The Most Negative John Carter Review Ever and the John Carter Sequel Fans’ (Measured) Response

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The following is a review by J.B. Alderman, columnist for the San Jose Mercury News, who as he says in the review, elected to view John Carter at 30,000 feet at the end of a 14 hour flight when “all other options were exhausted”.   I usually only post the more intelligently articulated reviews, whether positive or negative, but I thought I would make an exception for this one.  Aside from the review itself, which is entertaining in its over-the-top negativity,  the comments, many of them coming from members of the  John Carter Sequel Group on Facebook, are interesting.   I read through them with the intention of looking for some that are  hateful, fetishistic, or whatever, as has been accused here on JCF  in some comments from time to time — and I didn’t really find any that struck me as over the top — particularly when they are being written in response to a supposedly professional review calling the film “vile crud”.  My thought is that the restraint of the fans is as interesting as the lack of same by the reviewer.

I’m just wondering if some of contrarians might concede that the negativity of this review is a little bit ridiculous. MCR? Henreid? Davidson? Just wondering……

DVDs: Colossal flop ‘John Carter’ worst movie in years


By J.B. Alderman

“John Carter”

Many of the films I review for you I watch at 30,000 feet. I mean that literally, not figuratively, as I fly several times a month.

Seeing a movie trapped on a plane is a different experience from seeing it on a living room couch. Desperate for distraction, all films look better when the oxygen is thin and you’re trying to make the hours pass. Think of it as cinematic beer goggles. So if you ever thought I went too easy on a movie, it was likely that I saw it on a plane and was grateful for the time it helped kill.

It was in the final third of a 14-hour flight, all other options exhausted, that I started watching this film. And even through the charitable prism of Flight 49, I can safely say this was the worst movie I’ve seen in years.

The reported quarter of a billion spent to make this otherworldly junk could have fed more than 5 million hungry children for an entire year. But instead, that money was completely wasted on creating this vile crud.

Forget “Ishtar” or “Heaven’s Gate.” “John Carter” should be celebrated as the biggest movie disaster of our time. The nonsensical script, summer stock wannabe acting, autopilot directing and 1989-quality special effects come together in a vortex of God-awful that should never be repeated.

Read the full review and comments by readers at


  • He said that he saw the movie on the end of a 14 hour flight. That should’ve told the reader that he probably was too out of it to give a good review of ANYTHING! Of course I’m biased (I LOVED JOHN CARTER), but I can’t believe anyone with any sense of imagination could not love this movie. It had everything in it. I thought it did the story by E.R. Burroughs justice. I hope and pray people go out and buy the dvd to kill the idiots that give great movies like this bad reviews. I want to see more of John Carter movies and hope DISNEY sees that another movie will turn out the fans in droves. God help us if a movie like John Carter can’t make it in Hollywood. Just buy the dvd (I got the blue-ray version) and see for yourself if you don’t love it folks.

  • I always love reading negative reviews. It often shows you what kind of person the writer he/she him/herself is. Sci-Fi Wise the movie has some bad moments but the story has a classic strong beginning, middle and an open end which makes you want to see more. To really enjoy a movie you should watch at home, close the curtains and watch it on Blue Ray with massive dolby surround system. Watching a movie on a tiny screen on a 14 hour plane ride is like starting of on a date knowing that there is no way for you to get laid. No wonder that you hate the movie…

    Anyway, I am rooting for a sequel and I hope that the makers allow the ones who made the John Carter Fan Trailer to participate on making it’s next commercial trailer.

  • Well, reviewers love over-the-top negative hyperbole in an effort to out-clever each other. It’s not the first time I’ve seen someone soar to operatic heights when trashing a perfectly inoffensive movie.

