Anne Thompson: “Why John Carter is an Interesting Disaster”

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This one slipped through the cracks previously — thanks to Scott Tracy Griffin for flagging it. It’s one of the more substantive reviews of the entire John Carter situation, and although it’s a bit dated now, it’s worth reading.  There are also a good collection of clips at the end of it. I’ll put my comments in as a comment – meanwhile, here it is.

Why John Carter is an Interesting Disaster

You could see Disney’s “John Carter” (March 9) shaping up as a misfire from a long way off. No studio has projected “disaster” so loudly since Sony’s misbegotten remake of “Godzilla” in 1998. For a $250 million movie to be tracking near a $25 million opening is shocking.

It was always going to be a challenge to pull audiences into Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Martian fantasy world on the red planet Barsoom. As a kid I read and reread Burroughs’ “Tarzan” and Martian novels (he published his first book, “Princess of Mars,” almost a century ago, in 1917). I loved escaping into this exotic universe of warriors, princesses and six-limbed Tharks. But bringing that world to the screen was impossible until James Cameron’s “Avatar” successfully brought to a new level live-action mixed with digital environments and multiple performance-capture characters.

Disney optioned the rights to “A Princess of Mars” for director John McTiernan (“The Hunt for Red October”); then producer James Jacks gave it a whirl at Paramount with Guillermo del Toro and digital techno-whizes Robert Rodriguez (“Spy Kids”), Kerry Conran (“Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow”) and finally, Jon Favreau. When Paramount let go of the rights, Favreau went on to direct “Iron Man.”

Watching like a hawk the entire time was Pixar writer-director Andrew Stanton, now 45, who grew up on the Marvel Comics Martian novels, and waited 36 years to grab the rights. Disney’s then-chairman Dick Cook scooped them up and green-lit a $250 million feature to be adapted and directed by Stanton. (He eventually brought in writers Michael Chabon and Mark Andrews.)

“When you’re 10 or 11 years old, and you’ve discovered girls, but they haven’t discovered you yet,” Stanton said at a recent Q & A, “and you’re reading about this ordinary guy that’s suddenly extraordinary on another planet, he’s got the coolest best friend, the coolest pet, and he’s winning the heart of the most beautiful girl in the universe, that’s like a checklist of everything you’ve ever wanted.”

Read the rest at IndieWire


  • Most funny thing about the article is the prediction that Taylor Kitsch is going to be a star with John Carter, Battleship and Savages.

    Kitsch had to make history this year with not one but two $200 million dollar bombs with a a third minor bomb in Savages. Time for him to go back to

  • That’s a very insightful summary, thanks. The saddest sentence should be this for me: “Whatever the pluses and minues of outgoing studio chief Dick Cook, he was an ace marketer who would never have so mishandled this campaign.” But of course, if he had left earlier than he did, we probably still wouldn’t have a movie to discuss, so…

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