No, its not going to happen (Disney simply lost waaay too much money on the first film to even think about doing a second), but Taylor Kitsch, the star of the mega-bomb offered a couple of brief and interesting comments about the film, and how the script to the sequel was, in his opinion, very good:
I have to admit to being curious about the continued interest people (myself included!) have in John Carter, now two years removed from its infamous release and flop.
I’m fascinated by the creative personalities involved, the money spent, and the sense of doom that permeated the entire project seemingly at every stage of its creation. Having seen it after its release, I stand by the closing lines of my (mildly belated) review of the film:
(John Carter) is a pleasant enough time killer with some good humor and some impressive set pieces but, and its a very BIG “but”, given the film’s costs, it could and should have been so much more.
While John Carter may well have been a film that didn’t deserve the incredible negativity it received prior to -and during- its release, in the end the movie was little more than slightly above average. Yes, it was a very handsome looking action film and yes, the effects were quite impressive. But on the negative side, the two leads shared very little onscreen chemistry (sexual or otherwise) and the villains and their motivations were never all that well defined.
Yes, author Edgar Rice Burroughs essentially created many of what are now sci-fi adventure tropes with his Mars series and it is sad when people look at some of the goings on in John Carter and complain the movie “ripped off” elements from other, more popular, movies (when the reality is quite the opposite!), but the reality remains what I said above.
And yet…if the film hadn’t been such a bust, I have to admit being curious to see a potential sequel. For all its faults, John Carter was probably as close to Burrough’s vision as you’re likely to find.
Has there been a movie that received as much bad press as 2012’s John Carter?
Based on the 1912 novel A Princess of Mars by author Edgar Rice Burroughs (his most famous creation, of course, is Tarzan), the movie was released earlier this year and proved a massive flop. It cost in the neighborhood of $250 million to make (not including marketing, which I’ll return to in a moment) and its worldwide take was a decent, but far from good considering the costs, $179 million. The losses from this Disney production’s release resulted in the resignation of a chairman within the company.
The fact is that the film appeared doomed almost from the beginning. Word leaked early on in the production that there were problems. There was whispers of dissatisfaction from the studio regarding the work in progress. There was also word of reshoots and rumors that Andrew Stanton, the director of the film who was best known for his computer animated Pixar work, was in over his head with actual human actors.
When the film neared actual release, I had the feeling potential audiences already were poisoned against the movie. These opinions certainly weren’t helped by the film’s very bland title (the studios appeared worried mentioning “Mars” in the title would turn off the already turned off audiences) and a truly inept advertising campaign. In fact, the later may well have been the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
Yet as the film was released and proved a financial calamity for Disney, I couldn’t help but notice that despite the massive disinterest shown by audiences, the reviews of the film weren’t all that…awful. True, the film polled at a mediocre 52% among critics at Rottentomatoes.com, but it held a higher 64% among the audiences that bothered to see the film.
So I wondered: Was the film unfairly condemned? Did it deserve a better fate? Were potential audiences wrong in turning their backs?
I was curious to find out. I missed the film in theaters but when it arrived on home video, I gave it a look. So, what did I see? In brief, a good, though not great adventure film.
To begin, John Carter is gorgeous to look at. The visuals are quite impressive and I felt the filmmakers most certainly captured the “look” of the Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novels. The computer generated effects are, for the most part, seamless. The alien creatures look quite real, and Taylor Kitsch looks good as John Carter and Lynn Collins looks equally good as Dejah Thoris, the Princess of Mars.
Unfortunately, that the best thing I can say about them. As handsome as the two actors are in the title roles, they really lack chemistry. I always felt that one of the things that made the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs so successful, apart from the obvious pulp adventures presented, was the sexuality. Both Tarzan and the Mars series featured brawny, swashbucking men’s men and incredibly beautiful women in peril. As readers we longed for Tarzan to get Jane. In the Mars series, we longed for John Carter to marry Dejah Thoris.
But in this film, the sexuality is toned waaaay down. As I said before, part of the problem is that the actors lack chemistry. The other part, I suspect, is that the producers/director really clamped down on the sexuality. For most of the movie John Carter and Dejah Thoris show little interest in each other, it seemed, and certainly nowhere near the sexual tension present between Tarzan and Jane in films from the 1930’s.
There is also so much going on that I couldn’t help but wonder just how much was cut. The character of Sola, for example, accompanies Carter and Thoris for the middle section of the film on but is relegated to being such a minor character with so few lines of worth that one wonders why they even bothered having her in the film at all. The movie features three main “villains”, but once again very little is shown of them and when two meet their fate, one feels little satisfaction that the villain(s) got what was coming to them.
I suspect that John Carter was a victim of a combination of factors, from studio interference to director inexperience to an underdeveloped script. The actors, I felt, did what they could and weren’t bad in their roles, though I suppose an argument could be made that the two leads failed to register enough chemistry between them.
And yet, having said all that, the film is not the disaster audiences suspected it would be. It is a pleasant enough time killer with some good humor and some impressive set pieces but, and its a very BIG “but”, given the film’s costs, it could and should have been so much more. On a four star scale, I’d give John Carter 2 1/2 stars.
Interesting (and fairly brief) article from CNN regarding Disney chairman Rich Ross resigning from his position as chairman at Walt Disney Studios after the film John Carter cost the studio a $200 million dollar loss:
I suppose someone’s head had to roll after the failure of that movie.
The film’s score on RottenTomatoes.com was a very mediocre 51% among critics yet a decent enough 68% positive among audiences (read that here). While these results may not be superb, one can’t help but wonder why the film seemed to keep people away in droves.
Looking over the comments in that article, there is much speculation about why the film failed. Some felt that the movies massive $100 million marketing campaign was to blame, that they hadn’t even heard of the film until it was out and/or gone. Others speculated that the film was hampered by using unknown actors instead of more recognizable faces. Still others felt the fault lay in the very bland name of the film.
But the one thing I noted was that several posted comments, by people who appeared to have avoided the film entirely, noted that the whole thing looked silly and/or stupid.
The film’s failure can probably be attributed to all those things listed above, but I believe it is that last element that truly sealed the movie’s fate. I recall rumors seeped out well before the film was released that Disney Studio heads were uneasy about the movie, even as they pumped massive amounts of money into its budget. There was the feeling at least to me, that this film had the potential to be very bad. When the promotional material finally came along, an already bad situation got worse. Posters for the film were bland, plain and, frankly, underwhelming. The theatrical trailers, likewise, were uninspired. They didn’t give one much reason to think the final product was worth going to.
By that point, the early unease about John Carter became something much worse. With the combination of rumors and at best mediocre advertisement, audiences now anticipated a bad film. Not surprisingly, they were thus unwilling to spent their hard earned money on it, even in spite of early, generally positive audience reactions. Nothing could convince many to give the movie a chance, something I still see reflected in some of the comments on that CNN article website.
I suppose the bottom line is this: The studios need to try their best to keep any –any– negative early word from leaving their doors and making its way to the internet (I know, just about impossible to do). And if you’re going to spent $100 million on advertising your product, then make sure the firm you hired and spent that much money on actually does this well.
I suppose all this is easier said than done, hindsight is 20/20, and all those other cliches. Regardless, I still scratch my head at how colossal a failure this film proved to be, especially when, in the end, it doesn’t seem like it was all that terrible to begin with.