Back to IndieWire

Is The Media Being Unfair To ‘John Carter’? Brad Bird Thinks So

Is The Media Being Unfair To 'John Carter'? Brad Bird Thinks So

With Disney‘s expensive, years-in-the-making adaptation of “John Carter” finally hitting theaters next week, the buzz has both been very loud, and not all positive either. Fanboys were miffed when Disney, in a bid to make the sci-fi movie more broadly appealing, changed the title from the original “John Carter of Mars” to simply “John Carter.” Rumors swirled of a massive $300 million budget, reshoots, and in recent weeks, soft tracking indicating the film may not be the blockbuster the studio is hoping for. But the filmmakers are starting to fight back. Director Andrew Stanton addressed the budget rumors calling them a “complete and utter lie” and today, the helmer’s Pixar pal Brad Bird (likely part of the braintrust who served as advisers on the film) hit Twitter to lash out at the media, and what he perceives as a tar and feather campaign against the picture.

“The showbiz press complains about big-budget sequels & remakes, but when a big NEW film like JOHN CARTER arrives, support is nonexistent,” he tweeted. Clarifying, he added, “I dont mean the ‘press’press…I mean the industry prognosticators who bagged on ‘Ratatouille,’ ‘Wall-E‘ & ‘Up‘ before they came out.” He also said, “The loudest complainers about JC haven’t seen it!”

Is there merit to Bird’s asessment? Perhaps, but he surely can’t be that naive about the way the blogosphere or movie marketing works in general? Disney has been pressing this movie hard since last July when the first teaser landed, with the film being further rolled out at D23 in August followed by an extensive New Yorker profile in October (recapped here, which outlined the details of the extensive reshoots and reshaping the film underwent since a rough cut was assembled and shown to Pixar in December 2010). The entire point of that early press? To get people talking about the film, and if that talk has been unimpressed, it speaks to the quality of the campaign, not necessarily that of the film. 

In fact, one follower commented on this, and here’s Bird’s response: “@tombrazelton: Disney’s done a poor job communicating what the film is.’ Epic sci-fi fantasy from the creators of TARZAN and FINDING NEMO.” But again, that really does not say much about the film, and Bird tries to position the film in another tweet: “It’s the first big movie adaptation of a classic series of novels. Many filmmakers have tried.” But again, whether it has succeeded in that regard remains to be seen. People decide what movies to go see based on trailers, stills or other marketing material, and if they don’t like what they see, or they aren’t moved by it, they “complain” or instead, just don’t go.

” ‘@CoreyAtad: The press loves failure. It’s why they go super negative before every new [James] Cameron film.’ Yet we never see them eat super crow,” Bird responded to another follower. The overall tone of the tweets suggets that some (not all) sections of press or blogosphere or whatever are cynical enough to root for a movie to bomb. And that’s just not accurate. Most (reputable) movie writers do it because they love the medium and always want to see good work, however, no movie — big or small — gets a pass based on good intent or simply on the merits of not being a sequel or remake. And yes, early opinions are formed based on what is advertised (sorry, “Battleship” still looks terrible).

The ultimate success of “John Carter” will have little to do with the numerous chatter about the flim beforehand (most of which, the general moviegoing public generally ignores or does not take part in) but in the results on the screen. Reviews will start coming in next week and advance word has been mixed, with some (mostly geek centered) quarters trumpeting the film. But what audiences think, and when they go to Mars on March 9th, how they feel when the lights go up, will be all that matters.

This Article is related to: News and tagged ,


Martin Brossman

I think it all started when Disney, in a bid to make the sci-fi movie more broadly appealing, changed the title from the original "John Carter of Mars" to simply "John Carter."

Instead of embracing the history and influence of the book series John Carter of Mars. Disney seemed to run from it and still is. They did enough damage with a poor marketing campaign that the reviewers just was the icing on the cake. Disney still has not learned from this other then it was a "bad ides to make the movie" which was wrong. It was bad marketing that did not see the gold in front of them and still does not. Disney, you have a 100 years of history you can use in the marketing of "John Carter OF MARS" how did you miss that????? Is anyone at home?


Loved the movie I can't wait to see it on 3d Blu Ray!! I hope their is a part 2,3 and 4!!


