Posts Tagged ‘characterization’

You Win Some, You Lose Some

April 5, 2012

Well, it is not a secret that Hunger Games is a hit with moviegoers. It made over $152 million it’s opening weekend, which made it the best March movie opening ever. This film is based on books by Suzanne Collins where, in the future, young people are forced by the government to fight each other to the death. Of course, this is not the first time a book or book series got the movie treatment. Just look at the recent John Carter of Mars, those books are classics of the science fiction genre. Written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the man who brought us Tarzan, it deals with the adventures of the title character, a prospector and U.S. Civil War veteran who ends up on the planet Mars in the 21st century. Yet, John Carter didn’t do nearly as well its opening weekend. How much money did it make? Only $30 million.  By the way, John Carter of Mars cost $250 million to make, whereas Hunger Games only cost $78 million to make.

What gives? John Carter has been around for almost a hundred years, it was written by the same person who gave us Tarzan (how many screen adaptations did he get) and has a big fan base. In addition to all of that, the film version was directed by Andrew Stanton, the guy who directed WALL*E and Finding Nemo, it had the good special effects and had the resources of Disney studios. Why didn’t it do as well as Hunger Games? Here are my thoughts.

John Carter Isn’t A Harbinger of Things To Come
While books are considered classics in the science fiction genre, they aren’t in the same league as books by Jules Verne. Verne was an engineer, so his stories had some grounding in science. Edgar Rice Burroughs was a pencil sharpener salesman, among other things and he achieved his greatest success by writing the John Carter stories. The appeal of Burroughs’ John Carter stories has more to do with characterization, (John Carter is noble, the Tharks are savages, etc.) than with any visions or predictions of the future.

The Fan Base Wasn’t Tapped Into
Many of the movie posters for John Carter didn’t feature the title character or make mention that that this film was based on the Burroughs’ books. The one that does, doesn’t show him in great detail. It looks like this:

I have a passing familiarity with the books because my brother read both the Marvel comic book version and the actual books. If you haven’t read the books or know someone that did, looking at a poster like this would make you scratch your head. There was no mention that this was based on the books by Burroughs. The blurb on the poster doesn’t draw the moviegoer in. (FYI: The blurb says, “Lost in our world. Found in another.”) Not even a mention that the person who brought us WALL*E and Finding Nemo was directing this film. Marketing campaign seemed to be “If you film it, they will come.” Well, they filmed it and only $30 million’s worth came.

Despite The Best of Intentions, It Just Didn’t Do Well
Sometimes, no matter how many pluses a movie has, and this film had plenty, it just doesn’t do well. Classics like Citizen Kane and It’s A Wonderful Life bombed when they were first released and you can’t get better plusses than Orson Wells and Jimmy Stewart. Not to mention, the John Carter books are a hundred years old, so they didn’t have the marketing machine behind them that a more recent book, like Hunger Games or Twilight has.

So, if something in your life doesn’t work out, no matter how much thought or effort you put into it, don’t feel too bad. At least you didn’t lose $165 million on your endeavor, which is what Disney stands to lose on John Carter.

Sources:
http://www.boxofficemojo.com/weekend/chart/?yr=2012&wknd=12&p=.htm

http://www.boxofficemojo.com/weekend/chart/?yr=2012&wknd=10&p=.htm

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/05/movies/john-carter-based-on-princess-of-mars.html

http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=371986

http://www.movieweb.com/news/second-john-carter-poster

As the Crank Turns

March 8, 2012

If I haven’t done so, I will do it now. Let me state for the record that I do not like horror films, in particular I don’t like horror films made from 1970 to the present day. I find them to be heavy on gore and chase scenes and light on plot and characterization. Don’t worry, there’s a reason for this disclosure and it has to do with this week’s blog entry.

Exhibit A
There will be a remake of the campy horror film Evil Dead.  Reports state that the remake will be more dark and more gory than the original. Also, the role of Ash, which was played by Bruce Campbell in the original film, will be recast as a female. Well, it worked with Battlestar Galactica, so I guess the director decided to try it in Evil Dead.

Exhibit B
Radius,
a game and crowd-sourced film, most likely the first of its kind in the world, had its premiere in Cincinnati recently. The film was made via a smartphone scavenger hunt. People were invited to upload images of people, places and things in the Cincinnati area. Three hundred people participated and 2000 images were uploaded. The company that made this film, Ripple FX Films, is an independent production company that wants to “…put the audience at the center of the art.”

The Point of Exhibits A & B
Exhibit A shows how, once again, the powers that be in Hollywood have decided to greenlight a remake. Exhibit B shows how, once again, the independent filmmakers are striving to creative imaginative and original films. Really, it is necessary to redo Evil Dead? For fans of the film, part of its charm was its low budget campiness. Now there will be a version with lots of CGI effects. Like that will make the film better? As for independent filmmakers, they regularly show their dedication to storytelling and they do it with less resources and more imagination then the studios. Go independents!

“You’ve written about this before,” you must be saying now. “So, what else is new? Hollywood is a business, you know.”

Yes, I’ve written about this before, of course if the powers that be would stop with the redos, I would stop writing about this. Yet, the fact remains, Hollywood is a business and the tension between art and commerce has been going on since the days of Charlie Chaplin. Still, it is possible for the studios to create an original film and make money, as well. Burlesque, The Help, Shrek, Twilight are all recent original films that did well at the box office. So, the powers that be can’t blame it on the recession or throw up their hands and say it is just a trend. In fact, Ripple FX Films was brave enough to solicit images from everyday folks and the people at that company created a film out of those images. So, suits how about taking a line from the independents, putting the lid on all the remakes and making something original?  Don’t worry, you’ll make money. After all, Burlesque, The Help, Shrek, Twilight made money, lots of it and they were all original.

Tune it next time to As the Crank Turns, when our resident blogger will rail against a remake of Planet 9 from Outer Space. (That is if the suits actually decide to greenlight Planet 9 from Outer Space.)

Sources:
http://www.movieweb.com/news/the-evil-dead-remake-to-be-dark-and-very-gory-says-jane-levy

http://www.local12.com/news/local/story/First-of-Its-Kind-Movie-To-Premiere-In-Cincinnati/D2zXlk1aKUaa6T4i5gmDGQ.cspx

http://www.whatisradius.com/about