John Carter (film)

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John Carter
John carter poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Andrew Stanton
Produced by
Screenplay by
Based on A Princess of Mars 
by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Starring
Music by Michael Giacchino
Cinematography Dan Mindel
Edited by Eric Zumbrunnen
Production
company
Distributed by Walt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures
Release dates
  • March 7, 2012 (2012-03-07) (France[1])
  • March 9, 2012 (2012-03-09) (United States)
Running time
132 minutes[2]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $250–306.6 million ($263.7 million after tax credit)[3][4]
Box office $284.1 million[5]

John Carter is a 2012 American science fictionfantasy film directed by Andrew Stanton from a screenplay written by Stanton, Mark Andrews, and Michael Chabon. The film was produced by Jim Morris, Colin Wilson, and Lindsey Collins, and is based on A Princess of Mars, the first book in the Barsoom series of novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs. John Carter stars Taylor Kitsch in the title role, Lynn Collins, Samantha Morton, Mark Strong, Ciarán Hinds, Dominic West, James Purefoy, and Willem Dafoe. The film chronicles the first interplanetary adventure of John Carter and his attempts to mediate civil unrest amongst the warring kingdoms of Barsoom.

Several developments on a theatrical film adaptation of the Barsoom series emerged throughout the 20th century from various major studios and producers, with the earliest attempt dating back to the 1930s. Most of these efforts, however, ultimately stalled in development hell. In the late-2000s, Walt Disney Pictures began a concerted effort to develop a film adaptation of Burroughs' works, after a previously-abandoned venture by the studio in the 1980s. The project was driven by Stanton, who had pressed Disney to renew the screen rights from the Burroughs estate. Stanton became director in 2009; his live-action debut, as his previous directorial work included the Pixar Animation Studios films, Finding Nemo (2003) and WALL-E (2008).[6][7] Filming began in November 2009, with principal photography underway in January 2010, wrapping seven months later in July 2010.[8][9] Michael Giacchino composed the film's musical score.[10]

John Carter was released in the United States on March 9, 2012, marking the centennial of the titular character's first appearance. The film was presented in Disney Digital 3-D, RealD 3D, IMAX 3D, and conventional formats.[11][12][13] Upon release, John Carter received a mixed critical reception; receiving praise for its visuals and action sequences, but criticism towards the characterization and plot. The film performed poorly at the North American box office, although it did show strength overseas, particularly in Russia where it set box office records.[14] It grossed $284 million at the worldwide box office, resulting in a $200 million writedown for Disney, against total production and marketing costs of $350 million.[15]

Plot[edit]

In 1881, Edgar Rice Burroughs attends the funeral of his uncle, John Carter, a former American Civil War Confederate Army captain, who died suddenly. The body is put in a tomb unlockable only from the inside. The attorney executing the will hands Burroughs Carter's journal, which he reads, hoping to find clues about Carter's death and the reason he is the willed heir. The bulk of the film enacts what Burroughs reads.

While prospecting in the Arizona Territory in 1868, just after the Civil War, Carter is arrested by Union Colonel Powell, who seeks his help in fighting the Apache and insists that Carter owes it to his country. Carter refuses, stating that any debt was paid when he lost his family. Carter escapes from his cell but is pursued by Powell and his cavalry. After encountering a band of Apaches, Carter and the wounded Powell take refuge in a cave, which turns out to be the object of Carter's earlier search: the "Spider Cave of Gold". A mysterious priestly being, a Thern, appears in the cave at that moment, and surprised by Carter's presence, immediately attacks him with a knife; Carter kills him but accidentally activates the Thern's powerful medallion, and is unwittingly transported to the ruined and dying planet of Barsoom, later revealed to be Mars.

Due to Barsoom's low gravity and his own relatively high bone density, Carter is able to perform incredible jumps and feats of strength. He is captured by the Tharks, a clan of four-armed Green Martians led by their "Jeddak" (chieftain), Tars Tarkas. Tars instructs Sola to watch over Carter, leading to her feeding him a liquid that enables him to understand the Martians' language.