    I loved John Carter – own it on Blu-Ray, seen it multiple times, am posting right now on a fan site, etc. – but I have a couple of friends who thought JC was “the worst movie they’d ever seen.” They were typically people who loathe/ do not understand or enjoy sci-fi. One is a massive online fan of the shows “Glee” (for which she runs several fan sites) and “Sex and the City.” The other lists her favorite films of this year as “This Means War” and “The Vow,” the latter which she called “genius” and hoped Channing Tatum would be nominated for an Oscar for his part in it. It’s easy to see how people like this wouldn’t like John Carter. 😉

  • Well since you asked…

    First watching a film on an airplane and writing a review about it isn’t a good idea. If anything this guy sounds like he’s been on a plane for hours and was just a grouch. Nor-despite not being pleased with Stanton’s butchering of ERB did I think it was a disaster on the level of Ishtar or Heaven’s Gate, so that I admit is an unfair comparison.

    With the fans I didn’t see any outright hateful responses or any “you suck, this movie rocks!” type comments. Most of them were honest in saying that they loved the film. The problem could be seen that they are just getting too carried away responding to every negative review out there. While there is a little more here to comment on and respond to, it reminds me a bit of the Detroit News argument from before-getting overworked over nothing. If someone reads the comments and the rebuttals and decides to give the movie a chance then fine but going on every negative review on a site and jamming up the comments might be seen as being overzealous and have an opposite effect. Or it could be seen as just a bunch of Disney or Stanton’s co-workers, studio plants just spreading glowing reviews to get interest.

    Then again I did read an article in a magazine recently that was talking about how much traffic some sites got where their reviewers trashed The Avengers compared to sites with positive reviews. The negative ones got more traffic and led the writer to joke that may be it was a ploy to get more readers. Since who doesn’t love a good bit of mud throwing?

  • I guess not, Dotar. All good points. I can totally see Joe/Jane DVD Buyer seeing many of the comments and going ‘hey, maybe I’ll give that a shot’. The line crossing I’m talking about is when it becomes obvious to a slightly more discerning viewer that the thread is being hijacked by an agenda. I really am pro-fans in this regard, but I know that when this happens, many people stop believing the praise and write the whole thing off. On the other hand, I suppose they might check it out just to see what all the fuss is about.

    Arguing online is fun, but hyperbole is out of control the whole Internet over.
    Going overboard doesn’t make anyone look good.

    Khanada — agreed completely on that one. A professional reviewer who reviews movies on an airplane? Could be a good schtick if that was part of the review, but still basically the worst way to watch anything.

  • I think it’s pretty pitiful that this reviewer watches JC, in order to review it, on an airplane for one, and also at the end of a LONG flight. Like he will be as objective with serious jet lag and like he could even judge ANY special effects on that tiny little screen. It’s pretty pathetic, to be honest. Makes his review utterly worthless.

  • Henried wrote:

    The desperation is painfully evident in many of these posts, and I warn again that the Barsoomian Stantoneers are in danger of counteracting their own argument.

    First, thanks for biting…;-)

    I’m trying to get synched up with this notion that you and Steve Davidson have, that having JC Fans defending JC is going to “counteract their own argument”. I mean…..I’m thinking that the target audience is Joe DVD Buyer who just stumbles across and interview that trashes John Carter and there, if he bothers to read the comments, are a number of obviously heartfelt comments from people who love the movie. The comments don’t read like studio robot troll comments — they read like real people saying real things. So I’m thinking, this person — this random person, not someone who is following this like we all are — kind of blinks and goes …hmmmmmmm…..bad review, passionate fans. Might be worth checking the movie out. I dunno what to think. By contrast, if they do nothing, Joe DVD Buyer just reads the review and his takeaway is “really bad review”, forget this turkey. So in that context — I don’t see it having the effect you’re suggesting.

    Another audience who is reading it might be people like yourself or Steve, or other industry followers who have been reading/following the story but are neither a proponent nor a detractor — they’re just observers. These people would recognize that there is some sort of coordinated effort going on — but the comments, as noted above, are clearly heartfelt and from real people. What would be my takeaway if I’m one of those people? “Well, those JC fans aren’t going away, they’ve got staying power. We’ll see what happens.” So I don’t’ see it hurting with this group.

