Like Brad Bird before him, Finding Nemo director Andrew Stanton was looking to step out from the Pixar "academy" of animated films and into the world of live-action directing. Unfortunately, unlike Bird, Stanton's first film John Carter was not a success - considered among this year's colossal box office failures.
Now that he's gearing up to return to the franchise that made him a household name, Stanton reflects back on his John Carter work, but doesn’t try too hard to figure out where it went wrong. In his mind there were difficult elements to "crack" about the property, and unfortunately the production was unsuccessful in that endeavor.
From the start, signs of trouble reared their head, but fans of the Edgar Rice Burroughs novels and Stanton's animated films remained steadfast in their hope that the film would be good. Eventually, though, when able to judge the final product, it just didn't hit the mark for a lot of folks.
Some critics point to the film's marketing as a major reason behind its failure, as evidenced by Disney's decision to cut the "of Mars" part of the title in favor of the simplified John Carter. Unfortunately, that decision undercut the whole purpose of the movie: to take audiences on a journey to a new planet, as seen through the eyes of this Civil War veteran.
But, as we said, Stanton doesn't blame the marketing for John Carter's failure – he and the studio worked diligently to find the perfect way to market the movie. He tells the LA Times:
"We didn't always agree on which direction to take every step of the way, but there was never serious contention. The truth was everyone tried their very best to crack how to sell what we had, but the answer proved elusive."
Amidst Burroughs fans lambasting the production, Stanton tried to remain optimistic about the title change – proclaiming that it isn't until the end that John Carter becomes "of Mars" – but even that seemed like a stretch. In retrospect, the decision to change the title didn't lead to Disney taking nearly a $200 million loss on the film, but it couldn't have helped.
Other astute fans pointed towards John Carter's reshoots as a major sign that trouble was brewing, but Stanton remains steadfast in his claims that those were simply a necessary part of the filmmaking process. The director had always planned to use additional days of shooting to fine-tune the project, but in light of the title change it looked like he was restructuring the film.
The Wall-E director hopes that one day John Carter will find a cult sci-fi/fantasy following like Blade Runner or Wizard of Oz, but for now he's thinking about his future projects. Next up Stanton has Finding Nemo 2, a follow-up to (what else) his Oscar-winning Pixar film. Some fans might be questioning Stanton's decision to return to Nemo – saying it's a reaction to the poor John Carter reception – but the director reveals it was always part of the plan.
Yes, if John Carter had been a success Disney would have requested two more films from Taylor Kitsch and co., but since that is no longer in the cards, Finding Nemo 2, was bumped up several places on the docket.
"What was immediately on the list was writing a second 'Carter' movie. When that went away, everything slid up…I know I'll be accused by more sarcastic people that it's a reaction to 'Carter' not doing well, but only in its timing, but not in its conceit."
Andrew Stanton may have struggled with his first attempt at live-action directing, but that shouldn't deter him from giving it another shot. Despite a disappointing box office return, John Carter still received a healthy portion of positive reviews (our Kofi Outlaw gave it 3.5 stars). Perhaps after Finding Nemo 2 makes a big splash (pun intended) for Pixar, he'll get another chance.
Source: LA Times
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