Elsewhere on Barsoom, the human Red Martian city of Helium, led by Thardos Mors, and the Walking City of Zodanga, led by the villainous Sab Than (Dominic West), have been at war for a thousand years. Sab Than, who wants to conquer all Barsoom, is armed with a special and highly destructive weapon given him by three Therns in the midst of a ship-to-ship close quarters combat, which the weapon ends by annihilating all the other participants. Sab Than proposes a cease-fire with Helium and an end to the war, sealed by marriage to Mors' daughter, the Princess of Helium Dejah Thoris. The unwilling Princess, disguised as a soldier, escapes in a Helium ship.

As Tars Tarkas tries to get John Carter to show off his jumping abilities, a Thark sentry spots a ship from Helium and another from Zodanga, and the Tharks scatter to hide. Carter races into action and leaps to save the human Dejah from falling. He kills some Zodangan soldiers and briefly fights with Sab Than. Than's ship retreats and John Carter is hailed by Tars Tarkas as "Dotar Sojat" (roughly translatable as "My Right Arms"), for his strength and skill. Tarkas even grants him Dejah as part of the Thark spoils. Later, Carter, accompanied by Dejah, tries to find a way to get back to Earth, and stumbles upon a temple ruin sacred to the Tharks; Sola encounters them there and vainly tries to stop them from entering. They discover an inscription depicting a way to Earth in the sacred river of Iss, before Carter, Dejah, and Sola are caught by Sarkoja and Tal Hajus. The three are sentenced to death according to the Thark code, but are helped to escape by Tars Tarkas, who reveals to Carter that Sola is his daughter. Tal Hajus and Sarkoja find the prisoners gone, and the ambitious Hajus declares that Tarkas has betrayed them.

Carter, Dejah, Sola, and Woola (a "Calot" - a large creature that resembles an amphibian and behaves like a loyal dog) embark on a quest to end of the sacred river to find a way home for Carter. They discover clues to the "ninth ray", a means of accessing infinite energy and the key to understanding how the medallion works. They are attacked by the Green Martian Clan of Warhoon, who have been manipulated by Matai Shang to pursue them as part of Sab Than's latest plan. After initially fleeing, Carter sends the others away and takes a stand, fighting the horde himself as atonement for being unable to save his own family. Though defeating many Warhoon, Carter is ultimately overpowered; he is saved when Thardos Mors intervenes in a Helium ship. Sab Than is also in the company: Mors says that Than had come alone and had organized the rescue party. Dejah reluctantly agrees to marry Sab Than and Carter is taken to Zodanga to be healed.

Upon awakening, Carter is led to Dejah's room. Dejah sends the servant girls away and gives Carter his medallion, telling him to return to Earth. As Dejah leaves with Sab Than, Carter is met by Matai Shang, who takes Carter for a walk around Zodanga. In different Zodangan forms, Shang explains to Carter the Therns' purpose and how they manipulate the civilizations of various planets into self-destruction. He also reveals Sab Than's secret plan to kill Dejah once he marries her and to destroy Helium and rule Barsoom, so completing the course the Therns have set for the planet. (Shang also reveals that he and the Therns had been doing this for millions of years.) Carter escapes thanks to Woola and he and Sola return to the Tharks to request their help. There, they discover Tal Hajus has overthrown Tars Tarkas. Tarkas, Carter, and Sola are thrown into an arena to be killed by two enormous four-armed Great White-Apes. Carter defeats them and then challenges and easily kills Hajus, so becoming Jeddak of the Tharks.

Carter and his Thark army charge on Helium and defeat the Zodangan army in a huge battle. Sab Than is killed by a Thern before revealing anything more about them to Carter. Dejah and Carter marry and he becomes Prince of Helium. On their first night, Carter decides to stay forever on Mars and throws away his medallion. Seizing this opportunity, Matai Shang, in the form of a Helium guard, sends him back to Earth, before leaving Mars forever. (Shang is not seen again after this scene.)

