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The Good Movie That People Think is a Bad Movie (Tuesday): The Curious Case of John Carter

April 3, 2012

While working on my graduate degree at FSU I invented a term called Cascading Infodemic Trends. The term refers to “false information spread by reliable sources can spread online and quickly cause an infodemic.” I feel like the media, marketers and the uninformed buried John Carter before it reached the cinema.

In a day and age where Entertainment Weekly boasts that theater attendance is up they still kick a film when it is down. The magazine gave John Carter a D-. Which is absolutely insane. Carter may not be great but it did try to swing for the fences. What annoys me is that critics and the press cannot get over the budget and constantly attacked the director Andrew Stanton (Wall-E, Finding Nemo).

Disney recently released a statement saying they will take a $200 million dollar loss on the film. The estimated budget was $250 million and the marketing budget was $100 million. Carter has made $234 million worldwide so the movie’s budget must have exceeded $300 million. This is justifiably worrying but it was a surprise to no one. It is easy to see why it bombed with audiences. There are two reasons. The free reign of a succesful director and shoddy marketing.

I worked with a carpenter who told me stories about his time on the film Evan Almighty. The director Tom Shadyac was given a blank check to make whatever he wanted. What he created was a $150 million colossal dud in which an entire ark was built. Sometimes there needs to be checks and balances when dealing on such expensive gambles. Stanton himself said that he shot everything knowing that there would be massive re-shoots. This is never wise on the budgetary side. Also, it doesn’t help that other sci-fi cowboy films Jonah Hex and Cowboys and Aliens were critically hated and audience ignored.

The marketing for the film was incredibly vague. Nobody knew the basic plot of the film. People thought it only featured a shirtless dude jumping around on Mars while four armed aliens chased him around.

The movie seemingly was just another rip off of Avatar. Not until a couple of weeks before release did Disney wise up and start promoting the influence of John Carter. However, it was too little too late. The populace’s mind’s had been made up. Carter was doomed to a $30 million opening weekend.

What I love is that is was a huge gamble. If you’ve read the source material you’d know it is a pulpy old-fashioned story. However, strange things are happening. Carter fans harp that the marketing should have stressed the source material. The problem is that none of them have read the source material. The whole situation around John Carter has been vague and uninformed. When something is vague it leaves room for interpretation. More often than not interpretation is wrong.

If you don’t know about John Carter it was written by Edgar Rice Burroughs in 1917. It is an old property that influenced Star Trek, Star Wars, Inception, Avatar and Cowboys and Aliens. However, this movie is classified as B material. How can a story that influenced dozens of movies be called B material?

The media has created a negative buzz surrounding a film that could have become a successful series. They’ve complained about the marketing, lack of a big celebrity and $250 million dollar budget. Taylor Kitsch has proven himself to be a charismatic star yet critics peg him as bland. The 250 million is not that crazy considering a movie about four people talking How Do You Know cost $130 million. That film lost more money percentage wise than Carter yet nobody talked about it.

A perfect storm occurred that caused this film to not succeed. I just wish people would have watched and made up their minds instead of dismissing it before it had a chance.

I understand that John Carter is easy to make fun of. It is a pulpy, expensive and  clunky film. However, it is fun and worthy of further exploration.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. VJ Long permalink
    April 3, 2012 11:28 am

    As my abs take shape, I find them resembling Kitsch’s more and more after each gym session. They slowly came in one by one, each adding a layer to what would soon become a successful washboard. (yes i’m doing laundry on them right now) In my opinion had Disney taken this approach to the marketing, Carter, could have had a much better showing. First you start with the top two abs as they are usually the first ones to come in. They are important, but only reveal about 1/3 of what’s to come. Then you drop down to the middle two abs. They really start to open things up. Women take note, guys respect you a little bit more in the gym, and old people get reminded of what they once had. Finally you hit’em with the bottom two abs! They bring it all together and really draw people in. With Carter they were in the gym, but the diet was all wrong. They developed the top pair of abs, but didn’t eat healthy enough to release the middle and bottom. By the time they realized they needed to change their diet it was too late…


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