfully voiced spectacle, that had a great score, and had great temp and Jonah Hill isnt as bad as i thought. I

  • Comment number 31.

    One film that I veer from 'Is this genius?' to 'Is this detritus?' more than any other in recent years... RUBBER. Some friends get it, some have insisted I watch 'Troll 2' in revenge (sorry pals, I'd already seen it).

  • Comment number 32.

    A few people seem to be making silly points here. "The Dark Knight Rises" will be "a lot less fun" than John Carter will it streetrw? Nice you can make judgments based on not having seen the finished product. What we can almost guarantee is that Dark Knight Rises will make over 1 billion dollars which means bums were on seats.

    Frankly I'm still dumbstruck by the way Disney went about the whole business of John Carter. Changing the title at the last minute only sums it up and the director interview on the radio with Kermode and Mayo confirmed to me he already believed it was a turkey going downhill fast. Better to have watched the much cheaper Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films from the 30s written by the same Edgar Rice Borroughs.

    The folly of John Carter is not whether you liked it or not - in matters of taste we are all allowed our own opinions - but that a studio can faff around and get it so completely wrong with the kind of money that countries get to deal with.

  • Comment number 33.

    I enjoyed John Carter, it has it 's moments. Weather there enough moments for you personally is opinion.
    It is funny, epic, dramatic, well made and engrossing.
    Non US box office shows that it performed well. What went wrong is probably the marketing in the US.
    However the box office is not the only judge of the qualities of a film.
    Without directly claiming anything about the relative merits of the following list, I suspect that, like flops such as 'It's a Wonderful Life', '2001: a space odyssey', 'The Thing', 'Blade Runner', 'Fight Club', 'Donnie Darko', 'Citizen Kane', 'Forbidden Planet' and 'The Iron Giant', 'John Carter' will prove to be a slow burner, and have a longer life on home formats.
    Mark, perhaps if you were to re-watch it the 'funny' names would not be such a problem?
    I know you are too busy to revisit films, but as you yourself have pointed out, and the above list suggests, sometimes the initial view is not really enough to decide correctly.

  • Comment number 34.

    Portland182 makes a good point there - I saw Carpenter's The Thing and also Bladerunner when they were released. Loved them both. Each time I sat in virtually empty West end Cinemas. Went back to see Bladerunner 4 times in 2 weeks, though (it was in the days before the intyweb and dvds, you see). Yeah, Ridley Scott is a hack and god knows how he keeps making films that don't make any money... they must be terrible.

    Also, once again I read comments that start 'I haven't seen JC but.....' and some that say 'I haven't seen JC, don't want to, it's crap and The Dark Knight Rises is AWESOME' - this of a film that has only had a trailer released so far. Seriously, children?

    And any comment on mainstream films that name checks Pasolini should never get past the moderators...

    All the best.


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