Back on Earth, Carter concludes that there may be other Thern 'Way-stations' like the 'Spider Cave of Gold' and embarks on a long quest for clues of the Therns' presence on Earth and hoping to find one of their medallions; after ten years he appears to die suddenly and requests his unusual funeral arrangements — consistent with his having found a medallion, since his return to Mars would leave his Earth body vulnerable in a coma-like state. He leaves Burroughs clues about opening the tomb.

The film reverts to the original timeline. Burroughs races to Carter's tomb and opens it, expecting to find Carter's body. A Thern, in the form of a man with a bowler hat(who has been shadowing Carter for some time), appears behind Burroughs holding a weapon with which to destroy the body. Both are taken aback to see the tomb empty. A shot rings out and the Thern drops dead. Carter emerges and confesses to Burroughs that he never found a medallion. Instead, he had devised a scheme to lure a Thern in order to get its medallion. Carter reiterates to Burroughs that his body on earth needs protecting & recommends that Burroughs enjoy his life on Earth, to fall in love and to write books (affirming the conceit that the Burroughs character is the real-life author of the Barsoom novels). He then takes the Thern's medallion, whispers the code, and is transported back to Barsoom and Dejah.

Cast[edit]

Development[edit]

Origins[edit]

See also: Barsoom

The film is largely based on A Princess of Mars (1917), the first in a series of 11 novels to feature the interplanetary hero John Carter (and in later volumes the adventures of his children with Dejah Thoris). The story was originally serialized in six monthly installments (from February through to July 1912) in the pulp magazine The All-Story; those chapters, originally titled "Under the Moons of Mars," were then collected in hardcover five years later from publisher A. C. McClurg.

Bob Clampett involvement[edit]

Cover of the first edition of A Princess of Mars by Burroughs, McClurg.

In 1931, Looney Tunes director Bob Clampett approached Edgar Rice Burroughs with the idea of adapting A Princess of Mars into a feature-length animated film. Burroughs responded enthusiastically, recognizing that a regular live-action feature would face various limitations to adapt accurately, so he advised Clampett to write an original animated adventure for John Carter.[16] Working with Burroughs' son John Coleman Burroughs in 1935, Clampett used rotoscope and other hand-drawn techniques to capture the action, tracing the motions of an athlete who performed John Carter's powerful movements in the reduced Martian gravity, and designed the green-skinned, 4-armed Tharks to give them a believable appearance. He then produced footage of them riding their eight-legged Thoats at a gallop, which had all of their eight legs moving in coordinated motion; he also produced footage of a fleet of rocketships emerging from a Martian volcano. MGM was to release the cartoons, and the studio heads were enthusiastic about the series.[17]

The test footage, produced by 1936,[18] received negative reactions from film exhibitors across the U.S., especially in small towns; many gave their opinion that the concept of an Earthman on Mars was just too outlandish an idea for midwestern American audiences to accept. The series was not given the go-ahead, and Clampett was instead encouraged to produce an animated Tarzan series, an offer that he later declined. Clampett recognized the irony in MGM's decision, as the Flash Gordon movie serial, released in the same year by Universal Studios, was highly successful. He speculated that MGM believed that serials were only played to children during Saturday matinees, whereas the John Carter tales were intended to be seen by adults during the evening. The footage that Clampett produced was believed lost for many years, until Burroughs' grandson, Danton Burroughs, in the early 1970s found some of the film tests in the Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. archives.[17] Had A Princess of Mars been released, it might have preceded Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to become the first American feature-length animated film.[19]

Disney progression[edit]

During the late 1950s famed stop-motion animation effects director Ray Harryhausen expressed interest in filming the novels, but it was not until the 1980s that producers Mario Kassar and Andrew G. Vajna bought the rights for Walt Disney Pictures, with a view to creating a competitor to Star Wars and Conan the Barbarian. Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio were hired to write, while John McTiernan and Tom Cruise were approached to direct and star. The project collapsed because McTiernan realized that visual effects were not yet advanced enough to recreate Burroughs' vision of Barsoom. The project remained at Disney, and Jeffrey Katzenberg was a strong proponent of filming the novels, but the rights eventually returned to the Burroughs estate.[19]

Paramount effort[edit]

