Phil Normand of “Recoverings” on the John Carter Fiasco

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If you have never been to Phil Normand’s “Recoverings” — by all means click and visit because what you’ll find is a site, and an enterprise,  that is a true labor of love.  Here’s a brief description of what Phil does at Recoverings:

THIS is the premier site for high-quality replica and facsimile dust jackets for your Edgar Rice Burroughs collection. These jackets have been praised and added to collections all over the world.   Since 1999 I’ve been working to reconstruct the entire run of dust jackets for all the Edgar Rice Burroughs first editions. My reconstruction of the A.C. McClurg Tarzan of the Apes dust jacket is the only letterpress-printed facsimile of that piece and is printed on paper which matches the color and weight of the original first edition dust jacket. It is a true art-quality replica of the highly sought after dust jacket and comes comlete with a notice of authentication. You can read more about it here.

The reason I found myself thinking about Phil is that earlier today I was doing some research for John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood and I came upon an article in a google search entitled: “An Inside Look at the John Carter Fiasco and other things” so of course I clicked — and it  took me to  Phil’s blogsite where he has written a heartfelt and detailed piece on his reaction to “the John Carter fiasco”, including some discussion — almost  review, actually —  of how The John Carter Files has covered the story.   Here is the opening para of his article, and a link to the rest.

After having tried to write my thoughts about the JOHN CARTER movie, I’ve about given up. There is so much already out there on the web in the way of comment, most over the top both good and bad, and a lot less with anything really perceptive to say. Michael Sellers’ site,, is probably the best place overall for a balanced view. His recent three-part series, soon to be an e-book, goes in-depth on the missteps and unfortunate decisions that were made concerning the marketing of the movie and why it was, in all likelihood, allowed to sink on its own by Disney’s promotions department.  Read the rest.

FInally — I can’t resist sharing this header image from Phil’s site — it gives you a great feel for the enchantment that awaits you there:




  • Great article! Does a splendid job of respectfully and accurately summarizing the reactions to the film.

    He understands the heart of the ERB fans who are the most critical of the film, and yet doesn’t let them off the hook for the caustic language they sometimes use when sharing their opinions.

    “Part of this anger comes, I think, from the realization that a movie like this, intended to be the flagship of a franchise, that does badly at the box office and is denigrated critically, has very little chance, if any, of ever seeing the big screen again. It’s frustrating to wait 40 years for film technology to develop to the point where it is possible to depict a living, breathing Barsoom, and then have it miss the mark.
    Of course, supporters of the film will say that it didn’t miss the mark at all, and the disappointed will say that maybe half a loaf is better than nothing.”

    The end of the article is nearly perfect – “The movie’s supporters say, ‘sit back and enjoy it! It’s a fun sci-fi romp!’ Its detractors say, ‘If only…!'”

    Many of the supporters also say “if only…”, and thoroughly enjoy the film for what it is while also knowing what it could have been.

  • Sobering, even-handed, thoughtful and brief reaction to the fiasco. Alas, I had just ordered my dust jacket repro from ‘phantom’ for my old 1st edition PoM a few days ago – wish I’d have waited so as to support this site.

    As for Thernery and ‘trilogy-building’, it’s likely the multi-film story arc would have been coherent, given Stanton’s other films, but you can’t just spend $250M+ on a third of a story and it’s tragic how many other aspects of the film suffered for the Matai Shiang screentime. On rewatching, it occurs to me that one could easily remove Mark STrong from the film entirely and not really affect anything. Stanton could have kept his Thern groundwork without it bogging down everything else. Even in a re-edit of existing footage, the only time you really *have* to see Strong is when he sends Carter back to Earth —- but that could have been the first appearance of the character. The paralysis monologue could be trimmed down into something very surreal but still functional. There’s even a line where Dejah says ‘that brute figured it out first’, which is more than enough to back up the superfluous 9th Ray weaponry. Leaving the other brief, mysterious Thern appearances would have been more than adequate to set up whatever Stanton had planned. Everything could have breathed more, you could even keep the pace-killing Temple scene once you eliminate every other second of Strong. The result would have made his character far more interesting/impactful, too. The Third Man, anyone?