John Carter was a wonderful film that died at the box office due to poor marketing and advertising. I have seen the film on many occasions with both family and friends who absolutely loved the film! It was a beautiful story and had an incomparable cast! The characters were all fantastic. It was just an extremely well made and directed film. A story that you want to go back to time and time again. There is a huge fan base all over the world for John Carter.. If Disney had not mishandled the marketing of this film, if people had actually known what John Carter was about, if there had actually been proper advertising of this film, John Carter would have definitely exceeded box office performance!! DISNEY: TAKE US BACK TO BARSOOM! WE WANT A JOHN CARTER SEQUEL!


People really don´t what they are missing because of pure prejudice. It´s an amazing story. The actors are great, it´s fun, the effects are just awesome. It has a sense of wonder most of the films don´t have anymore. It´s my loss too since the moment the film ended I thought "I want more". I want to go back to Barsoom and see what happens next. Go and see the movie, have fun, let us know what you think, but please, a sincere opinion based on the real deal. If you like it…there is a facebook group, a web, people really love this movie and want more!


You said "But what audiences think, and when they go to Mars on March 9th, how they feel when the lights go up, will be all that matters." AS it turned out the audiences that saw the film loved the film, but the bad media, the lack of promotion, the name change all lead to small numbers. It didn't help when Disney it self announced 10 days after opening that the film was a flop and was being forced to to take a $200 million write down. The buzz became the movie is a flop, don't go see it. Why would Disney try and sink their own movie? That's the question that should be asked. If you haven't seen John Carter, give it chance. It comes out on DVD June 5, 2012


Sadly, the ultimate lack of success of John Carter, in the US anyway, had everything to do with the bad press the film received, coupled with the shoddy marketing. People here just didn't go see it, so the amount of positive word-of-mouth that could have saved it and brought it the success it deserved never happened. People listened to critics instead of forming their own opinions. How tragic to be in a society where people can't think for themselves anymore. Now there are swarms of people out there talking John Carter down who have never seen the film. Parrots parroting other parrots with none of their own first-hand experience or knowledge to back them up. How pitiful is that!


It reminds me of Star Wars Episode II: all special effects, annoying characters, lame ass plot. But I guess we'll just see…


I worked on this film and I saw it today at a cast and crew preview. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but please give this film a chance and actually watch it first!


"The overall tone of the tweets suggets that some (not all) sections of press or blogosphere or whatever are cynical enough to root for a movie to bomb. And that's just not accurate. "

Oh, bless your heart. If only that were true. Have you seen the IMDB boards? The fans there have had to invent a new word for the people who exist just to crow about the possible failure of a film: floptrolls.

There are people (many of them bloggers and Tweeters) who have been gunning hard for this movie to fail since it was greenlit. There are literally hundreds of people online who were gleefully predicting its failure before a single frame from the film was ever seen in public. I don't disagree that the marketing department dropped the ball on this one, but I also think you're thinking everyone is as nice and fair-minded as you are, Kevin, and that's just not so.

Gordon McAlpin

It might be of interest to some readers that @tombrazelton is Tom Brazelton, the creator of Theater Hopper (, a long-running (and very funny) movie-themed webcomic.

Tycho Brahe

It says "The ultimate success of John Carter will have little to do with the numerous chatter about the film beforehand…" which is simply wrong. How something is presented affects every aspect of it's success. I personally believe when any film generates this much hype beforehand, whether negative or positive, it's a good thing. Lots of attention of any kind will mean lots of views. Lots of views of course means money. I feel like John Carter will quite probably make a lot of money at the box office, but, that's not to say it will be a good movie. This goes against earlier statements, but I've put a little more thought into it.


How does it look awful? The special effects look freaking amazing !! In this day and age people have become the spoiled , I want it now, nothing is good enough, snob generation.
I want to round all of you up and only make the B- movie sci-fi crap from the 80s early 90s available to you. After a decade of that come back and tell me what you think. If the story has a decent translation from the novels it is going to be good. Honestly if you cannot enjoy a movie with aliens, super human abilities , and a hero saving everyone then maybe the Sci-fi genera is not for you, go rent a drama or a romantic comedy .


I think everyone should just zip it and go see the film March 9th. I'm a big kid and a huge fan of the books. It's going to be good.


If the trailers don't do it for you, they don't do it for you. End of story. But don't hate on it any more than you have to. Life's too short. I, for instance, LOVE David Lynch's Dune. I think that movie is excellent and vastly underrated. I hope that this film is as good as that film. If that means it'll get dragged through the mud for years to come, so be it. I hope it doesn't ruin a good director's career, but at the end of the day, as long as I have the movie, and that movie's good, that's all I care about. Haters be damned.