Producer James Jacks read Harry Knowles' autobiography, which lavishly praised the John Carter of Mars series. Having read the Burroughs' novels as a child, Jacks was moved to convince Paramount Pictures to acquire the film rights; a bidding war with Columbia Pictures followed. After Paramount and Jacks won the rights, Jacks contacted Knowles to become an adviser on the project and hired Mark Protosevich to write the screenplay. Robert Rodriguez signed on in 2004 to direct the film after his friend Knowles showed him the script. Recognizing that Knowles had been an adviser to many other filmmakers, Rodriguez asked him to be credited as a producer.[19]

Filming was set to begin in 2005, with Rodriguez planning to use the all-digital stages he was using for his production of Sin City, a film based on the graphic novel series by Frank Miller.[19] Rodriguez planned to hire Frank Frazetta, the popular Burroughs and fantasy illustrator, as a designer on the film.[20] Rodriguez had previously stirred-up film industry controversy owing to his decision to credit Sin City's artist/creator Frank Miller as co-director on the film adaptation; as a result of all the hoopla, Rodriguez decided to resign from the Directors Guild of America. In 2004, unable to employ a non-DGA filmmaker, Paramount assigned Kerry Conran to direct and Ehren Kruger to rewrite the John Carter script. The Australian Outback was scouted as a shooting location. Conran left the film for unknown reasons and was replaced in October 2005 by Jon Favreau.[19]

Favreau and screenwriter Mark Fergus wanted to make their script faithful to Burroughs' novels, retaining John Carter's links to the American Civil War and ensuring that the Barsoomian Tharks were 15 feet tall (previous scripts had made them human-sized). Favreau argued that a modern-day soldier would not know how to fence or ride a horse like Carter, who had been a Confederate officer. The first film he envisioned would have adapted the first three novels in the Barsoom series: A Princess of Mars, The Gods of Mars, and The Warlord of Mars. Unlike Rodriguez and Conran, Favreau preferred using practical effects for his film and cited Planet of the Apes as his inspiration. He intended to use make-up, as well as CGI, to create the Tharks. In August 2006 Paramount chose not to renew the film rights, preferring instead to focus on its Star Trek franchise. Favreau and Fergus moved on to Marvel Studios' Iron Man.[19]

Return to Disney, Stanton involvement[edit]

Andrew Stanton, director of the Pixar Animation Studios hits Finding Nemo (2003) and WALL-E (2008), lobbied the Walt Disney Studios to reacquire the rights from Burroughs' estate. "Since I'd read the books as a kid, I wanted to see somebody put it on the screen," he explained.[21]

He then lobbied Disney heavily for the chance to direct the film, pitching it as "Indiana Jones on Mars." The studio was initially skeptical. He had never directed a live-action film before, and wanted to make the film without any major stars whose names could guarantee an audience, at least on opening weekend. The screenplay was seen as confusing and difficult to follow. But since Stanton had overcome similar preproduction doubts to make WALL-E and Finding Nemo into hits, the studio approved him as director.[22] Stanton noted he was effectively being "loaned" to Walt Disney Pictures because Pixar is an all-ages brand and John Carter, in his words, was "not going to be an all-ages film".[23] By 2008 they completed the first draft for Part One of a John Carter film trilogy; the first film is based only on the first novel.[24] In April 2009 author Michael Chabon confirmed he had been hired to revise the script.[25][26][27]

Following the completion of WALL-E, Stanton visited the archives of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., in Tarzana, California, as part of his research.[19] Jim Morris, general manager of Pixar, said the film would have a unique look that is distinct from Frank Frazetta's illustrations, which they both found dated.[28] He also noted that although he had less time for pre-production than for any of his usual animated projects, the task was nevertheless relatively easy since he had read Burroughs' novels as a child and had already visualized many of their scenes.[29]

Production[edit]

Filming[edit]

"On 'John Carter,' Stanton was crafting a complicated, inter-planetary story with live action period elements and more than 2,000 visual-effects shots delivered by four companies. The director said he coaxed Disney to adopt some of Pixar's iterative style ..."

