Review: John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood — From “Pulp Fiction Reviews”
I realize that as a general rule, readers here have seen enough of the reviews of John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood so I’m not reposting them all here. But Ron Fortier at “Pulp Fiction Reviews” has written one that resonates, not so much for what it says specifically about the book — but more because of how he evokes the experience that so many of us went through as we saw John Carter (of Mars) finally make it to the screen, only to fail, and then to realize, gradually, the totality of the system failures that were visited upon this cherished piece of literature in its journey to the screen.
Here’s the review. I have some comments but I’ll put them in the comment section after others have had a chance to read it.
REVIEW : JOHN CARTER AND THE GODS OF HOLLYWOOD
By Michael D. Sellers
Every now and then I’ll read a book and then find myself debating whether to review it here and share my thoughts with all of you. I do my best to keep these reviews dedicated to pulp “fiction” but regular followers know I have dealt with non-fiction titles in the past; especially those I felt had a strong connection to pulp literature. That this book is all about the movie version of “A Princess of Mars,” by the greatest pulp writer of them all, Edgar Rice Burroughs, qualifies it above and beyond my parameters for this review column.
No, the reason I was having doubts about reviewing this book are my own personal feelings of animosity towards many of the people who were a part of one of the most disastrous Hollywood marketing fiascos of all time. It is book that details catastrophic incompetence among so many high ranking Disney executives one is left marveling how such a great movie as “John Carter,” ever got made in the first place. It also turns the spotlight on the heroes of this epic calamity; the few with the courage of their convictions and the daring audacity to see it finished. All this despite the selfish individuals determined to see them fail to the point of spreading lies to their cronies; unscrupulous movie critics eager for any scrap of negativity to enhance their own lackluster careers.
Ron Fortier’s favorite chapter is also my favorite. How far Disney has come since its inception… The “curse” was broken thanks to a tiny window of opportunity, Dick Cook being the old-school head of studio, perhaps akin to the Alan Ladd jr of old that greenlit and supported Star Wars all the way, even during the dark times when his executives at Fox just wanted to shut down the production altogether… Considering the circumstances it’s kind of a small miracle that this movie was made at all.
We have what we have. Not all the magic is there, that’s true, but the movie somewhat creates a magic of its own. In a way I find comfort in that. The universe of the books is still exclusive to the books. Some of it is in the movie. But my mind’s Carter still doesn’t look like Taylor Kitsch, and my mind’s Dejah is not Lynn Collins. But boy would have I liked to hang around Carter’s office in the movie and look at all those artifacts!
Hmmm….here’s the exchange that got “Jay” banned. Jay marshalls his argument pretty aggressively, but still. . . . .never had to ban anyone here.
The argument you seem to be making is that Disney green lit the project and then actively tried to destroy. Never mind the fact that the Mouse gave a director with no live-action experience an exorbitant budget, made no attempt to oversee Stanton’s project or rein him in, and marketed it cryptically per his instruction. Prerelease projections were not rosy, and Disney under a law Sellers ignores–Sarbanes-Oxley–had to declare its losses so shareholders could make an educated decision on what to do with their stocks based on Disney’s financial report at the end of 2012 Q1–something the movie’s more rabid fans refuse to acknowledge. I’m sorry, but Sellers and his fans may have constructed a fantasy universe wherein a massive corporation like Disney thinks it’s good business to destroy a $350 million investment. That doesn’t match reality though. John Carter of Mars failed for a myriad of reasons. A shadowy cabal led by Disney brass wasn’t one except in a universe filled with gray alien abductions and black helicopters.
Ron Fortier said…
Jay, Sellers list dates and numbers from the start, people being hired, who had no clue what their product was, then being fired willy-nilly. Your defense of these people is baseless, refusing to see that all of them, from Ron Ross on down had a very real reason of self-interest to see the film flop. Period.
I may not be a Hollywood mogul, but I know the first rule of Marketing…KNOW YOUR PRODUCT. And no one, one one individual at Disney Marketing bothered to even look up the book this film was based on, let alone read it. DUH. My Marketing Professor, would have given them all an F. Instead they put it on Stanton, who was only person in this tale doing what he was hired to do in the first place. To bad nobody else did.
