One of my biggest cinematic disappointments in recent years was Disney’s John Carter. That’s not to say the movie was bad, mind you. I actually quite enjoyed it, especially getting to see it with my dad, the guy who introduced me to John Carter and the worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs in the first place. But after a confusing and underwhelming marketing campaign, director Andrew Stanton’s John Carter film earned only $73 million domestic, with the foreign take bringing the global box office to $284 million. But with a production budget of $250 million, it just wasn’t enough, with Disney claiming a $200 million loss on the project. And so, any hopes of further John Carter films died on the vine (at least until they decide to reboot it). Well, today that loss stings just a little bit more, as John Carter himself has suggested that the script for the sequel was “awesome.”
For a while there, Taylor Kitsch was Hollywood’s hot new It Guy of the moment, landing lead roles in several would-be blockbusters after earning a solid reputation from his role as Tim Riggins on NBC’s Friday Night Lights. Unfortunately, those would-be blockbusters were John Carter and Battleship, a one-two punch in 2012 that grounded Kitsch’s leading-man career trajectory. These days he’s promoting the indie film The Grand Seduction, and while speaking with Variety, he shared his thoughts about John Carter.
Do you wish there would have been a sequel?
I miss the family. I miss Andrew Stanton. I know the second script was fucking awesome. We had to plant a grounding, so we could really take off in the second one. The second one was even more emotionally taxing, which was awesome.
The John Carter movie had a long and winding road to the big screen. Before Andrew Stanton became the guy to bring it home, it has been in development under various teams for years. Back in 2004, Robert Rodriguez was going to direct, from a script by Mark Protosevich (Thor). Then it was going to be directed by Kerry Conran (the Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow guy — remember him?) and rewritten by Ehren Kruger (Transformers: Age of Extinction). Then in October 2005 Jon Favreau took over as director, with Mark Fergus on writing duties. In 2006, Paramount shifted focus to their Star Trek reboot, Disney snagged the John Carter rights, and Andrew Stanton took the reins. And, well, we all know where it went from there.
There was certainly plenty of material to draw from had John Carter been the success we wish it had been. The movie mostly adapted A Princess of Mars, the first book in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “Mars” series, and there were nearly a dozen more to draw from had the movie been successful enough to birth a franchise. And while Stanton’s film wasn’t perfect, it was visually lush, a lot of fun, and deserved a lot better than it got. Oh well, maybe Carson Napier should get his shot next time…