Four months after its disappointing theatrical release, I’m still a little heartbroken about John Carter. Despite being based on a series of books that have inspired countless films since, and despite being what seemed to be a perfect meeting of subject matter and director (Pixar’s Andrew Stanton), audiences simply weren’t enticed in. While the film has at least earned back its budget ($283 million worldwide, on an estimated $250 million budget), it simply did not become the breakout hit that I hoped it would. But what would John Carter have looked like if it had gone forward with Jon Favreau as director? How would his vision of Barsoom differed from the John Carter we got?
Favreau was the last “name” director attached to John Carter (at the time still including the “of Mars” part) before it went to Stanton, with his name landing in the ring after Robert Rodriguez and Kerry “Does anybody still remember Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow?” Conran. Things worked out okay for Favreau since he went on the do the unthinkable and make an Iron Man movie that earned half a billion dollars worldwide. But while speaking to Crave Online, Favreau tossed out some of the ways his John Carter would have been different. Strangely enough, he claims that his version would probably have been smaller and less ambitious than Stanton’s film. “Stanton started to weave in elements from the later books,” says Favreau. “I probably would’ve told a smaller story.”
So what Favreau’s smaller, less-ambitious John Carter have included? He tells Crave that it would have focused on the first act of Stanton’s finished film, with Carter finding himself transported to Mars/Barsoom and proving himself to the multi-armed Tharks. He explains:
As we were developing the script it was much more the experience of John Carter being found in this new world and him coming up in a Man Called Horse kind of way among the Tharks and then opening up the world slowly.
I’m still a fan of the John Carter movie we got, but I still have to wonder how things would have gone with Favreau at the helm. Would it have become the hit it deserved to be? Would production currently be ramping up for The Gods of Mars? Sadly, it will always remain as one of Hollywood’s many great “What If?” stories.