Why John Carter Flopped at the Box Office
With the movie set to lose up to $136 million, we look at why it flopped . . .
As Daniel Kimmel of SciFiMoviePage.com wrote: “Start with the title. It’s based on the first book in the series, A Princess of Mars. However the teen and twenty-something target audience hearing about a Disney princess movie would have assumed it was a sequel to The Little Mermaid, so they decided to call it John Carter of Mars. The only problem with that is that their market research folks told them that Mars didn’t test well. And, after Disney’s bomb Mars Needs Moms last year, is that surprising? So they called it John Carter, a name utterly meaningless to their audience. (Wasn’t he president before Reagan?)”
The movie’s not that good
We gave John Carter a positive 3 out of 4 stars, but it opened to iffy reviews and scored a mere 49% at RottenTomatoes.com.
The movie seems to put off non-genre fans.
“The early part of the film brings unfortunate comparisons to the 1984 adaptation of Dune in that there’s a lot of information to assimilate so that you can follow what’s going on,” Daniel Kimmel wrote in his review.
An early review by Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian was far less generous:
”John Carter is one of those films that is so stultifying, so oppressive and so mysteriously and interminably long that I felt as if someone had dragged me into the kitchen of my local Greggs, and was baking my head into the centre of a colossal cube of white bread.”
“This film can’t go 10 minutes without actors striding on saying something ridiculous in a silly outfit with a straight face.”
The movie cost a fortune to make
$250 million, excluding marketing costs. This is more than what Avatar cost to make. For a movie like this to work financially it must appeal to non-science fiction fans too. Internet SF fans may have gone gaga, but mainstream audiences were largely unaware of the film’s existence.
No-one knows the character
Any sci-fi fan worth his salt will know the John Carter character from the 1912 serial by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the creator of Tarzan, but let’s face up to it: John Carter is far less known that, let’s say, Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter or James Bond.
As Kimmel wrote: “In two weeks the movie version of The Hunger Games arrives, and the same target audience drawing a blank on Princess of Mars is already snapping up tickets for the other film.”
“Audiences have not been prepared for the film and Disney is supposedly already prepared to write off the $250 million film as a loss,” Daniel Kimmel writes. “Like the schemers in The Producers who want to ensure their show is a flop, they [Disney marketing] also set out to antagonize the critics, who might have been able to help them promote their movie. Much of the media was shut out of interview opportunities and then at preview screenings everyone – including working press – had cell phones and laptops confiscated.”
The marketing for films such as Avatar and Rise of the Planet of the Apes focused on the special effects by WETA to create their alien planets or realistic CG chimps, but this angle was largely missing from Disney’s marketing efforts. Kimmel: “The most memorable characters are the Tharks, voiced by Dafoe, Thomas Haden Church, and Samantha Morton, who show us how far removed we are from Jar Jar Binks. The visual design is a major plus, with images that seem to have popped out of illustrations by the legendary Frank Frazetta.”
Instead the marketing for John Carter brought up generic visuals from Prince of Persia, another failed Disney attempt to duplicate the success of Pirates of the Caribbean.
Mars movies really are jinxed