JOHN CARTER 2 (2024) Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins

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

Several attempts to adapt the Barsoom series had been made since the 1930s by various major studios and producers. Most of these efforts ultimately stalled in development hell. In the late-2000s, Walt Disney Pictures began a concerted effort to adapt Burroughs’ works to film, after an abandoned venture in the 1980s. The project was driven by Stanton, who had pressed Disney to renew the screen rights from the Burroughs estate. Stanton became the new film’s director in 2009. It was his live-action debut, after his directorial work for Disney on the Pixar animated films Finding Nemo and WALL-E. Filming began in November 2009, with principal photography underway in January 2010, wrapping seven months later in July. Michael Giacchino, who scored many Pixar films, composed the music. Like Pixar’s Brave that same year, the film is dedicated to the memory of Steve Jobs.

It was released in the United States by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures on March 9, 2012, marking the centennial of the titular character’s first appearance. It was presented in Disney Digital 3-D, RealD 3D and IMAX 3D formats. It received mixed reviews, with praise for its visuals, Giacchino’s score, and the action sequences, but criticism of the characterization and plot. It failed at the North American box office, but set an opening-day record in Russia. It grossed $284 million at the worldwide box office, resulting in a $200 million writedown for Disney, becoming one of the biggest box office bombs in history. With a total cost of $350 million, including an estimated production budget of $263 million, it is one of the most expensive films ever made. Due to its poor performance, Disney cancelled plans for Gods of Mars and Warlord of Mars, the rest of the trilogy Stanton had planned.

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John Carter’s failure has been blamed on its promotion, which has been called “one of the worst marketing campaigns in movie history”. Critics focus on the decision to remove the words “Princess” and “Mars” from the title out of fear of alienating young men and women, leaving prospective audiences to try to deduce what the film was about from trailers and ads that were similarly uninformative about its characters and plot, its place in the development of science fiction, and who had made it. The images they showed also seemed derivative of works such as Star Wars, Dune and Avatar that were themselves informed by the Barsoom stories. Other critics have argued the film was doomed from the start since those works had so thoroughly appropriated the source material as to ensure that modern audiences would see John Carter as unoriginal.

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