Script Review: JOHN CARPENTERS GHOSTS OF MARS
by Darwin Mayflower
(09/20/00) NOTE: The screenplays we review are often in development and may experience many rewrites, some could end up being completely different than what is reviewed here. It is our hope that our reviews generate more interest in the film. Thank you.
Hi folks, Chris here. John Carpenter once said, "In France, I'm an auteur. In England, I'm a horror movie director. In Germany, I'm a filmmaker. In the US, I'm a bum." Well, when he produces so much garbage, what does he expect? Beyond the THE THING and ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK he hasn't made anything worth seeing in awhile. Darwin checks in with a review of Carpenter's latest script, needless to say, he didn't like it.
I dont think anyones ever compared Spike Lee and John Carpenter before, but I think their careers have a lot in common.
Both filmmakers put movies out every few years. And people avoid them like rotten fruit.
Spike and John have at least one good (if not great) film each. You could point to Spikes DO THE RIGHT THING or CLOCKERS, and to Johns THE THING.
Despite the bad reviews, the nonexistent box office take, studios still readily hand them money.
You hear stories of great filmmakers like Robert Altman scrounging for a small budget. But Carpenter and Spike appear to have no problem at all. Even though their movies sometimes dont even crack the one million dollar mark.
Ive always found Carpenters egotism a little distasteful. He must have his name trumpeted above the title of his films like an announcement call. So it says JOHN CARPENTERS THE THING. Even the now (in)famous "a film by" credit turns me off. Many, many people (above and beyond the writer, who is always cited in this case) make a movie what it is. What gives the director the right to take claim for it all? (The only two directors I know of who dont do this are Woody Allen and Martin Campbell.)
Carpenter takes it a step further. In a small-penis-angst, stunning show of insecurity (especially when considering that most people wouldnt want to take credit for these movies) he makes sure anyone seeing the title of the film knows Who Was In Charge.
And now, even though his last movie, JOHN CARPENTERS VAMPIRES, pleased no one (except maybe a having-fun James Woods), we have JOHN CARPENTERS GHOSTS OF MARS.
I think the B-movie title says it all. But Ill elaborate a bit.
Im a big fan of David Lettermans, my friends. And Ive been waiting a while to find a script bad enough to ape Daves famous top ten format. Ive read GHOSTS OF MARS and youll find no better match. And so now...here are --
The top ten reasons why JOHN CARPENTERS GHOSTS OF MARS is a lousy script.
10 - It may be the future, but homophobia still rages like a disease. Theres enough abusive homophobic dialogue in the script to make Eminem and John Rocker blush.
9 - So shameless is Mr. Carpenter, so fearless in the face of coming criticism, that he freely rips off not only ALIENS, ALIEN, PREDATOR, I AM LEGEND and SHOCKER -- he picks the long-dead bones of his remake THE THING.
8 - The people in the story are so indistinguishable that the characters names become irrelevant.
7 - Carpenter and co-writer Larry Sulkis amateurishly set up four or five characters who never speak or rise above their two-word descriptions (e.g., gay prisoner) so they can be killed bloodily and stave off a mass exodus in the theaters.
6 - Carpenter bothers to bring us to Mars, but sets his tale of intruding spirit-ghosts in a mid-twenty-first-century boomtown. Why did we bother to leave earth then? He should have set it in Texas (or somewhere nearby) and it would have saved us quite a few awkward explanations.
5 - Similarities with Stephen Kings DESPERATION -- a town dominated by a huge mine, a spirit coming out of that mine and possessing people, the entity arising from some ancient resting place -- are lawsuit-worthy.
4 - Embarrassing character names like "Desolation" Williams and Big Daddy Mars makes one ask the question: What was old-man Carpenter on...and where can one get it (for cheap)?
3 - Brainless romance between female cop and hulking criminal is about as realistic as Bill Clintons "rapt interest" in Mohammed Khatamis speech before the U.N. recently.
(Thats my little Dennis Miller on MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL reference.)
2 - The script has caused three screenwriters to injure their necks from shaking their heads in exasperation at What Actually Gets Made.
And the number one reason JOHN CARPENTERS GHOSTS OF MARS is a lousy script --
1 - It makes VIRUS look inventive.
No. Not a good script at all. Its so bad, in fact, that Id sooner watch Barbara Bush undress than read it a second time. Its so horrible it makes a second dose of MAGNOLIA sound as inviting as a SIMPSONS cartoon.
It does have one plus, though: as an insomniac I have to thank it for giving me the best nights sleep Ive had since I was three.
Stephen King called me after he read the script himself. Said it made him feel like getting run over a second time.
The Pope, it seems, after reading the script, met with John Carpenter and spit in his face. This is a first.
Joe Lieberman and Al Gore have been calling for Hollywood to clean up once and for all. Upon reading the GHOSTS OF MARS script, Joe Lieberman said John Carpenter was beyond repair and we should just take him out back and bludgeon him with stale matzo. To save him the embarrassment of early promise and us of his terrible movies.
Tom Clancy, Im told, called Carpenter after reading the script to cry, "Thank you, John. Im no longer number one."
John Carpenter wanted Robert Downey Jr. for a role in the movie. Downeys agent wouldnt allow his client to read it fearing it might drive him back to drugs.
Okay, okay. Its not often I can actually make fun of a script. And like a true American -- I take it as it comes.
(P.S., No hard feelings, John; youre much more talented than, say, Jon Amiel.)
-- Darwin Mayflower.
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