Celluloid Wonders: How the John Carter Bomb Could Have Been Prevented

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From Cellulloid Wonders  by  J. Kemp

How “John Carter” Bomb Could’ve Been Prevented

Disney’s science fiction epic “John Carter” is now considered one of the biggest bombs of all time, and is being compared with films such as “Ishtar” and “Heaven’s Gate.”  It is subject to several media parodies, making fun of the film.  It has only gained $66 million as of April 11th 2012, according to boxofficemojo.com (It does have a solid $263 million worldwide, but that’s still not enough).  And we can’t forget its awful current 50% onrottentomatoes.com.  I have seen “John Carter” twice now and I think it is one of the best science fiction epics of all time.  I also think critics would’ve called it this if not for all the bad buzz around it.  But people love watching a bomb go off, and “John Carter” was the unlucky film it happened to. Now, here are my opinions on how this could’ve been prevented.
If only Disney…
Didn’t make the white ape scene a key part of marketing: Nearly every ad for the movie included the scene where John Carter fights off two giant white apes in an arena.  Truth is, it looks a lot like “Attack Of The Clones,” a movie many people disliked.
Made ads more appealing to families: The ads are very serious and violent, and yes the movie is serious and violent, but it also funny and light at several points.  When you see the Disney logo in front of a movie that is very violent, you must be sure to include humorous moments in the marketing.  I recommend using Woola the lizard dog.
Paid attention to love story in marketing: What do “Gone With The Wind,” “Titanic” and “Avatar” all have in common? They are some of the biggest movies of all time and they all have epic love stories. “John Carter” does too, but you wouldn’t know that from the advertisements.  They clearly gave no appeal to have the population, and they definitely paid the price for it.
Didn’t scratch off the “Of Mars:” After “Mars Needs Moms” bombed last March, Disney immediately changed “John Carter Of Mars” to “John Carter.”  Now, audiences were scratching their heads wondering where the heck this movie took place. They do care. Now, people are going to think Mars movies by Disney are “cursed,” which is really not true.  “Mars Needs Moms” bombed for different reasons, and “John carter” bombed partially because of “Mars Needs Moms.”


  • John Carter flopped because the film had no identity to the average moviegoer. Unless a franchise has substantial name recognition i.e. Star Trak, Star Wars, Spiderman etc… you need star power. John Carter was at one time to be portrayed by Tom Cruise – I guarantee it would not have bombed had he starred in it. Sadly John Carter has no cache with the average moviegoer. Most fans of the original ERB stories are dead. or too old to go to movies regularly. Under age 50 moviegoers typically would say “who the heck is John Carter?”. Stanton insisted on a film without major stars which is a decision I admire but Disney’s decision to rename the film was the final nail on the coffin. The combination of no stars and a vague / generic title doomed the film.

  • I agree with Chris K. We’ve seen films like ‘Blade Runner’ and (forgive me for saying this) ‘Fight Club’ bomb at the box office but they have acheived ‘Classic’ status due to popularity on the home format(s). I really don’t understand why people hate ‘John Carter’ so much. Its a wonderful film. I really hope that they continue with producing the sequels *P.S. I also love Michael Giacchino’s musical score*

  • I am reminded of Bladerunner and the response that film had on release.

    The critcs savaged it and commercially it was a “flop” I recall going to see that movie 3 times and just could not understand why the critics had been so harsh.

    However, VHS saved it and allowed it to reach a wider audience and here we are some 32 years later and its a movie that has been hailed ( rightly so) as a classic.

    I belive that John Carter,as it becomes available on dvd and tv,will grow in popularity and it will be talked about long after the lorax and hunger games have been forgotten.

    Its the most entertaining movie I have seen for a long time and one thing it is not is a flop.

  • Posted a discussion topic in the Forum, what iwould do to make John Carter better: My Fan Edit of the Movie.

    Let’s think constructively.

  • I think this has been covered in morbid detail already.

    It’s over. We’ll all be watching JC in our living rooms soon.

    Life goes on…

  • Absolutely right: More Dejah, more romance, more Woola, even some Thark hatchlings in the trailers would have done much better! A more linear exposition of the story would have been useful too. And finally a more appealing air-SHIP design for merchandising.

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