—Columnists Dawn C. Chmielewski and Rebecca Keegan, writing in the Los Angeles Times[21]

Principal photography commenced at Longcross Studios, London, in January 2010 and ended in Kanab, Utah in July 2010.[9][30] Locations in Utah included Lake Powell and the counties of Grand, Wayne, and Kane.[31][32] A month-long reshoot took place in Playa Vista, Los Angeles.[33] The film was shot in the Panavision anamorphic format on Kodak 35 mm film.[33] Stanton denied assertions that he had gone over budget and stated that he had been allowed a longer reshoot because he had stayed on budget and on time.[34] However, he did admit to reshooting much of the movie twice, far more than is usually common in live action filmmaking. He attributed that to his animation background.[22] "The thing I had to explain to Disney was, 'You're asking a guy who's only known how to do it this way to suddenly do it with one reshoot.'" he explained later. "I said, 'I'm not gonna get it right the first time, I'll tell you that right now.'"[21] Stanton often sought advice from people he had worked with at Pixar on animated films (known as the Braintrust) instead of those with live-action experience working with him.[35][36] Stanton also was quoted as saying, "I said to my producers, ‘Is it just me, or do we actually know how to do this better than live-action crews do?’"[35] Rich Ross, Disney's chairman, successor to Dick Cook, who had originally approved the film for production, came from a television background and had no experience with feature films. The studio's new top marketing and production executives had little more.[22]

Marketing[edit]

The head of Walt Disney Studios Marketing during the production was M. T. Carney, an industry outsider who previously ran a marketing boutique in New York.[37] Stanton often rejected marketing ideas from the studio, according to those who worked on the film.[38] Stanton's ideas were used instead, and he ignored criticism that using Led Zeppelin's 1975 song "Kashmir" in the trailer would make it seem less current to the contemporary younger audiences the film sought. He also chose billboard imagery that failed to resonate with prospective audiences, and put together a preview reel that did not get a strong reception from a convention audience.[22] Stanton said, “My joy when I saw the first trailer for Star Wars is I saw a little bit of almost everything in the movie, and I had no idea how it connected, and I had to go see the movie. So the last thing I’m going to do is ruin that little kid’s experience.”[39] Following the death of Steve Jobs, Stanton dedicated the film in his memory.[40]

Although being based on the first book of the series, A Princess of Mars, the film was originally titled John Carter of Mars, but Stanton removed "of Mars" to make it more appealing to a broader audience, stating that the film is an "origin story. It's about a guy becoming John Carter of Mars."[41] Stanton planned to keep "Mars" in the title for future films in the series.[41] Kitsch said the title was changed to reflect the character's journey, as John Carter would become "of Mars" only in the last few minutes of the picture.[42] Former Disney marketing president Carney has also taken blame for suggesting the title change.[37] Another reported explanation for the name change was that Disney had suffered a significant loss in March 2011 with Mars Needs Moms; the studio reportedly conducted a study which noted recent movies with the word "Mars" in the title had not been commercially successful.[43] Earlier, two and a half years before the premiere of the film, on December 29, 2009, a low-budget film produced by the independent film company The Asylum, entitled Princess of Mars, was released direct-to-DVD in the United States. Stanton has referred to the competing film as a "crappy knock-off".[44]

Music and soundtrack[edit]

John Carter: Original Soundtrack
Film score by Michael Giacchino
Released March 6, 2012 (2012-03-06)
Recorded 2011-12
Sony Scoring Stage (Culver City)
Length 1:13:56
Label Walt Disney
Producer Michael Giacchino
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Examiner.com 5/5 stars[45]
Film Music Magazine (A)[46]
Movie Music UK 4.5/5 stars[47]
Tracksounds (8/10)[48]

In February 2010, Michael Giacchino revealed in an interview he would be scoring the film.[49][50] Walt Disney Records released the soundtrack on March 6, 2012, three days before the film's release.