    Sure people would be wondering, who were those bald guys? But people ask that anyway, and it would have spared screentime to fit in a real attempt at making Sola’s heritage matter, give Tars Tarkas something(anything?) cool to do, maybe have DJC taming some Thoats with kindness, or any number of other crucial character or story beats.

    Apologies if that has been suggested before – Could have been a decent compromise for making a better standalone story while also mysteriously setting up whatever shape-shiftery they had planned for sequels.

    Regardless, any further Dust-jacket repros are coming from Recoverings. Cheers.

  • My compliments to Phil Normand for his balanced, thoughtful; and heartfelt comments. He sums up a number of issues very well. Personally, I am of the “if only” school, however I am not blind to the things that Stanton’s film does well. There are parts of it that I really enjoyed, even if I feel that the whole is not the sum of the parts. Even now, I find myself shaking my head at the critical and public reception tha JC received. The sheer vituperation that the film received from internet trolls disgusts and infuriates me. At the same time, I’m annoyed with Stanton for failing to realize the cinematic potential of ERB’s Barsoom and its characters.

  • Pascalahad wrote:
    “The “made for a trilogy” aproach hurts the movie a lot, in my opinion. I would have preferred a good solid stand-alone movie instead of introducing all these threads that were not garanteed to have their proper payoffs.”

    I agree! If this had been a stand alone film, without all the needless setup for a sequel, especially now that we know it’s a long shot, I might have been willing to overlook some of Stanton’s bull (even though the back story still needed to get the heave-ho).

  • I have a TON of respect and admiration for Andrew Stanton’s work, so my opinion will likely carry very little weight for some who show up here in the Comments section. Saying that, I have zero doubt that, if allowed to make 2nd and 3rd John Carter films, Stanton would win over many of the critics of the 1st film. Perhaps it WAS a mistake for Stanton to sprinkle so many elements throughout the 1st movie. Or maybe, as was the case for me, it helps draw people into the Carter world and makes them curious where all this is headed.

    I’m not an ERB junkie, nor familiar with all his Carter writings. I’m just a fan of movies, and every time I see the credits roll on John Carter I desperately want to see a sequel.

    For me, the Therns add mystery to the film. I want to see what Stanton has planned for the Therns in future films. And, as it has been mentioned a few times on this site, by the end of the film Carter becomes what he was portrayed as in ERB’s writings. I’d doubt there would ever be any more reference to his back story in future films.

  • The “made for a trilogy” aproach hurts the movie a lot, in my opinion. I would have preferred a good solid stand-alone movie instead of introducing all these threads that were not garanteed to have their proper payoffs.

  • I just read the article… I love how he describes how people have broadcasted their opinions on all sides. Beautifully written. I have to say, though, that the list of things he says are wrong with the film.. well, it was done as the start of a trilogy, and I would ‘t be so quick to criticize those elements until the entire arc of the story was told. It’s one of the reasons why I want those sequels SO badly. I want to see what Stanton, and the writers, were thinking when they setup the Therns like they did… and how they’ll handle more of the Thern’s sanctuary, what their approach would be for Issus, and how, or if, they’ll tackle the Black Pirates. So so much that I want to see. And it’s common knowledge that Stanton, and others who wrote they trilogy, are excellent story tellers.

    So what would Wall-E, or Finding Nemo have been like if they’d only shown 1/3 of those? Would they have seemed a mess? The huge story arc and episodic nature of the original John Carter stories was very difficult to bring to the screen. So I give them the full benefit of the doubt as I wait to see the rest of what they intended to bring to us.

  • This is really a perfect synthesis of all that is being discussed here! Great article!

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