Flash forward to June. "Taylor Kitsch: One of the biggest Superstars in the world, or undergoing tsunami backlash?" Last chance to place your bets.


Been following the movie for years because I like Lynn Collins and want her to do well. But this just plain looks awful to me.

Hombre Gato

I think you've got something backwards. It's the geek centered crowd that's been most vocally negative. The average person looks at a John Carter Superbowl spot and sees a big dumb action film easily digestible by the masses. Problem is, that's also what's being detected by fans of the series, lovers of science fiction with depth, and the action enthusiasts who continue to be fatigued by unrealistic CG creatures operating too close to the screen.

Film and Sci-fi buffs (or snobs depending on your point of view) are the ones most likely to become journalists in those realms, and the rest are venting on Reddit with good reason. They love the story and they love Andrew Stanton, but they hate that which is made for the lowest common denominator. Disney's John Carter looks like a trashy spectacle. The marketing campaign reminds me of how I felt when Green Lantern rolled out.

In that case it wasn't a poor representation of the film, it was a spot on indicator.


I don't see what's wrong with a writer, or groups of writers for a paper/blog/website, giving their opinion on a movie before seeing it. There have been trailers, stills, scripts, budget numbers already reported on. Before any of these the producing team, cast and studio behind the film were known, their histories known. And dozens of movies in the past two years alone with a similar "look" to put it simply.
There is very little that excites me about this movie. If the reviews somehow turn out positive (to go along with audiences having enjoyed the movie) maybe I'd go see it. But John Carter of Mars just doesn't do it for me. Also, I'd avoid the word 'audience' and use 'audiences' because tastes vary greatly. I still go see movies based on trusting certain actors, directors, etc.

Pissing and moaning on twitter doesn't help my impression of this film. No one owes JCOM any "support". It's not a person. It's a movie, whose budget may be absurd if not reckless.
I'd much rather go see Safe House, or The Grey, or see another movie other than this one. I'm pretty confident I won't enjoy it, so if I had my own publication I'd have that opinion. I don't have to rate this movie with others opening this week or in the next few weeks during its theatre run. I can spend the 2 hours elsewhere.

That said, I've seen thePlaylist go the other way after seeing certain films they didn't trust before hand. And they've given credit where it was due.
It's not just John Carter. I don't trust the Star Trek series, the Marvel movies, Sherlock Holmes. I trust Pirates of the Caribbean more than these, if you want another tentpole mass-market-movie to compare. It's just tastes.

If the budget is half of what is reported, this movie has already failed. And probably cost talented people the opportunity to produce something new, and cost us viewers the chance to see that $150-300million spent elsewhere.


KAK is right, Playlist. Why are you not saying that early reviews have been very good. Your're biased?


in a perfect world, people would only talk about the movies they like and simply ignore the ones they don't. speaking negatively about something serves no purpose. i agree with Mr. Bird that most blogs (and indeed most "nerds" in general) have a tendency to demonstrate a lack of intelligent discourse. things are either "amazing" or they "suck." it's either a zero or a ten. a good critic should be able to dissect something without feeling the need to express his or her opinion as to whether they "liked" it or not. I like plenty of bad movies and I hate plenty of good ones. my opinion has nothing to do with a film's quality or lack thereof.


Responses so far have bordered on ridiculously positive, to mildly-positive. I haven't actually seen any proper negative reviews yet.

And yes, it is true. People do love to see things fall, the bigger the better. Big budget films naturally make the easiest targets. All Internet journalists’ mouths will be salivating if John Carter disappoints, including yours.

This article is very ironic, because you’re doing exactly what Bird is saying, albeit it much more subtly.


"The ultimate success of "John Carter" will have little to do with the numerous chatter about the film beforehand"

Bull crap. Plenty of movies have died before they ever hit the box office, because bad marketing and negative media speculation diminished the opening weekend numbers.


Of course Brad Bird is going to defend his buddy, Andrew Stanton . I agree the media feeds on negativity like vultures, but if this film is horrible – you can only blame Mr. Stanton.


You know you're completely talking out of your ass when you say there aren't large sections of the media (on the internet) who don't take glee in the failure of movies.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *