- Box Office Bomb:
- One of the biggest in recent memory. It cost an absurd $250 million to make and pulled in an anemic $73 million at the domestic box office, while overseas was much much better at $211 million. what? A big part of this was coming out at the same time as The Hunger Games.
- Disney predicted a $200 million dollar loss on the film, which could either be including home media sales or just be downright optimistic. Without the actual books it's impossible to be sure. The upper figure on the estimate is $223 million in 2020 dollars, which (if correct) makes it the biggest bomb of all time, beating Mortal Engines (the largest confirmed loss) by $45 million.
- Casting Gag: Tardos Mors and Kantos Kan, the stoic ruler of a Greco-Romanesque city-state and his snarky right-hand man, are played by Ciaran Hinds and James Purefoy, respectively. It's probably not an accident that Hinds and Purefoy were previously best known for playing Julius Caesar and Marc Antony on HBO's Rome.
- Creator Backlash: Stanton's friend and boss at Pixar, John Lasseter, allegedly had a nuclear reaction to the marketing and failure of John Carter and the move to pin the blame on Stanton solely; this nuclear-level reaction led directly to studio chief Rich Ross's departure.
- Creator Killer: Several heads got caught up in an acrimony backdraft not seen since Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg's exits from Disney as a direct result of this movie...
- Studio executive Rich Ross was fired from his position as Disney Studios leader weeks after Disney predicted they'd lose $200 million on the project and Pixar supremo John Lasseter, who is friends with director Andrew Stanton, ripped him a new asshole and supposedly threatened to leave Disney himself if Ross didn't; Ross holds the Medal of Dishonor of being the only Disney Studios chairman since Ron Miller's ousting to have lost his job thanks to being simply incompetent in command, with the four chairmen before him (the first of which was Jeffrey Katzenberg, who exited on the back of The Lion King and is really the only chairman to get involved with the animation department as wellnote ) leaving for creative differences (the executive who helmed the marketing campaign also got the boot). The failure of The Lone Ranger the following year ensured Ross won't likely climb back from network television anytime soon.
- Director Andrew Stanton disappeared from the live action scene and focused on his Pixar output. His career has possibly recovered after directing Finding Dory in 2016 and working on some episodes of Stranger Things.
- Dueling Movies: Fought for the same audience as Wrath of the Titans (a similar literary concept with big action sequences, a buff male lead and releases in 3-D). Both were eaten for breakfast by The Hunger Games, which siphoned their audience.
- Executive Meddling:
- The film was titled John Carter of Mars at first, but the 'Mars' was dropped as Disney thought the 'Mars' title was the reason Mars Needs Moms did so poorly at the box office, leaving the film with a nondescript name as the title. The fact that the movie even takes place on Mars was downplayed in marketing, along with any mention of creator Edgar Rice Burroughs. The studio also refused to use the book's title A Princess of Mars, fearing it would make the movie sound like a chick flick. As many critics pointed out, they exchanged a title that appealed only to women for a title that appealed to literally no one.
- As detailed in John Carter and the Gods of Mars, a combination of executives being replaced and fighting with one another caused the studio to essentially sabotage the film out of internal pettiness. This infighting ultimately ended with Walt Disney Studios chairman Rich Ross and marketing helm M.T. Carney being on the losing end of the infighting; Ross managed to turn himself into a bitter enemy for Lasseter and was fired from his job over the movie (he had the shortest tenure of any studio chief since 1984, when Katzenberg arrived and started his 10 year tenure, the longest for the studio chiefs), with Carney following Ross out the gate.
- Fake American: Taylor Kitsch (Canadian) as John Carter.
- Fake Brit: Lynn Collins (American, plays a Red Martian speaking in an English accent).
- In Memoriam: Dedicated to Steve Jobs, director Andrew Stanton's former boss at Pixar, who died several months before the film was released.
- Old Shame: Andrew Stanton has confessed that he isn't too satisfied with how the movie turned out.
- Stillborn Franchise: After all the trouble to get the film on a big screen, its massive failure and the acrimony at Disney that came with it ended ideas of any sequels or serious franchise plans regarding this film, much to the regret of Andrew Stanton, who was planning a trilogy. The rights to the novels have since reverted back to the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate, who are still open to turning the books into a successful movie franchise.
- Troubled Production:
- Versions of this movie had been in production since 1931. Many different studios tried to make it but never got out of pre-production...
- There were reservations at Disney about letting Stanton direct the film, despite his obvious sentimental attachment to the material, because he'd never directed a live-action feature before. However, since he'd made WALLE and Finding Nemo into hits, they let him do it. As Commentary Tracks of the Damned states out of Stanton's DVD commentary, this caused the situation of a first-time live action director being drunk with power after receiving too much money and creative control, which became even worse because Rich Ross and the other studio executives at Disney likewise had little experience with feature films since most of them had come from television. Throughout production, Stanton ignored the advice of the crew members who were live-action veterans in favor of his Pixar friends, back in their offices, yet he was ironically aware it would not be an easy work, as he warned the execs, "I'm not gonna get it right the first time, I'll tell you that right now." Indeed, the film required extensive double reshoots.
- Then, it came time to market the film, which was already handicapped in that department by having no big stars in the cast. A trailer shown at a Disney convention did not go over well, and Stanton refused to take any advice from the studio's marketing department. He insisted on using Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" in the trailer even after it was pointed out to him that a 30-year-old classic-rock song was not likely to resonate with the younger male audience the film was intended for, in addition to all the titling problems noted above. It didn't help that Stanton, who practically worshiped the books, was under the impression that John Carter was a name on the same level as Sherlock Holmes or Harry Potter, and that everyone would instantly recognize the name- and thus the trailer wouldn't need to explain that much. Suffice to say, he was very wrong. (Granted, once one remembers that film journalists get much of their information from executives, perhaps the above should be taken with a massive grain of salt as an attempt to throw Stanton under the bus.)
- The film's budget qualifies all on its own. A $250 million dollar budget is some $20 million more than James Cameron spent on Avatar, but unlike the man behind the then highest grossing film in history, director Stanton had never made a live action picture before.
- What Could Have Been: In 1936, Looney Tunes director Bob Clampett created pencil tests for an animated feature of the novel. 70 years later, Paramount was developing a much lower-budgeted version of the film that would have been produced using the "digital backlot" method, with Robert Rodriguez and then Kerry Conran attached to direct. However, Rodriguez dropped out to direct Sin City, while Conran was ruthlessly fired only a few days after the underwhelming opening of his previous film, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. The project then sat in Development Hell for a couple of years, before Paramount let the license expire, and Disney picked it up. Additionally, Disney's film version was originally planned as a co-production with Carolco Pictures.
- The Wiki Rule: The John Carter Wiki.
Trivia / John Carter