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Fans Petition For A 'John Carter' Sequel, While Disney Tries To Figure Out Who To Blame For The Movie

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by Kevin Jagernauth
March 16, 2012 12:21 PM
23 Comments
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John Carter, Taylor Kitsch

Well, one week has passed since Disney's "John Carter" hit theaters with a wave of bad press and lukewarm reviews, with the estimated $250 million film opening to an underperforming $37 million at home, while doubling that figure overseas for a total debut of $108 million. And while it's not a flat out bomb, it's hardly a success either, a film that will likely leave Disney in the red considering some estimates have said that the film would need to do at least $600 million to be considered a winner. That's not going to happen. In the aftermath, a couple of interesting stories have emerged, from defenders who claim the film has been unfairly maligned and industry folks who want to blame somebody for Disney's disaster.

So let's start with the first one. Undoubtedly, "John Carter" got its fair share of positive reviews and has a core of defenders, but it's hard to deny the general consensus is that it's a flop, and the reality of a sequel happening (it's clearly not going to match the $400 million worldwide take of "Tron: Legacy" nor come near the $172 million domestic that film did) is dwindling if not extinguished entirely. But don't tell that to members of the Facebook group "Take me back to Barsoom! I want John Carter to have a sequel!" (via MTV) which now has 3700 members and growing. And while last month, the filmmakers involved confirmed "The Gods Of Mars" was in the works, we're betting those plans have been put on hold, perhaps permanently. But who knows, maybe those Facebook folks will make a fan sequel or something.

Meanwhile, at Disney HQ, the battle is growing over who to blame and it has spilled out messily in the press, and the number one target right now is director Andrew Stanton. Both Vulture and the New York Times report that the director was the architect of the movie's downfall, refusing to take advice or word from anyone in the Disney chain of command, and calling the shots on everything from the production to the film's roundly criticized marketing campaign. His lack of experience is largely cited as a major reason behind the extensive reshoots for the movie, but that said, the studio also bears responsbility for letting a first time, live action filmmaker have such unfettered rein, on such a risky and expensive movie.

And as THR notes, it was former Disney honcho Dick Cook who initially greenlit the movie, so current exec Rich Ross will likely escape any fallout (especially if 2013 gambles "The Lone Ranger" and "Oz The Great And Powerful" pay off big time). But what about Bob Iger, the man at the very top of the Disney food chain? Well, the failure of "John Carter" is not expected to make even the feeblest mark on Disney stock prices (which is all shareholders actually care about), but that's not to rule out that he make make management changes down the line, even as a gesture to indicate he's aware of the failures. As for MT Carney, the chief of marketing? She actually resigned in January so is pretty much clear of any blowback (especially considering Stanton is largely said to be responsible for that anyway).

In the trade's piece, they also cite some sources who blame Disney's tentpole only approach as being too risky (their only other inhouse movie this year is the relatively cheap drama "The Odd Life Of Timothy Green") but the flipside to that is that their deal to distribute Marvel movies is likely to pay off in a big way (though they paid $4 billion to purchase the comic house, and another $115 million to Paramount who were under the original deal to distribute "The Avengers").

So, will "John Carter" change how Disney does business? If it's not affecting their stock prices and only their reputation (for the moment), not likely. The only real effect will be on budgets, and they have already flexed their muscle on "The Lone Ranger" last year (and that movie is still over $200 million). But you can bet Stanton will be the last guy for a while who will be allowed to unilaterally lead a studio and a movie by his whims and desires, as "John Carter" -- for better or worse -- will remain an example of what happens when you let a passion project run out of control.

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23 Comments

  • Don | November 21, 2012 6:29 PMReply

    The title should have been, as Burroughs wrote it,"A Princess of Mars"! John Carter is a main character, BUT does Not translate as a title to stick in the mind as a coming attraction to moviegoer's. Actually the movie was a pleasure to watch on my DVR and I have; at least 6+ times, when my 200 channel lineup is BORING! I think when you add up the Total worldwide sales including DVD & Blue-Ray, John Carter will be in large Profit. Hollywood is always in a Huge hurry, sometimes word of Mouth takes a while. A sequel would do even better as the "therns" are a Galactic menace, that anger the soul of freedom lovers everywhere!

  • Kati | September 17, 2012 8:04 AMReply

    I love John Carter they need to make a sequel I don't want the story to end!

