One thing I love about Netflix on demand is that you can just watch something when you want. Sort of a synecdoche I admit. But I mean there's a lot of stuff there that you wouldn't bother with if you had to put -any- effort into it to see otherwise.
For example: last year I watched all the "Dracula" films including Nosferatu ala Netflix. Yes, yes, I know most of you canceled your subscriptions but I kept mine. But that's not what I wanted to write about here. What I wanted to mention for a moment was "Mars Needs Moms" (2011) distributed by Disney. [link]
. I'll write MnM for sort.
MnM was a box office bomb. Checking the all knowing wikipedia, it was "one of the 12th worse openings in all time and the biggest box-office bomb in film history unadjusted for inflation!" I watched it all of the way thru and I can vouch for the crowds, it was bad. But I mean there's bad and then really bad. "Catwoman," now that was so bad in my opinion that I couldn't even bring myself to watch it! Or bad like in "The War in Space" by Toho 1977 [link]
. Now there's a stinker! I made it all the way through that movie. No, MnM was bad but not -that- bad.
Actually I thought MnM was quite watchable: Mom gets kidnapped to program child rearing robots. Child of said mom, chases ship and ends up being whisked to mars. He befriends the child who's mom was kidnapped last. They befriend a renegade Martian and save the day from an oppressive "1984" like bureaucrat. 'Tis the stuff of great 'B' grade Science Fiction if you ask me. Heck, every Dracula movie was 'B' grade if you ask me again. Eminently watchable. I enjoyed it as I did the Dracula shows and Netflix gets to keep my subscription another month.
Lots of big people were involved in this box office bomb. Robert Zemeckis, yeah you know him from "The Polar Express" (2004 Warner Brothers) or "A Christmas Carol" (2009 Disney). Disney distributed MnM. Berkeley Breathed of "Bloom county" fame wrote the original book.
So what happened? I say it's one thing, wikipedia mentions it down in the "critical response" section... the "uncanny valley". [link]
. Computer craphics and robotics engineers have been trying to do this from day one. Mimic the expressions of a real human being. But there's a problem. The "uncanny valley" is the notion that the more you try to make something artificial look human the more repulsed and grossed out real humans get! It turns out we hume's are pretty good at recognizing something wrong in another hume just by looking them in the face! Poor Robert Zemeckis. He's been trying to break the fourth wall now for quite some time! It's too bad because Milo and family mess up what could have been a nice little film otherwise. Let's expand on this a moment...
You know who else knows about this phenomenon? Pixar and John Lasseter! Yup! John knew there was no way he could make a film with psuedo-humans pass muster with an audience. So what did he do? He side stepped the whole tangled mess and cartoonized his way around it. We humans are incredibly easy to please with caricatures. Heck, cartoonists have been doing it for centuries! John never went for "realism" per se. I mean they pour tons of effort into that but in the right places. "Bug's Life". He used hard shelled insects as the actors. As time went on and computers got better he went on with "Toy Story" and eventually "The Incredibles". And that's just the short list. John Cameron pulled off the same stunt in "Avatar". Don't go with humans. Go almost there!
So just like my last journal where I lambast Lucas and the "Star Wars" franchise, you might think I'm down on Zemeckis. But I'm not! He's not taking perfectly good films and mucking them up with "gee wiz" future tech. Nope. Zemeckis is actually trying to push the envelope making the movie the first time! You've got to respect that, even if you decide not to part with your hard earned dollars to participate in that! I hate to say it, but I would like a remake on this one. De-engineer the movie! Make Milo a cartoon! Not just some kid but a caricature of a kid. Like the dudes in "Dragon Hunters" [link]
make it fun! Why did they go for realism in the kid when he lands on a world of goofy martians that are clearly "caricatures" of sexy women. They got it all messed up half and half! Like they couldn't make up their minds!
And that's why "The Polar Express" in 2004 succeeded where "Mars needs Moms" did not in 2011. In "TPE" they didn't didn't mix metaphors. No humans and martians. Just humans and mostly humans or complete animals like reindeer. And they stuck to a very emotional thing like Christmas. It's more believable if you can believe me!
So, if you're sentimental and don't need a bunch of explosions and macho man action to please you, go out and give "Mars needs Moms" a watch. It's a fun little film and tear jerker if you don't set yourself up with grand expectations. And while you're giving box office flops a second chance, why not get another beer and check the only other movie that messed up as bad as "Mars needs Moms". Yes... you should be able to name it now... "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" (1964)!
Over and out!