In the space of two and a half weeks, spanning from the end of May to the beginning of June, both Taylor Kitsch and Andrew Stanton went on record as saying they were upset that the next two John Carter films weren't happening. While it's sad that these films never came to pass, it's even sadder that Walt Disney Pictures lost out on $200 million on the underperforming blockbuster hopeful of 2012. For a movie that is actually pretty damned good, and also such a lynchpin of science fiction as we know it, to sink faster than the Titanic on fast forward is a real shame.
Had this film succeeded, we'd probably be looking at a different cinematic landscape right now: one where Jules Verne and H.G. Wells are freely adapted without shame or fear of internet backlash. And yet, I'm here today to tell you that it is time to return to the land of Barsoom and continue to enjoy the adventures of John Carter of Mars. The time is right, the market is ready, and Disney seems to have some extra money lying around that can be used to make it happen.
Andrew Stanton And Taylor Kitsch Are Amped About It
Starting with the obvious advantage the film has in its court, John Carter still resonates not only with Andrew Stanton but also with Taylor Kitsch. In an interview, Kitsch had mentioned he's seen the script for the next film and went as far as saying it was not only "emotionally taxing" but also "fucking awesome." Mr. Stanton was, of course, developing an entire trilogy of films as the first one was in production, and considering that he went as far as having title cards made up for both of them shows how much he wishes he were working on this project. While Andrew Stanton is on the hook for Finding Dory at the moment and Taylor Kitsch is all over the place, you could bet that if they were given an opportunity to film the John Carter sequels, they'd drop everything in a heartbeat.
Which is why Walt Disney Studios should be seizing the moment and signing both of them, and anyone else along for the ride, to multi-picture contracts. Taylor Kitsch could surely find a place within the new Star Wars saga, and Andrew Stanton could very easily make multiple films for Pixar – which could include another Finding Nemo sequel , a Wall-E sequel, or something new altogether. The studio can hedge their bets by contractually obligating both men to sure fire hits, and in return allow them to play in the sandbox they love so much.
The Film Has Slowly Gained Favor With Audiences
Of course, this is nothing if there are no fans to show up on opening day. Luckily for the franchise, it's been building support since day one. For a film that bombed out as hard as it did, it certainly seems to have its share of fans, ranking in with a 6.6 out of 10 on IMDB and a 60% fan rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While those aren't the best numbers in the world, they're surely better than the numbers than one would expect with the loss the film took in the end.
John Carter, while not an instant success, has been one of those movies that people seem to watch out of curiosity on home video or cable and end up taking to heart. Those tend to be the movies that deserve sequels the most, as they're circulated more freely and are talked about more often long after the hype has died down. Some movies gain success at such a burst of energy that they burn out just as quickly. Keep in mind, Man Of Steel was technically a box office success, and people haven't exactly been screaming "You need to see this one!" The unsung hits are the ones that tend to linger on, and John Carter is growing in profile as time goes on. So if so many people are fans of John Carter, why was the film such a bust? The answer is that Disney, as experienced as it is with the movie business, made some huge mistakes.
The Lesson of John Carter's Marketing Disaster (Hopfeully) Has Been Learned
John Carter was a film that taught a lot of people at Disney a valuable lesson – the one person who learned that lesson the most was then-chairman Rich Ross. Ross (arguably) was fired for the $200 million loss the film racked up in the same year that Disney would set box office records with The Avengers. The biggest mistake made on the film's path to failure was the rather lackluster marketing campaign. I'll even admit, when I saw the trailers for John Carter, I wasn't exactly jazzed about the film. When your Super Bowl ad has to be recut after it's already been aired to actually show footage of the film, you know you've got problems.
Andrew Stanton felt that the biggest marketing screw up made on the film was the fact that those in charge of marketing the film didn't know how or what they were marketing. How about a film "From The Man Who Brought You Finding Nemo and Wall-E?" Or "Based On The Classic Science Fiction Novel That Inspired Countless Generations?" Better still, why not keep the original title John Carter Of Mars?!