    Then there are those who just didn’t like the movie, or bought into the reviews. (I’m excluding ERB fans here…just movie fans.) They might be irritated but they’re not “winnable” anyway.

    Then there are the ERG fans who felt Stanton botched it and who may or may not concede that Disney botched the marketing, but who in any event are seriously annoyed by these persistent fans….. Their takeaway – they would be more annoyed than they already wore. But the key word is “more” …. they were annoyed already…..they are not “winnable”… — doe sit matter that their annoyance grows?

    I’m not sure if this is really a good analysis, but it at least illustrates why I’m having a bit of trouble wrapping my head around this theory. Maybe now that you see what I’m thinking you can help me “get it”. (Not meant to be snarky……I have respect for both you guys, and I feel maybe I’m missing something.)

  • Shure it has it’s problems, but this is still pretty cool for any director’s first time live action movie. I just wished I had a first movie that made 282 million. I would be rubbing it in you face… My first real movie 282 million… It made more that it’s budget; and Stanton has the title for the highest blue ray/ dvd sales ever with Finding Nemo, he’s entitled to 1 bomb. And this is no bomb. I think for a first live action film ; it ‘s a totally awsome movie. Seriously how many 1 billion dollar movie diretors even exist? 11? at present. Congratulation Andrew. …. 292 gross and counting….

    But more imporatly my daughter loves it. She watched it twice… which is unheard of. She said it has “History,” meaning back in time; western, “Action, Sci/Fi and Romance.” It has everything! I asked her if she liked it and that was what she said. She is smarter than all of the critics. Shure It has it’s flaws. And at timess it may be cringe worthy. But for a first time film it is pulp fun. Wholely “expletive” is it good. Still I give it a 70 out of 100!!!! I am hoplefull for 100 miillino in Blue/dvd sales….

    And I hope it earnes 150 milllion in Blu/dvd sales and gets to the 500 mark that will get us a sequel; I’m still crossing my fingers… But John cater is trending well…

  • I thought the CGI characters in John Carter felt real…some of the subtle nuances in facial expressions and actions. With the main CGI characters. The Avater CGI characters, at times, seemed like CGI characters.

  • I’ll bite.
    The review is extremely negative, but it isn’t informed enough to sound like the reviewer has an axe to grind. It sounds like their genuine sourpuss reaction to a bad experience with a film on an airplane. I don’t agree with their assessment, but I can also understand someone having that reaction. If I were to remove my affinity for sci-fi/fantasy in general, for ERB, for Stanton’s resume, and my affection for a film that really wants to be good… I could see feeling this way. But it’s still a nonsense review that presents no examples to back the assertions.

    Now, the comments do not seem ‘hateful’ or anything so dire… and overall individual posts are entirely reasonable, but as a whole they read as a planned assault, and sometimes they are so hilariously out of touch it makes it hard for me to keep reading.
    I think someone said the VFX were the ‘best ever achieved’ and ‘made Avatar look like first-steps’ or something. I mean, cue slide whistle sound effect. Stanton himself would roll his eyes at you for saying such a thing. Even Jim Morris acknowledged they weren’t even trying to do anything groundbreaking… One *could* argue that the DJC VFX were *comparable* to Avatar, or that you personally preferred the Tharks to the Na’vi, sure… but, speaking as a VFX Supervisor – that’s the kind of sycophantic hyperbole no one with any knowledge of VFX would ever make. Just one example.

    In a sober moment, surely not even that commenter would say something like that – but their emotions were riled by someone poking their precious Disney John Carter, and the whole board reeks of that kind of defensiveness.

    The desperation is painfully evident in many of these posts, and I warn again that the Barsoomian Stantoneers are in danger of counteracting their own argument.

    That review was weak, sure. It was also much too short and inconsequential to get ones’ harness in such a bunch over.

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