No. Title Length
1. "A Thern for the Worse"   7:38
2. "Get Carter"   4:25
3. "Gravity of the Situation"   1:20
4. "Thark Side of Barsoom"   2:55
5. "Sab Than Pursues Princess"   5:33
6. "The Temple of Issus"   3:24
7. "Zodanga Happened"   4:01
8. "The Blue Light Special"   4:11
9. "Carter They Come, Carter They Fall"   3:55
10. "A Change of Heart"   3:04
11. "A Thern Warning"   4:04
12. "The Second Biggest Apes I've Seen This Month"   2:35
13. "The Right of Challenge"   2:22
14. "The Prize Is Barsoom"   4:29
15. "The Fight for Helium"   4:22
16. "Not Quite Finished"   2:06
17. "Thernabout"   1:18
18. "Ten Bitter Years"   3:12
19. "John Carter of Mars"   8:53
Total length:
1:13:56

Release[edit]

Theatrical run[edit]

Although the original film release date was June 8, 2012, in January 2011 Disney moved the release date to March 9, 2012.[11][51][52] A teaser trailer for the film premiered on July 14, 2011 and was shown in 3D and 2D with showings of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2; the official trailer premiered on November 30, 2011. On February 5, 2012 an extended commercial promoting the movie aired during the Super Bowl,[53] and before the day of the game, Andrew Stanton, a Massachusetts native, held a special screening of the film for both the team members and families of the New England Patriots and New York Giants.[54]

Home media[edit]

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment released John Carter on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital download June 5, 2012. The home media release was made available in three different physical packages: a four-disc combo pack (1 disc Blu-ray 3D, 1-disc Blu-ray, 1 DVD, and 1-disc digital copy), a two-disc combo pack (1 disc Blu-ray, 1 disc DVD), and one-disc DVD. John Carter was also made available in 3D High Definition, High Definition, and Standard Definition Digital.[clarification needed] Additionally, the home media edition was available in an On-Demand format. The Blu-ray bonus features include Disney Second Screen functionality, "360 Degrees of John Carter", deleted scenes, and "Barsoom Bloopers". The DVD bonus features included "100 Years in the Making", and audio commentary with filmmakers. The High Definition Digital and Standard Definition Digital versions both include "Life by the Second: The Shanzam Unit", Disney Second Screen, "Barsoom Bloopers", and deleted scenes. The Digital 3D High Definition Digital copy does not include bonus features.[55] In mid-June, the movie topped sales on both the Nielsen VideoScan First Alert sales chart, which tracks overall disc sales, and Nielsen’s dedicated Blu-ray Disc sales chart, with the DVD release selling 980,812 copies making $17,057,283 and Blu-ray and 3-D releases selling 965,275 copies making $19,295,847, with a combined total of $36,353,130 in its first week alone.[56][57]

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

One week before the film's release, Disney removed an embargo on reviews of the film.[58] It holds a 51% rating on the film-critics aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes based on 219 reviews; its consensus is, "While John Carter looks terrific and delivers its share of pulpy thrills, it also suffers from uneven pacing and occasionally incomprehensible plotting and characterization."[59] At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average out of 100 to critics' reviews, the film holds a score of 51 based on 42 reviews, signifying "Mixed or average reviews".[60]

Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter wrote, "Derivative but charming and fun enough, Disney's mammoth scifier is both spectacular and a bit cheesy."[61] Glenn Kenny of MSN Movies rated the film 4 out of 5 stars, saying, "By the end of the adventure, even the initially befuddling double-frame story pays off, in spades. For me, this is the first movie of its kind in a very long time that I'd willingly sit through a second or even third time."[62] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times rated the film 2.5 out of 4 stars, commenting that the movie "is intended to foster a franchise and will probably succeed. Does John Carter get the job done for the weekend action audience? Yes, I suppose it does."[63] Dan Jolin of Empire gave the film 3 stars out of 5, noting, "Stanton has built a fantastic world, but the action is unmemorable. Still, just about every sci-fi/fantasy/superhero adventure you ever loved is in here somewhere."[64] Joe Neumaier of the New York Daily News gave the film 3 out of 5 stars, calling the film "undeniably silly, sprawling and easy to make fun of, [but] also playful, genuinely epic and absolutely comfortable being what it is. In this genre, those are virtues as rare as a cave of gold."[65]

"... the movie is more Western than science fiction. Even if we completely suspend our disbelief and accept the entire story at face value, isn't it underwhelming to spend so much time looking at hand-to-hand combat when there are so many neat toys and gadgets to play with?"

