This weekend Disney debuted their adaptation of author Edgar Rice Burroughs’ classic series of sci-fi novels, titled for their purposes as John Carter. It’s a special effects bonanza and as a result, one of the most expensive to make movies of the year. They spent more than $250 million dollars bringing the world of Barsoom to life and, unfortunately, no one showed up to see it. John Carter only took in a meager $30 million its opening weekend, not even enough to earn it first place on the box office charts. It was beaten instead by the two-week old Seuss’ adaptation The Lorax.
For the record, I liked this movie; but it’s not hard to figure out what went wrong. John Carter has been a marketing disaster since the beginning. The trailers never really captured anyone and the premise never made a lot of sense to audiences. Worse critical response to the film was, to put it gently, pretty mediocre. But to dismiss John Carter’s failure that way is, perhaps painting with too broad a brush. Why was the marketing such a disaster? Why didn’t critics like it more? Here’s the answer to those questions, broken down into five, very simple bullet points.