  • Chris | June 16, 2012 2:59 PMReply

    This was a very good movie! Advance promotion was awful. I saw a little something , but it didn't give me a good idea as to what this movie was about. I wasn't familiar with John Carter. Then like an explosion all the news said it was a flop. The flop was Disneys marketing dept! Great casting in all characters. Taylor Kitch is magic! I want more! Please:D

  • Sully | June 12, 2012 11:58 PMReply

    Want to know what killed this movie?
    The marketing campaign, or lack thereof.
    My four year old son could've created a better campaign
    than the one they came up with. Next time, make a few stops at some
    comic-cons, build a kickass teaser trailer that actually "means" something,
    and release the movie during the late spring to early winter season, when
    people actually have money and are bored. John Carter came out right
    when most people are broke and busy, post Christmas/tax season; the worst
    time to try and earn back revenue for a mega buck movie. March is for crappy
    forgettable flicks like Ghost Rider, Dare Devil, etc. Epics are meant for summer
    or post Thanksgiving.

  • Daria | April 13, 2012 1:26 AMReply

    The "Take Me Back To Barsoom" group has now reached just shy of 8000 members in a matter of a few weeks and we keep on rollin'! Unlike the folks at Disney, we fans are going to CELEBRATE this beautiful film all over the world next week, particularly as it leaves the mothership, The El Capitan Theater, next Thursday evening with its final screening. Bravo to the "John Carter" cast and crew. Millions of fans loved this film and will treasure it forever.

  • Paul | April 3, 2012 5:13 AMReply

    The movie was awesome. I never heard of it had a friend tell me about it. I geuss it was bad PR. After seeing it, I hope there is a sequel. I loved It! Really great movie.

  • Ward | April 1, 2012 1:46 AMReply

    LOVE THE MOVIE! I've seen it 4 times !!! I just went and saw Hunger Games. It was ok but not as good a John Carter . Disney has a diamond in the rough. They just have to polish up the marketing.

  • Pat | March 31, 2012 1:00 PMReply

    What a shame! I enjoyed the movie, especially using a real location as backdrop and not cg. Great costuming, too. The music did nothing for it, though the main theme was not bad. No punch to the action added by music, making for blandness. Film needed a John Williams. Sound editing drubbed out the few humorous asides from Hinds and Purefoy. Too bad. I hope they have enough invested in the costumes, etc to warrant a sequel.

  • Laura | March 29, 2012 12:13 PMReply

    I don't go to the movies a lot, or watch tv.. But usually I have some idea of the movies that are coming out -- radio, CNN, magazine covers, etc, trailers and will make an exception for things that are truly interesting. With this one I heard nada. Love the series, but didn't even recognize the title at first when looking at the list of movies last weekend and had to read description to realize what it was. Horrible marketing job all around. I'm a huge fan and only saw it by accident.

  • Katie | March 22, 2012 10:08 PMReply

    You never know! I mean if they made it for a lot less, 250 million is too much for any film! What the hell did they spend the money on!!! But I loved it! I'll cry if there's no sequel. Gutted fan x

  • Goundy | March 21, 2012 5:34 PMReply

    In my opinion it is a great movie ! I watched it by curiosity but I had never heard of John Carter in the past.

    I think the problem Disney had with this movie is directly related with marketing/promotion. It is not normal I learned that the movie action was on Mars only when I started watching the movie as an example...

  • Jevex | March 19, 2012 10:43 AMReply

    Stanton certainly bears the lion's share of responsibility, since he had the "last word" on both the screenplay and the publicity campaign. While the film was excellent, from the standpoint of an accurate rendition of the various peoples and creatures created by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the plot deviated far too many times from the plot of the novel, thus disappointing legions of fans who have read and re-read the books over the last 50 or 60 years. I fell in love with the tale when I was 13, and that was 45 years ago, and was much disappointed that Stanton & Co. felt that they could wreak such story-changes with a tale that is as well-loved by its own legions of fans as The Lord of the Rings is, by its fan-base. With Peter Jackson's "Rings", we at least got a fairly accurate (if condensed) retelling of Tolkien's books, complete with much of the actual dialogue from the book translating to the film. With Stanton, we got perhaps five words of the tongue that Burroughs created, plus two "old Barsoomian proverbs".

    This doesn't exempt the studio heads from blame, however. If they're going to sink that sort of money in a franchise-building film, they ought to have seen that there was insufficient publicity being given to it. If you're going to get people to show up at a film, you've got to build up some excitement for it in the months before it debuted. With "Carter", the vast majority of publicity wound up being restricted to "fan-buzz" on a couple websites.

    And what happened to the title? Supposedly, some survey discovered that females don't flock to films with "Mars" in the title, and men avoid "Princess" movies like the plague unless they are dragged (kicking and screaming all the way) by their lady-friends. Perhaps "A Princess of Mars" (the book's title, after all) would have pulled both segments into the theater seats. With the addition of just a few hints of ROMANCE to the trailers that were released, that just might have happened. (Of course, by the time that Stanton & Co. got done savaging the plot of the original novel, there was precious little "romance" left in the plot, except for at the very end of the film.

