John Carter Director Andrew Stanton Comes To Terms With The Film’s Failure

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Six months after the release of Disney’s John Carter, director Andrew Stanton has come to terms with the critical and commercial failure of the sci-fi adventure. But was John Carter a complete fiasco? Although the film did poorly in theaters, the movie has bounced back with new life on Blu-ray/DVD.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Stanton — who found success with the Pixar films Finding Nemo and Wall-E — speaks quite candidly about being handed $200 million to make a movie with no experience making a live-action film. “In the very beginning I assumed it would be like that, ’cause who’s gonna give me the keys to a Ferrari if I’ve never driven before?,” said Stanton. “But studios are not set up like that. They’re like, ‘Go and drive the car and don’t drive it off a bridge.'”

From the very beginning, it seemed that Disney had no idea what to do with the property based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ work. At one point, Disney marketed the film as the first live-action film from Pixar, and then eventually changed the title from John Carter of Mars to simply John Carter. But was this just a case of the inability to market to the right audience, or was there something more at work?

Just this year, actor Taylor Kitsch has been in three box office bombs, including the would-be summer blockbuster Battleship and Oliver Stone’s hyperactive crime film Savages. And while he’d gotten attention for his role as Tim Riggins in Friday Night Lights, as well as smaller roles such as playing Gambit in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, he certainly wasn’t the household name you would hope to have when trying to launch a new potential franchise.

Stanton is taking everything in stride as he tries to figure out what went wrong with John Carter. “We didn’t always agree on which direction to take every step of the way, but there was never serious contention,” Stanton said of Disney’s marketing. “The truth was everyone tried their very best to crack how to sell what we had, but the answer proved elusive.”

But what can be made of John Carter? The film wasn’t that bad; it was very enjoyable in an old-fashioned sort of way. Disney had high hopes for the franchise that included sequel films, an animated series, and Disney theme park attractions, but with its commercial failure, it’s very doubtful these plans will come to fruition. But Stanton and the film’s co-director, Mark Andrews, are staying positive with the idea that John Carter might find an audience later in life. “What was immediately on the list was writing a second ‘Carter’ movie,” Stanton said. “When that went away, everything slid up. I know I’ll be accused by more sarcastic people that it’s a reaction to ‘Carter’ not doing well, but only in its timing, but not in its conceit.”

Hopefully, John Carter will find a new audience on home video. The film has a pulse and personality, which is a rarity in today’s summer blockbuster landscape. It didn’t deserve to get beaten up as much as it did when it was released this past March. Maybe Disney should’ve kept the original title of the film, John Carter of Mars, just to tell people what this film had in store for them. As it stands, John Carter is now the most pirated movie of all-time. That has to say something about its quality, right?


  1. Ken Eagleton says:

    Disney never get Sci-fi Right – The Black Hole, Tron etc. Always Awkward.

  2. Hope Fraser says:

    I thought the movie could have been great but casting Taylor Kitsch was a devastating move. He cannot act & is not leading man material in any form.

  3. Studio morons need to die says:

    Disney should have understood that the “dinosaurs & heroes” genre this film is in is completely played out. Look what happened with the Conan remake, and with “10,000 BC” in 2008. Those films were complete flops, yet they pushed forward with a $200 million film they couldn’t even figure out how to market. And, they handed this film to a director who had never done a live action film. Morons; the studios are run by MORONS…

  4. curleybob says:

    The film was very good. Taylor Kitsch was fine. Disney just did a lousy marketing job. Dropping “of Mars” was dumb. Managed to lose the film’s primary audience — sci-fi fans.

    • Jim Saul says:

      You’re right that the marketing was the disaster. Those dumbass commercials nearly entirely eliminated any hint that it wasn’t a teenage cowboy comedy. What a bizarre choice, considering the source material.

  5. Bob Rose Jr. says:

    In some ways, this reminds me of the Doc Savage movie from back in the 70’s -where a beloved series of action/sci-fi books was made into a movie that the masses were not interested in. Then, as now, it wasn’t a bad movie, but sometimes literary properties just can’t make the leap into cinema properties.

  6. johnnyb807 says:

    I’m sorry but John Carter was a great movie in my opinion. The marketing idiots at Disney really did a gigantic disservice to what could have been franchise material.