There's no mention of the history of the franchise or the director, which is something Disney is now all too ready to mention as they're now "the studio who brought you Iron Man, Captain America, and The Avengers." You can be sure if that wasn't flashed in front of Guardians Of The Galaxy, James Gunn's movie would be a much tougher sell. With John Carter Round 2, Disney needs to really put their muscle behind the director, as well as the story, and show the world why John Carter isn't just some Star Wars or Avatar rip off. It's their progenitor. Lessons learned. Disney did lose a reported $200 million on this movie, and that's not something that can be changed. But it can be avoided.
Disney Can Afford It (While Making Cost-Effective Choices)
Rich Ross' dismissal was a shame, considering The Avengers was going to make Disney a lot of money back in a short couple of months after John Carter's failure. Did you know though that The Avengers actually helped John Carter boost its profile up a little at the box office? It wasn't a huge bump, but the film did manage to get itself paired with The Avengers at Drive-In showings, making for a great double feature and a nice little piece of side action for the ailing film's fortunes.
What if Disney actually was able to have John Carter: Gods Of Mars ready for the 2015 box office season, with a release date between The Avengers: Age Of Ultron and Ant Man? The film would not only serve as a great gap filler between Marvel Studios pictures, it could get an ad boost from the former and provide an ad boost to the latter. Better still, Disney could replicate the Drive-In strategy and offer moviegoers a chance to both films for a reasonably (but slightly increased ) ticket price... a week before The Avengers: Age Of Ultron is set to be released in theaters. A smarter release strategy, as well as some tightened budgeting practices, could bring this film in on a smaller scale budget, without cutting any corners, especially considering a lot of the character builds and such are already done. Of course, sequels usually need a really good story to put themselves in an opportune position to strike. Lucky for Disney, the John Carter series has PLENTY of ideas, with two already in the pipeline at the time of the first film's inception.
The Sequels Sound Too Good To Pass Up
As stated before, out of John Carter's 11-story canon, there is no shortage of source material. Andrew Stanton realized that, and had already picked out Gods Of Mars (which he "had big plans" for) and Warlord Of Mars (which "would have lead to even bigger plans"), and those bigger plans could still make for some great visual and thematic storytelling moments. Especially considering Gods Of Mars and Warlord Of Mars are a perfect two-part cliffhanger that sets the series up to go in some interesting directions. Considering there's a 10-year gap between John Carter and Gods Of Mars, the story starts off with a lot of distance between what we know and what we learn.
Gods Of Mars picks up after John Carter, as he finds himself back on Barsoom after a 10-year absence. The fact that he's in the planet's equivalent of the afterlife doesn't make things any better, but it sets up an epic quest with John and his ally Tars Tarkas, as they embark on a quest to get back home. A heresy trial, a bout of imprisonment and the kidnapping/attempted murder of Dejah Thoris all bring the story to a close, which picks right back up on Warlord Of Mars. Warlord of Mars is even more exciting, because that trek takes Carter and company on a journey through the polar region of the planet, and puts him into a battle that ultimately crowns him the planet's warlord. These two movies could easily amp up the action, show us sights we've never seen on the screen, and automatically have us wanting more. Something that every good franchise makes good money off of.
Given A Fair Shake, This Franchise Could Be A Very Lucrative Investment
Ultimately, the goals of any franchise are to make a profit and entertain audiences into coming back. While John Carter failed in the first half of the equation, it's slowly shown itself to be more successful in the other half than previously thought. With Disney in charge of two legendary families of films, they've shown themselves able to make good decisions on movies people like. Which is why now is the time to bring John Carter back into the lime light. Between their traditional animated films, the insanely profitable Marvel Studios pictures and the yearly Star Wars films that Disney is planning to put into the world, the studio has quite a diversified portfolio. And yet, wouldn't it be fitting to finish the work that Andrew Stanton had previously made on paying tribute to the story that influenced so many of the stories that we've come to know and love in the science fiction canon?
Walt Disney Studios has always prided itself on adapting classic literature for the whole family to enjoy. They've built so much of their legacy on stories that were written long before the audiences that experienced their versions of them were ever born. With the right approach, this type of movie is not that hard of a sell. The world is ready for the continuing adventures of John Carter, and more importantly Andrew Stanton is ready to tell these stories to the public. When a visionary mind is hung up on telling a story they really love, they can be blocked from other new tales they have in mind. For his sake, and for the sake of the audiences that supported you from the start, it's time to finish the job.
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CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.