    I still have hopes for a sequel, but my guess is that we're going to have to wait for five or more years, until some other studio works up the nerve to do a "re-make" of this film , and actually do it up right, according to the book upon which it was based.

  • Kyle | March 21, 2012 12:34 PM

    I've read most of Edgar Rice Burrough's original Barsoom books, and love them. But you've got to understand that in order to make movies that were just like the books, you'd need eleven movies. And considering that it takes at least a year and a half to make a movie with so many cgi shots, it would take over sixteen years to make the series. Stanton combined plot elements from the first third of the series (mind you the first book gives very little information about Barsoom in the grand scheme of things and wasn't the most interesting thing you could have ever read) so that it would be possible to take all of the best things about Barsoom and put them into three movies, rather than eleven. It's much easier to keep the illusion that Carter doesn't age in a period of five or six years than sixteen. I may love John Carter, but I don't want to watch him save planets from the seat of his wheel chair by the end of the series.

  • Gwen | March 18, 2012 4:05 AMReply

    The movie was awesome. The problem: the marketing was weak. I didn't really know what to expect, but my two sons asked to go see it. After seeing it, I hope there is a sequel. Really great movie.

  • michael | March 18, 2012 2:17 AMReply

    The movie was really good! Must of been pr that messed up.

  • Chris | March 17, 2012 9:26 PMReply

    The blame rests squarely on whomever dropped the ball in marketing this film. The only promotions I saw for it were the one or two trailers (that did a horrid job of selling the movie to filmgoers), other than that, nothing. Next time, Disney needs to do more than casually release a few trailers then passive-aggressively expect a film to make Avatar amounts of money.

  • Sully | June 13, 2012 12:08 AM

    I agree. The trailers seemed to be aimed at fans of the books, which is great... if you're a Burroughs fan, but your average teen-20 something hadn't even heard of John Carter when the first trailer showed up, and the trailer did nothing to inform the viewer of what this movie was about, or where it might be going as far as story. They should've had press releases at comic-cons/wizard worlds, had some character based trailers released on the tube, and some toys in the stores to peak the interest of kids. Maybe re-release the original books. Something.
    Whom ever took the responsibility for this films marketing should be demoted or fired, especially considering the amount of money lost.
    Also; the date when the movie was released was just a bad decision. You don't release a 100(+) million dollar movie in March. The idea is just dumb, and this movie cost upwards of 250 mil.

  • Adam | March 17, 2012 3:12 AMReply

    I just saw this movie and it was really good. I had hesitations because the previews made the movie look stupid, and kind of an Avatar rip off. But this movie was really really good. I was very happy with it.

  • O_Bones | March 17, 2012 12:00 AMReply

    When will the industry production execs ever learn to avoid Speculative Fiction and Fantasy ignorami and hire (and give creative power) to knowledgeable minds like Harlan Ellison?

  • James | March 16, 2012 6:42 PMReply

    Jenna, I agree. On top of that, Stanton himself has said that he finished under budget, which allowed him to have reshoots. The total cost? $150 MILLION. Not 250. Write it down, H-Woodies. You might forget.

  • Jenna | March 16, 2012 6:16 PMReply

    The movie is hardly a "disaster." It's made over $110 million in just the first week, poised to make up its production budget by the weekend. Do your research and don't believe the hype. My family and I really liked the movie, and want to see it again.

  • Sully | June 13, 2012 12:15 AM

    @Chase
    It's June now and John Carter has earned its money back, albeit barely. The upside is, the movie found its audience; it just found them a little late. DVD/BluRays are selling out everywhere, and not to mention that J.C. was just re-released into Drive-In theaters as a double feature with Avengers, which is also boosting sales and helping to promote the franchise. As of this *article in Forbes, J.C. is looking to do alright, though not the "Avatar" hit Disney was hoping for.
    If Disney was smart, they'd push to make a sequel and ASAP, releasing the film during the mid-summer or late fall/early winter season.

    *link to article
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/carolpinchefsky/2012/04/02/john-carters-trip-to-mars-is-finally-profitable/

  • chase | March 16, 2012 11:46 PM

    $110 million internationally, not domestic. This movie will in no way make back it's budget = $250 million plus marketing cost, which is near $350 - 400 mil. It's current gross collectively: 149 million, give or take. It IS a disaster. This movie should've made $40 million in two days, not a week of release.

    It isn't HYPE. The numbers are plain as day.

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