Hollywood And Mars

An interesting history.

[Monday-afternoon update]

Even the film-makers had doubts:

“If you had told me two years ago when we were walking into Fox to pitch the approach and what this movie would be, if you told me I’d be on the phone talking about how this is a big spectacle movie, I would have been delighted,” he tells Esquire. “At the time, we knew it was going to be expensive, but we thought it would be more niche than Ridley made it.” Nope.

What made The Martian unique also made it a difficult sell. It was not an action movie. The film’s star would spend his time farming potatoes harvested from his co-astronaut’s feces. The Rock would not show up to blow away aliens halfway through the second act. Mind would prevail over muscle. And that’s not easy to write for the masses.

I hope it will break some of the stereotypes, and make it easier to make these kinds of films.


20 thoughts on “Hollywood And Mars”

  1. I think that John Carter gets an undeserved bad rap from critics and others who just don’t get the whole “sword and planet” genre. Sure, the genre is pretty much dead but I was (and am) a big Burroughs fan and I enjoyed it immensely.

      1. …and Lynn Collins was smokin’ hot…

        Perfect casting. She could have stepped out of A Princess of Mars paperback cover.

    1. The genre is not dead unless nobody reads it.

      Very much enjoyed the movie. Sure it could have been better, but the critics mostly had no idea what they were dealing with.

    2. Agreed, I’ve watched John Carter twice more since seeing it in theater. I thought it was a great adaptation of the written story. I believe it failed financially because of poor advertising. Whose idea was it to drop “of Mars” from the title?

    3. I, too thought “John Carter” was a fun adaptation. Including Dejah – wow!

      As far as I recall, it bombed in a kind of self-fulfilling prophesy. Disney decided it was going to be a bomb, their own execs said something to that effect, and they took the “Mars” out of the title on the theory that that would lessen damage. Somehow. Of course it did the opposite.

      I would’ve enjoyed a sequence of films continuing the story, but having made box office poison from it, nobody’s gonna touch it again for a long, long time…

  2. I saw Robinson Crusoe on Mars when I was a kid and loved it. In fact I watched it again few months ago. It’s not accurate but it tried to be somewhat serious.

    Unlike it’s contemporary – Wizard of Mars. It’s on Youtube. What a piece of junk.

    I saw Invaders from Mars even before Robinson Crusoe and That movie scared the daylights out of me. I was much younger then.

    1. I too am a big fan of Robinson Crusoe on Mars . A shame Adam West didn’t have a bigger part in this movie, ah well. I felt it jumped the shark with the interstellar slavers, but you had to write in some kind of Friday role, somehow. A definite pre-cursor to The Martian, it’s too bad the producers from the 60’s couldn’t have just gone with that theme with perhaps maybe a Friday character appearing as an unjustly persecuted fugitive from a devolved humanoid civilization driven underground to survive on scare resources and heretofore unknown to Earthlings! However I agree that such movies became harder to make thanks to the Mariner and Viking missions.

  3. My wife and I thought John Carter was pretty good too.
    Saw “The Martian” last Saturday night. Not bad but I still can’t get over the duststorm scene at the beginning. Andy Weir should have contrived a better reason for leaving Watney behind because if a MAV can be blown over (likely not as a 200mph wind on Mars has the pressure of less than 20mph on Earth and pebbles won’t blow around in it)) you don’t leave one on the surface for at least 2 years for the next mission. Didn’t think much of the final rendezvous scenes either.
    It did have redeeming features, Kate Mara is very cute, was there a nod to Heinlein in the red headed female mission commander? and near the end I detected a few lines that wouldn’t have been out of place in Firefly.
    At least they can recycle some of the sets to make a movie of Greg Bear’s “War Dogs” also set on Mars. I’m about half way through it and it has action, two kinds of aliens, Skyrines (as in Marines) and Muskies(settlers on Mars). Cool.

  4. I saw some of the concept art for when Robert Rodriguez was doing the John Carter film. Amazing. The producers finally went elsewhere and decided to throw money at it.

  5. But… couldn’t “The Martian” have been tweaked, somehow, just a bit, so that Matt Damon got left on Mars?
    (just how many times does this actor have to be rescued, anyway, before we all give up?)

  6. make it easier to make these kinds of films.

    The kind of film should be clear… a story, a real story, not fantasy unless it’s integral to the story. I’ve always preferred hard SF, but that requires intellect.

    Space stories are difficult because of pace. 8 months drifting and 3 minutes of terror makes writing a good story difficult I would think.

    People sitting around talking only works if the writing is phenomenal. With a castaway story it’s worse, talking to yourself (or diary entries, or inner monologue.)

    1. How about 5 million years of drifting (2001, a Space Odyssey, counting the time since the ape-men scene) . . . bah-doom boom!

  7. I went and saw The Martian last night. The movie itself was good, following the gist of the book pretty well. Mars and space looked gorgeous. The pacing was good, everything flowed well. It isn’t going to win best picture, but it was a good movie and worth seeing in theaters.

    But, I already knew that going in, from reading reviews and having read the book. What interested me most about the movie wasn’t on the screen. It was the audience. I saw the movie on Tuesday, which is the cheap night. I arrived 15 minutes before showtime. There were four movies playing at the theater, and there were at least 50 people lined up outside the door ahead of me. By the time I got inside the door another 100 had lined up behind me. This is in a city of 30 thousand people. And absolutely everyone was there to see The Martian; the other 3 theaters were empty. They delayed the start of the movie so everyone could buy their munchies. There were a lot of families with young kids, lots of teenagers on dates, a real broad spectrum of ages.

    And from this packed house, at the end of the movie, silence. As in church-mouse-in-library silent. Even as they all filed out into the lobby, hardly anyone said a word, even the little kids. I think everyone was lost in thought.

  8. Curious that Mr. Patches doesn’t mention It, The Terror from Beyond Space, a low-budget 1958 film starring a pre-Daktari Marshall Thompson that also featured Martian dust storms as a key plot point. Quite a few of its other plot points prefigure Ridley Scott’s breakout hit Alien. For a “B” picture of the late 50’s, It was pretty damned good. Probably no accident as it was written by the late Jerome Bixby who also wrote a number of the better Star Trek (TOS) episodes.

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