It has been heavily reported in the media that Disney’s John Carter is the biggest box office flop off all time; costing an estimated $250m (£160m) to produce and a further $100m on advertising, you could be forgiven for thinking that it makes the 1995 flop Waterworld, starring Kevin Costner and Dennis Hopper, look like a roaring success. However, is the media right to discount John Carter and consign the film to the movie dungeons forever?
Despite the apparent box office failure and less than positive reviews by the critics, there is good news for John Cater. Although not recording large weekly sales figures, JC is still generating a steady income in the box office and it is very important not to forget DVD sales potentials; as highlighted, following the 2007/2008 Hollywood writers strike, where the writers requested a doubling of the residual rate for DVD sales. DVD sales, more often than not, can generate huge sums of monies for the film studios so I think it is a bit premature to just write off JC as a flop straight away.
So just who is John Carter?
One of the main issues for JC, is he is not the most well known of heroes and has always been a bit of a cult figure (calm down fellow Geeks, I’m referring to the wider world of the non-Geeks here). American novelist Edgar Rice Burroughs created him 1912; debuting in his first novel: A Princess of Mars.
John Carter was born in Virginia and served as a Captain in the American Civil War for the Confederacy. Following the war, Carter becomes a prospector, striking it rich in Arizona; how this leads to Mars, is a very good question. While hiding from Apaches in a cave, Carter appears to die, leaving his inanimate body behind he is mysteriously transported (by a form of astral projection) to the planet Mars, to find himself re-animated into a body identical to the one he left on earth (which was handy to say the least). Given Earths greater gravity, Carter is much stronger and agile than the natives of Mars and that as they say is where the story begins (which I will not divulge here for obvious reasons… watch the film or read the book).
John Carter in the media.
While originally a series of novels, John Carter has also appeared in comic book and animated film adaptations over the years. Most famously in 1977, John Carter got the Marvel treatment; written by Marv Wolfman, who had lengthy runs writing: The Amazing Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and Doctor strange, before returning to DC in the 80’s to re-launch DC’s Teen Titans, and penciled by Gil Kane who penciled during the Silver Age of DC’s Batman, Superman and Green Lantern, to name but a few.
Film development originally started in the late 1950s with the legendary stop-motion animation effects director: Ray Harryhausen expressing an interest; however, it wasn’t until the 1980’s that Walt Disney Pictures bought the rights, with a view to creating a rival to Star Wars and Conan the Barbarian (can this article get any more awesome?). The film soon fell into production hell despite John McTiernan (Predator, Die Hard, The Hunt for the Red October) and Tom Cruise approached to direct and star, as McTiernan realized that visual effects were not advanced enough to recreate Burroughs’ vision (An excuse used by George Lucas for waiting so long to make Star Wars Episodes I, II and III).