JOHN CARTER BEEN OUT A FEW WEEKS AND NOW WE CAN FINALLY TALK ABOUT THE WAYS IT DOESN’T WORK!
AND IT SUCH A GREAT OPPORTUNITY TO TALK ABOUT THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN STORY LOGIC AND DRAMA.
11 thoughts on “HULK VS. THE JOHN CARTER SCRIPT”
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SORRY THE SITE WAS DOWN FOR A LITTLE MAINTENANCE, IT’S ALL GOOD NOW!
I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s noticed the current obsession with mystery in popular culture, movies particularly. I feel like a contributing factor is the way that everybody feels like movies are ‘out of ideas’ due to all the remakes and rehashes and people are all out looking for that next movie to give them that big surprise moment. But instead of actually crafting a real mystery, films seem to be taking the shortcut of withholding information (sometimes, as you said, information we need to no as an audience for drama to work) and then revealing it as if to say ‘Ah ha! What a twist!’
Personally I feel like the audience anticipation for that next big twist or turnaround moment is a major factor in the whole *SPOILERS!* phenomenon. I don’t know, how do you feel about spoilers, HULK?
EXACTLY NEW INFORMATION IS NOT WHAT MAKES A TWIST. TWISTS ARE SOMETHING THAT HAS TO BE BUILT TO WITH CARE. IT ABOUT DIRECTION / PROPULSION AND STEERING WITH A STEADY HAND. ONCE AGAIN HULK JUST GOES BACK TO THAT “LOST MODEL” WHICH WAS SUCH A GREAT WAY TO GET YOU INTERESTED IN CHARACTERS OVER THE PERIOD OF A YEAR, BUT IT SO NOT A WAY TO APPROACH MOVIES… LIKE… AT ALL.
RESPECT RIGHT BACK ATCHA
Excellent article, Hulk.
I also read the New Yorker piece on Stanton and the production of John Carter. What struck me is how often it mentions Stanton playing with elements, with analysing motivation and consequences and the audience’s reactions at every turn. I think the point it was trying to illustrate was Stanton’s commitment to storytelling, but it made me think that going into this that Stanton and his crew didn’t have a script that was absolutely rock solid to begin with (which is obvious now).
Stanton is talented but when I hear of his method at Pixar, this madness and retooling until something sublime comes about near completion, I understand a live shoot can’t operate this way. A live action director needs a clear vision from the outset, something for everyone to work towards, and then be able to make necessary alterations to that vision when fate throws the production curve balls. Fixing problems between takes and in post-production is an enormously important ability directors need to have, but before day one of shooting a director needs to be able to read the script, imagine the shoot and say, “This could all work without any problems at all.” Of course that won’t be true, but a director needs to have that vision in his or her head.
VERY, VERY WELL SAID ROSS. THEY REALLY JUST COMPLETELY DIFFERENT FUNCTIONS. ANIMATION IS MORE LIKE SCULPTURE, AND LIVE ACTION MORE LIKE… UM… PHOTOGRAPHY… OBVIOUSLY.
This is so, so good.
This essay is so, so good.
HULK SINCERELY THANK!
Hulk, sorry to dredge this post out of the past, but I had a question I was hoping you could answer for me as it pertains to John Carter. A lot of really good stories will save a final revelation until the very end, a truth that forces the audience to re-evaluate everything that came before. For instance, in the comic book series Criminal, the Coward story arc, the truth about why the main character is a “coward” is withheld until the final moments. When you realize the truth, it casts all the past events in a new light. I’m sure there are many movies that does this as well–Sixth Sense–but I can’t think of them right now. My question is: Why do these late reveals work in other, er, works, and not here in John Carter?
Here are my thoughts on your question. Its a bit of a ramble as these things often are when you try and wrestle ideas into words. As a result of this wrestling it may also be poorly written in places, for which I apologise in advance. Also may I commend you on your excellent taste in comic books. And so, my thoughts:
Without knowing John Carter’s past, we don’t feel much for him. At most he’s an asshole, at worst completely bland. There is no weight to the romance because we don’t know how significant it is to him. Where as in Coward, Leo is still a fascinating character. He is still compelling, as is the plot, and in many ways we don’t even know there is a mystery to be revealed. His actions still fit who we are think he is as a character, we aren’t looking for explanation. Sixth Sense is so carefully written as to not give away the reveal. The early scene where Bruce Willis is having dinner with his wife, the dialogue is such that it still works as a functioning scene before the reveal – it just works in a very different way. I guess my clumsily illustrated point is that in these examples that “work” we, the audience, still think we understand what’s going on.
If you like there is Story A (the story we think we are being told) and Story B (the real story, which only becomes apparent in light of the reveal). Story A should still work independently on its own merits, its own arcs and propulsion. Its incredibly difficult. As you yourself say everything that’s come before is now cast in a new light. So Story A is expressly written to be read in two completely different ways, both having to work. The problem with the John Carter example (specifically his origin story) is that isn’t really a reveal. There is only a single Story. And because of the absence of the information about his origin, that Story doesn’t work.
You sort of sum it up with the way you phrase the question. The reveal in Coward adds something to the story. Where as the John Carter “reveal” is actually something missing from it. I don’t mean this in terms of information literally being added or being absent, but adding in the sense of enhancing and enriching the story.