—Roger Ebert, writing for the Chicago Sun-Times[63]

Conversely, Peter Debruge of Variety gave a negative review, saying, "To watch John Carter is to wonder where in this jumbled space opera one might find the intuitive sense of wonderment and awe Stanton brought to Finding Nemo and WALL-E."[66] Owen Glieberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a D rating, feeling, "Nothing in John Carter really works, since everything in the movie has been done so many times before, and so much better."[67] Christy Lemire of The Boston Globe wrote that, "Except for a strong cast, a few striking visuals and some unexpected flashes of humor, John Carter is just a dreary, convoluted trudge – a soulless sprawl of computer-generated blippery converted to 3-D."[68] Michael Philips of the Chicago Tribune rated the film 2 out of 4 stars, saying the film "isn't much – or rather, it's too much and not enough in weird, clumpy combinations – but it is a curious sort of blur."[69] Andrew O'Herir of Salon.com called it "a profoundly flawed film, and arguably a terrible one on various levels. But if you’re willing to suspend not just disbelief but also all considerations of logic and intelligence and narrative coherence, it’s also a rip-roaring, fun adventure, fatefully balanced between high camp and boyish seriousness at almost every second."[70] Mick LaSelle of San Francisco Chronicle rated the film 1 star out of 4, noting, "John Carter is a movie designed to be long, epic and in 3-D, but that's as far as the design goes. It's designed to be a product, and it's a flimsy one."[71] A.O. Scott of The New York Times said, "John Carter tries to evoke, to reanimate, a fondly recalled universe of B-movies, pulp novels and boys’ adventure magazines. But it pursues this modest goal according to blockbuster logic, which buries the easy, scrappy pleasures of the old stuff in expensive excess. A bad movie should not look this good."[72]

In the UK, the film was savaged by Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian, gaining only 1 star out of 5 and described as a "giant, suffocating doughy feast of boredom".[73] The film garnered 2 out of 5 stars in The Daily Telegraph, described as "a technical marvel, but is also armrest-clawingly hammy and painfully dated".[74] BBC film critic Mark Kermode expressed his displeasure with the film commenting, "The story telling is incomprehensible, the characterisation is ludicrous, the story is two and a quarter hours long and it's a boring, boring, boring two and a quarter hours long."[75]

Box office[edit]

John Carter earned $73,078,100 in North America and $211,061,000 in other countries, for a worldwide total as of June 28, 2012 of $284,139,100.[5] It had a worldwide opening of $100.8 million.[76] In North America, it opened in first place on Friday, March 9, 2012 with $9.81 million.[77] For three days, it had grossed $30.2 million, falling to second place for the weekend, behind The Lorax.[78] Outside North America, it topped the weekend chart, opening with $70.6 million.[79] Its highest-grossing opening was in Russia and the CIS, where it broke the all-time opening-day record ($6.5 million)[80] and earned $16.5 million during the weekend.[81] The film also scored the second-best opening weekend for a Disney film in China[82] ($14.0 million).[83] It was in first place at the box office outside North America for two consecutive weekends.[84] Its highest-grossing areas after North America are China ($41.5 million),[85] Russia and the CIS ($33.4 million), and Mexico ($12.1 million).[86]

In the week following the John Carter's domestic release, movie industry analysts predicted that Disney would lose $100-to-150 million on the picture.[87] However, its box office strength outside North America led some analysts to speculate that the write-down would be significantly less than expected.[87][88][89] On May 8, 2012, the Walt Disney Company released a statement on its earnings which attributed the $161 million deterioration in the operating income of their Studio Entertainment division to a loss of $84 million in the quarter ending March 2012 "primarily" to the performance of John Carter and the associated cost write-down.[90] Paul Dergarabedian, president of Hollywood.com noted, "John Carter’s bloated budget would have required it to generate worldwide tickets sales of more than $600 million to break even...a height reached by only 63 films in the history of moviemaking".[91]

