Badass Digest: The Real Reason the Press Went Easy on Battleship and killed John Carter

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Devin Faraci at Badass Digest reacts to the LA Times Article which we posted here yesterday regarding how Battelship seems to have escaped the media feeding frenzy that engulfed John Carter.  His ideas are a little more, well, badass than those in the LA Times.

The failure of John Carter started a feeding frenzy in the press (realistically the feeding frenzy began months in advance), yet the failure of Battleship has been largely ignored. As the LA Times points out this is interesting because the two failures are kind of comparable:

Their overall numbers aren’t all that different. Disney’s “John Carter” did a paltry $72 million in the United States and an additional $210 million overseas; “Universal’s “Battleship” is on track to do even less in America than “John Carter” while so far making $232 million overseas. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Universal could lose $150 million on “Battleship,” while Disney took a $200-million write-down on “John Carter.”

The article lists some valid reasons why John Carter became such an icon of flops, including the simple fact that it was first and the first story is always the bigger story. But the reasons the LA Times gives don’t add up to the whole story. Battleship has been given a complete free pass for one simple reason:

Hollywood hates creatives.

That may sound like an oxymoron or counterintuitive, but it’s the fundamental basis of much of this business. Hollywood is run by money men in suits, and these guys often hate the unpredictable, sometimes uncontrollable, creative types who are necessary to keep the industry going. The suits want product, but they haven’t figured out a way to cut the human element – writers, directors, FILMMAKERS – out of the process of creating that product.

I always suspect that it’s jealousy, that the lowliest screenwriter can do things that the president of a studio can’t – come up with new worlds, bring characters to life, share imagination. It’s probably also just a simple irritation at the fact that creatives have demands and they fight against the wisdom of marketing and they try to make good movies instead of saleable movies. The world would be easier for the suits if the creatives were all like Dennis Dugan and Brian Robbins, but that isn’t the way of Hollywood.

So knowing that the suits hate the creatives, you can begin to see why John Carter got roasted. It was the work of a singular creative vision, that of Andrew Stanton.Battleship was a packaged deal put together in boardrooms and legal documents, with creatives only being needed to do the messy work of actually getting the product onto screen.

Read the rest at Badass Digest


  • The reaction of the Hollywood press to JOHN CARTER and Andrew Stanton’s work on it reminds me of a similar reaction to Orson Welles and CITIZEN KANE. I’m not comparing the two movies here, just the two men heading them. They both came to live action film making after experiencing incredible success in other dramatic forms (Welles on radio and the stage, Stanton in animation). Both encountered extreme jealousy (and even hatred) in connection to making their first live action films.

    The negative press and lies surrounding KANE kept the movie from getting an honest showing or assessment for years. Even so, Welles career never recovered. Thankfully, Stanton has a much better support network in place. If his attitude at the q & a for WALL-E a few weeks ago is any indication, he’s going to be fine. JOHN CARTER’s rep as a great work of imaginative cinema will only grow.

  • Dotat Sojat wrote:
    “On RT, JC is 52% with Critics with Audience Rating of 66% (down a bit since I last checked), while Battleship is 34% Critics with Audience Rating of 58%.”

    So in short John Carter got a D and Battleship an F audience wise (Critic wise both are still Fs)? Yeah I guess that means JC is better but considering Stanton was earning straight As before that’s still a big come down. Or possibly shows that all of that fawning had more to do with his Pixar membership than anything else. It still doesn’t change the fact John Carter was Stanton’s singular vision. And it was misguided while Battleship was just the standard big dumb blockbuster by committee film. And yes Faraci might have meant the “flop Schadenfruede” he still wrote that John Carter was a singular film made by a “creative” director. Sadly he needs to look up what creative really means.

  • Hollywood feeds on success, yet hates seeing anyone succesfull. If there’s a way to take him down, be sure it will be done. Spielberg must still have his ears tingling from all the hate he got out of 1941. Journalists have tried many times to burn James Cameron’s skin, but his movies just turned out eventually too big. Be sure that at any sign of failure, they will try to kick him in the teeth. Now they had the opportunity to get “one of Pixar’s guys”, they jumped on the occasion.

    The pre-release negative press was limited to the United States as far as I know. I certainly didn’t read any of this in France.

  • Devin Faraci’s thoughts seem on the spot to me, especially this line from the next to the last paragraph

    And members of the media like a good juicy story of the fall that comes after perceived pride – how dare Stanton, two time Oscar winner, think that he could make a live action movie and spend this much?

    That one sentence encapsulates so many of the articles I saw about JOHN CARTER in the months leading up to release. It seems like most every article had to make a negative point of the movie’s estimated budget and doubting Stanton’s abilities because this was a live action movie rather than an animated movie.

    Even the much talked about Pixar process Stanton adapted to use for JOHN CARTER isn’t the unique and untested method for live action movies that some (most?) have made it out to be. From my understanding of the Pixar process and Stanton’s modified version for JOHN CARTER it sounds much like the process that Walt Disney himself was using and encouraged decades ago.

  • Dang, MCR, took you longer to get here on this one than I expected! 😉

    Are you mixing up the critical response to the movie with the media carping over the level of the loss? On RT, JC is 52% with Critics with Audience Rating of 66% (down a bit since I last checked), while Battleship is 34% Critics with Audience Rating of 58%. Surely John Carter is a more unique film — it creates a compelling world even you don’t like Mrs. Carter or the Therns, it’s just a more muscular creative exercise and that’s his point……

    But the ripping he’s talking about, and the LA Times piece, is the Flop Schadenfruede, isn’t it — not the ripping of the movie itself by reviewers and the like.

  • Oh brother. How much fawn time did Faraci get with Saint Stanton to come up with that excuse? We know Hollywood hates creativity but seriously when that “singular creative vision” was as cliched and muddled as Stanton’s I just don’t believe that’s the reason Battleship is getting away scott free while John Carter got ripped to pieces. If anything Battleship’s failure is probably an example of “too many cooks in the kitchen” syndrome of studio chiefs, producers, writers, middle men and the director. Considering Ross wouldn’t say “boo” to Stanton what does that leave really?

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