That’s nowhere close to true, nor a reasonable facsimile of reality. Disney hired a marketing team for John Carter of Mars, but Stanton shot down ideas via–this is a direct quote–a “death by a thousand cuts.” He had the idea that the movie should be marketed to “preserve the mystery,” resulting in a muddled marketing campaign that failed to gin up widespread audience interest. He famously quipped about he and his crew were directing the movie better than live-action crews. It doesn’t look to me as if Stanton understood his own product. Word of mouth–which had been enough to render previous critically excoriated films Titanic and Casino Royale massively profitable–failed to materialize for Stanton’s at best middling effort. This Area 51-level conspiracy theory where Bob Iger, Rich Ross, and Co. sat down and decided to do their best to destroy a $350 million investment for reasons discernible only by those who know what David Rockefeller, the New World Order, and the Bildeburg Group have planned for world do,inaction exists nowhere but in the minds of Stanton and like minded fanboys justifiably chagrined their favorite movie failed. It’s no more real than ERB’s Barsoom. Disney is a corporation which under the federal law known as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act must periodically inform shareholders of potential profit losses. As such, it has no incentive to see any of its films–particularly a high-profile project such as John Carter of Mars–fail. What happened was that Stanton didn’t make movie with mass appeal and overreached, doing exactly as he liked free of Disney’s oversight. The result was a disaster. Stanton didn’t understand his product, and the results were to be expected. Stanton’s sole purpose in writing that book was to place the onus for the movie’s failure on the shoulders of everyone involved lacking the initials AS. His tome is a fan boy’s adulatory wet dream of Stanton’s apparent infallibility and the eeeeeeeeeeeeeevil corporate heads at Disney who for some reason wanted to potentially hurt their corporation’s profitability and possibly famous mammoth fines and lengthy prison sentences under federal law to destroy a massive investment. There is no reality to this view. It’s simply a conspiracy theory dreamed up by someone who can’t take the fact that the whole world didn’t cotton to this movie as he did.
Ron Fortier said…
Jay, you can spin your wheels as long as you like but what you keep ignoring, most likely on purpose, is the end result being, JOHN CARTER is a damn good movie. Its quite obvious to me you disagree with that and can thereby defend these negative critiques which are totally bogus.
Sellers NEVER ONCE charges any conspiracy, that’s your phrase here, again, defending people who did have clear cut, logical reasons for allowing this movie to fail…without an serious reason to believe they would ever be jailed for their actions. God, I can’t believe you said that. Anyways, this is where your rant ends. Sorry you didn’t like the movie, but millions of others did and you are wrong. Any further postings from you will be deleted. I’d strongly suggest you go write your own review, I’m sure the big-wigs at Disney would get appreciate your loyalty.
Reading the comments section the guy sounds like a bit of a nut to me. It’s one thing to be disappointed with what happened to the movie but the guy just goes overboard with the anger.
He accuses Disney executives of deliberately sabotaging the movie and profiting from it and than completely loses his cool at the one poster who disagreed with his view that the film was sabotaged and banned him from posting again.
I would ask him how Rich Ross benefited from this film failing (as he claims in one of his replies to a comment) when he lost his job because of it. But it’s quite obvious he’s not interested in any other viewpoints unlike this blog.
What was Disney’s objective in making this film? Was it a profit making exercise; was it a vehicle to get Stanton involved in live action movies and repay him for past favors;was it a loss making endeavor to introduce the characters to modern audiences and start a series or was it a combination of all three. I tend to think it was a combination but with the changes in personnel other factors were introduced which led to the disastrous result covered in Michael’s book and this review.
Look that’s fine if the guy loves ERB and this movie but I’ve see quite a few “fans” of ERB who just nitpick everything he did while they would defend Stanton no matter how bad his ideas were. The infallible Andrew defense.
Burroughs had his flaws, I’ll admit to it but so did Stanton. But his worshippers can’t admit it. If they did it might not be that big an issue. As for the review it was OK and at least written by an ERB fan even if I do disagree with him.
There’s a lot about this review that struck me . . . . I’ll start with the fact that the author seems to be able to truly cherish Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom series . . . . and at the same time truly appreciate and cherish Andrew Stanton’s movie. This is something that has somehow gotten lost as, over time, the dialogue has gotten so damned polarized here and elsewhere. It’s kind of gotten to the point that you can’t claim true allegiance to ERB unless you find great fault with Stanton’s movie. I’ve even migrated in that direction a bit, after initially being more generous.
Who was it who said the thing about a dog walking on its hind legs is not that he doesn’t do it well . . . it’s that he does it at all. I think there were some of us who were so aware of the 100 year “curse” and all the near misses, that when it did finally get here, and it contained some of the magic of ERB, that was a cause for celebration. No — it didn’t contain all of the magic, and some decisions were bad ones. But that was Barsoom up there on the screen . . . . all the characters that had been rattling around in my brain were there . . . . at this moment, after reading what he had to say and thinking about it, I’m taken back to that initial feeling of appreciation that we even got this much . . . .and dismay at how it was handled.