When I’m skimming through my Tweets to see which lead to articles worth reading, some titles jump out at me. Such as: “Why Disney Is Fighting with Redbox and Netflix Over A Film No One Wanted To See.” Yeah, you guessed it, it’s another John Carter post.
Now, I realize that it’s important for media to choose headlines that attract attention; seeing “Redbox and Netflix Jumping Disney’s 28-Day Rental Ban” is not going to snag the kind of viewership/readers that the article needs. But it’s irritating to see the film continually denigrated because, no, it wasn’t that bad. Not as bad as Prometheus, the end result of putting a cerebral horror-thriller and a psychological discourse on science in a blender: a thick paste that’s not what either side expected. No, it wasn’t Avengers good, either; it didn’t have the same marketing hype, four lead-in movies, years of viewer expectations, decades of comic fan history, and thus didn’t generate the same level of income. Small wonder.
I guess my problem is that reviewers and critics demonize the film, to an unwarranted degree. Did people call the Star Wars prequels movies that nobody wanted to see; I don’t remember. Though, while they might not be films “nobody wanted to see”—what kind of cultural reprobate wouldn’t want to see more Star Wars?—the actual real-world executions were things every good nerd wanted to un-see. (The second two films at least had some pretty action sequences; the first one had Jar Jar Binks, Ethnic Stereotype, doing slapstick in a poorly-rendered CGI battle. Meesa wanna forgetta thata, Annie.) Rather than stand up for a passable film, the film’s now a given target, something you can freely bag on without fear of another critic calling you on your decisions.
Of course, looking at the comments section, which is near-unanimous support for the film, does make me feel a bit better. (Until you see the old armchair general grognards complaining that Dejah Thoris had too much clothes on; for all the female empowerment the film tried, that kind of antiquated casual misogyny makes me weep.) I guess that’s what matters: the people who saw it are ravenous in their support. When a film “nobody saw” made $282,584,435 worldwide, despite the worst marketing campaign since the Edsel was a no-go, it becomes clear: it’s less about how many people saw it, and less about the percent of viewers who liked it, and more the fact that the hyper-inflated $250m budget and total lack of support killed the movie. And I’m not sure how that correlates to the film being “bad.”
Though, seriously, where the hell was it all: John Carter the kids meal, John Carter the action figure, John Carter the nerf gun, John Carter the bedsheets, John Carter the flamethrower… You know damn well that those awesome Barsoomian fliers in 12″ plastic form would sell like hotcakes, and who wouldn’t want a stuffed Woola?
Other than that, the article’s point—movie companies have a 28-day (4-week) delay period before their media can be uploaded to Redbox and Netflix rental centers, and both of those companies jumped the gun, allowing people to rent John Carter well in advance, irking Disney—was enlightening. (Related to the above: nobody wanted to see it, yet two companies jumped the waiting list to rent it?) Given the options for cloud streaming and easy DVD rentals, it’s obvious why DVD sales are going down; on top of which, Blu-Ray has split the market segment. I’m in the group who’d rather just stream/cloud everything instead of buying a third hard-copy media edition of, say, Jurassic Park or Independence Day. (And just think, there are people who bought into the HD-DVD thing, or Laserdiscs (which I admit I still think are kinda cool), or those little movie discs for your PSP: no matter how many media players you own, how many copies of Full Metal Jacket do you really need?)
To be honest, I think the smart, future-thinking companies would come up with deals with someone like Netflix to get their product out before it’s even in the stores, the way some record labels get albums streaming on Spotify on the same day they release as CDs. Why fight the losing battle of DVD sales when you can give Netflix the option buy expensive but exclusive streaming rights to your product for a limited time (4-6 months), saving your warehousing and distribution and other hard media costs, and do so before anyone else can get their hands on said product (be it Redbox or Best Buy)?