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.
Before you say that we're talking about the press obliterating John Carter, not the suits, you have to understand that 90% of the industry reporters in this town take their stories directly from marketing and executives. Disney was especially active in throwing Stanton under every single available bus. 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? Hollywood industry reporting always, always, always sides with the executives because numbers are quantifiable - the Times can declare a movie a winner or a loser based on box office - while art is much harder to nail down. Most of the industry reporters don't know jack shit about what makes a movie good in the first place, and I'm convinced most don't actually care.
The real tragedy of this, in my opinion, is that John Carter isn't a bad movie. It has problems, but it's not bad. But the stink of death that the mainstream media has put on the film means it's going to be languishing for years and years as an untouchable film. Maybe cable broadcast will help people see that it's not a bad movie after all, but I believe that it's going to be five or ten years before people actually bother reevaluating the film and figuring out that it's well made and didn't deserve all the hate.