One of my biggest movie disappointments of the past decade was the resounding thud when John Carter hit theaters. It wasn’t particularly surprising, as Disney clearly had no clue how to market it, a truth apparent from the moment they dropped of Mars from the title and left audiences with the thoroughly generic John Carter. The film grossed only $73 million in the States, and while the worldwide total landed at $284 million, it’s still considered a failure that killed dead director Andrew Stanton’s dreams of a John Carter movie franchise. But it turns out there might be life after death for John Carter, believe it or not.
To be clear, Disney hasn’t had a sudden change of heart and decided to bring us Gods of Mars and Warlord of Mars like Stanton had hoped. Quite the opposite, in fact: Film Divider reports that Disney has lost the John Carter film rights as of today. With the Mouse House disinterested in pursuing a sequel, the rights have reverted to Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., and the company is eager to find another studio partner to help bring Barsoom back to the big screen.
ERBI President James Sullos said:
We will be seeking a new partner to help develop new adventures on film as chronicled in the eleven Mars novels Burroughs wrote. This adventure never stops.
I am hugely excited by that prospect, but then I’m one of the folks who actually really enjoyed Stanton’s take on Burroughs’ classic space fantasy, even with its flaws. It’s sad that his John Carter film will remain a one-off, but this at least means the property will get another chance. And hey, it’s not like reboots are uncommon these days. If they’re already talking about rebooting Spider-Man yet again, surely J.C. deserves another chance at bat.
The guys at Film Divider also bring up a good point: there’s nothing that says John Carter has to be a movie. Shows like HBO’s Game of Thrones and Starz’s Spartacus have demonstrated that you can pull off quite a bit on a TV budget with some creativity and a sense of style. So why not bring Burroughs’ John Carter books to TV? There are nearly a dozen books in the series, so there’s plenty of fodder for a show to run multiple seasons, and that would give the material a bit more breathing room to establish the world of Barsoom and its peoples. And hell, once a John Carter series wrapped up, there’s always Carson Napier of Venus…
So come on, Syfy, AMC, Starz, HBO…who wants to book passage to Mars? And this time, how about we actually mention that it was created by the guy who gave us Tarzan, and that the books influenced everything from Star Wars to Avatar? You know, just a few little hints to tell the audience that isn’t familiar with the source material why they should give a shit about some dude named John Carter. Just throwing it out there.