  7. James Gates says:

    The original trailer was horrible. I had no idea what was going on, there were clips of adventure, then something in the wild west, then a spaceship, and aliens and then this guy was jumping, and we see something like earth again, and then there’s an explosion… What is going on!? Anyone who saw the trailer was in utter confusion as to what the movie was and so they avoided it assuming the film would resemble the train wreck of a trailer. Marketing something so that it looks like the regurgitated failures of the past is not a good way to get people to watch what you want to show. If they had instead kept the title and made sure the images were concise, and even remotely in order, and said that this was the retelling of a story nearly a century old that had inspired the creative minds of modern Sci-Fi, people would say, “Oh, this is a really cool old story where a guy goes to mars and seems to have super powers or something and it was way ahead of it’s time, I want to go see it!”

  8. Quinx says:

    Only made $283,000,000 million worldwide? I wish our government could fail so badly! And now the DVD sales . . .

  9. I loved the movie. But the trailer seemed to assume everyone was familiar with the character – I wasn’t. Leaving “of Mars” in there or telling me a little more “This is based on Burroughs’ classic novels” would have helped motivate me to read the book and then be excited to see it in theater. Instead, I waited for the DVD release. I didn’t really know about Burroughs’ books about Mars beforehand. I think it’s premature of Disney to completely write off the idea of a sequel, especially if the DVD is selling well. NOW people know what it is, and a sequel could do well. I also thought Taylor Kitsch was good – I haven’t seen him in anything else, but I enjoyed him in this.. I didn’t bother with Conan the Barbarian. I did see 10,000 BC which was okay but lacked something plotwise, for me. John Carter actually inspired me to read the book, which for me marks a good film.

  10. Fireclown says:

    The fim was a good movie but I truly think it failed mostly because they changed the story soooOoo much. That was the biggest mistake!

  11. Peter says:

    I don’t think being the most pirated film of all-time suggests it’s a high quality film. Pirating is what you do when you want to watch a film, just not enough to pay for it. If those pirates loved it so much they went out and bought the blu-ray, THAT would say something about quality.

  12. Chet Hinton says:

    I thought it was a great movie also. The problem is not a lot of people go to the movies anymore.

  13. Daria Brooks says:

    It is seriously tiresome to have to keep following around these wanna-be pundits to correct their ill-conceived blagging about “John Carter.” Disney had no intentions of creating “cartoons and theme park rides” from this film because they’ve been trying to bury it since last summer! They sank their own “tentpole” flick for financial gain (the old “burying all their losses within a single film” routine), refusing as early as Spring 2011 to sell any licensing deals–you know, the deals which keep these franchises solvent?–and cutting the advertising budget to practically nil. They never “lost” $200m: They claimed a $200m “write-down” (projected profit vs. actual money spent) on a film director Andrew Stanton stated never cost more than $150-175m to make. Even the Hollywood Reporter noted immediately after Disney’s scandalous announcement that, at the worst, the claimed $200m write-down was really only $50-80m and would be easily made up by the Blu-ray/DVD/broadcast rights/PPV receipts. Get it? “JOHN CARTER” DID NOT LOSE $200M! Meanwhile, Disney has never fully reported all the money made during the four months that the film remained in theaters, gaining larger, more enthusiastic audiences every week, nor have they announced Blu-ray sales, which went through the roof with sets flying off the shelves so fast on June 5-6 that stores immediately ran out of inventory, Disney being completely unprepared for the clamor. Fans became so desperate for it that they were stealing the few Blu-ray sets left available and pushed the film into the No. 1 spot of the most pirated films of all time. Despite all of this, idiot bloggers insist upon claiming that this film was a failure. Do a little research next time! “John Carter” is a “major worldwide phenomenon” (which Disney finally admitted to in a single print ad back in April). It’s a pity that Hollywood can’t seem to figure it out!

  14. Oz Mandias says:

    It’s already been mentioned but it deserves to be reiterated. The biggest problem with John Carter was the profound changes they made to the “Mars” universe. I’ve been a fan of the stories for over 35 years and cannot, for the life of me, figure out why they needed to make such radical changes to the personality of Carter and everything to do with Life on Mars. They won very few new fans and alienated tens of thousands of old fans.

  15. JessSayin says:

    They should have dropped the title, ‘John Carter’ and gone with the book title:
    ‘Princess of Mars’ (But then one would argue, what connection does Disney have with Princesses..) I Loved it! Took my friends and they loved it. Bad marketing decisions all around. It’s even better on Blu ray.