The film's perceived failure led to the resignation of Rich Ross, the head of Walt Disney Studios, even though Ross had arrived there from his earlier success at the Disney Channel with John Carter already in development.[92] Ross theoretically could have stopped production on John Carter as he did with a planned remake of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, or minimized the budget as he did to The Lone Ranger starring Johnny Depp.[93] Instead, Stanton was given the production budget requested for John Carter, backed with an estimated $100 million marketing campaign that is typical for a tentpole movie but without significant merchandising or other ancillary tie-ins.[43] It was reported that Ross later sought to blame Pixar for John Carter, which prompted key Pixar executives to turn against Ross who already had alienated many within the studio.[94] The film rebounded at the domestic box office charts from No. 38 to No. 12 on the first weekend of May 2012 after drive-ins paired it with Disney's release of The Avengers which brought John Carter's domestic gross to about $70.8 million.[95] The 2013 book John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood cites many factors in the film's commercial failure, but author Michael D. Sellers insists the film tested very well with audiences and failed more because of marketing problems (which included not mentioning "Mars", "Barsoom", or "Edgar Rice Burroughs" on promotional posters, which meant that many fans of the Burroughs books were completely unaware of the film and its subject matter until after it bombed) and changing management at the studio.[96]

In September 2014, studio president Alan Bergman was asked at a conference if Disney had been able to partially recoup its losses on The Lone Ranger and John Carter through subsequent release windows or other monetization methods, and he responded: "I'm going to answer that question honestly and tell you no, it didn't get that much better. We did lose that much money on those movies."[97]

Accolades[edit]

Organization Award category Nominee(s) Result
ASCAP Awards Top Box Office Films Michael Giacchino Won
Annie Awards[98] Best Animated Effects in a Live Action Production Sue Rowe, Simon Stanley-Clamp, Artemis Oikonomopoulou, Holger Voss, Nikki Makar and Catherine Elvidge Nominated
Nebula Awards Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews and Michael Chabon
Golden Trailer Awards[99] Golden Fleece Ignition Creative and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
International Film Music Critics Association Awards Best Original Score for a Fantasy/Science Fiction/Horror Film Michael Giacchino Won
Film Music Composition of the Year - John Carter of Mars Nominated
Saturn Awards Best Special Effects Chris Corbould, Peter Chiang, Scott R. Fisher and Sue Rowe

Cancelled sequel[edit]

Prior to the film's release, the filmmakers reported that John Carter was intended to be the first film of a trilogy.[100] Producers Jim Morris and Lindsey Collins began work on a sequel based on Burroughs' second novel, The Gods of Mars.[101] However, the film's poor box office performance put plans for sequels into question.[102]

In June 2012 co-writer Mark Andrews said in an interview that he, Stanton, and Chabon are still interested in doing sequels: "As soon as somebody from Disney says, 'We want John Carter 2', we'd be right there."[103] Despite criticism and Disney's financial disappointment with the film, lead actors Taylor Kitsch and Willem Dafoe all showed strong support,[104][105][106] with Kitsch stating "I would do John Carter again tomorrow. I'm very proud of John Carter".[107]

However, in September 2012, Stanton announced that his next directorial effort would be Pixar's Finding Dory, and that the plan to film a John Carter sequel "went away" and has been cancelled.[108] Kitsch later stated he will not make another John Carter film unless Stanton returns as director.[109] In a May 2014 interview, he added "I still talk to Lynn Collins almost daily. Those relationships that were born won’t be broken by people we never met. I miss the family. I miss Andrew Stanton. I know the second script was awesome. We had to plant a grounding, so we could really take off in the second one. The second one was even more emotionally taxing, which was awesome."[110] Stanton tweeted both titles and logos for the sequels that would have been made with the titles being Gods of Mars as the sequel, and Warlord of Mars as the third film.[111]

On October 20, 2014, it was confirmed that Disney had allowed the film rights to the Barsoom novels to revert to the Edgar Rice Burroughs Estate.[112]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]