Pity John Carter. The poor bastard never had a chance. Released several months before the summer movie deluge, Andrew Stanton’s highly anticipated adaptation of the classic 1912 Edgar Rice Burroughs novel A Princess of Mars had the potential to kick start a new blockbuster sci-fi adventure franchise. Unfortunately a series of idiotic marketing decisions in the run-up to the film’s debut and mounds of negative press surrounding the troubled production and its massive $250 million budget effectively sabotaged any chance John Carter had of connecting with audiences and grossing enough at the box office to ensure future sequels and additional ancillary revenue. Though it was very flawed I found the movie to be one of the most entertaining of last year – you can read my review here – yet it seems I was in the minority on that front.
John Carter‘s failure to even make back its budget and marketing costs turned out to be a major strike against the Walt Disney Company; the studio was pilloried for befouling what has been long considered one of the most important (if not THE most important) genre properties in existence by hiring a director inexperienced with live action – Stanton had previously directed several major hits for the company’s computer animation division Pixar – and allowing the costs to mount to the point where the movie’s box office prospects were saddled with unrealistic expectations, and then worsening its already ineffectual reputation even more with a confusing ad campaign that had no idea how to sell the film to the general moviegoing public.
“When I saw I you, I believed it was a sign, that something new can come into this world,” says Tars Tarkas, the giant green Thark, as voiced by soulful Willem Dafoe in the teaser trailer for John Carter. Sadly, when the feature film entered our world, or at least in our cinemas, its reputation had already been tarnished by a soaring budget, backstage turbulence, and muddled marketing. Not until the release of Michael D. Sellers‘ winning book, John Carter and The Gods of Hollywood, have we truly appreciated all of what truly unfolded behind the scenes, of what John Carter could have been.
Before I dive into the book, let me share with you my experience with the film. I followed John Carter‘s production process extensively years prior to its March 2012 opening, as I was just as excited as any other Andrew Stanton fan of this Academy Award-winner directing an adaptation of the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel. Though I was not terribly familiar with the material, I felt enchanted by the riveting content. I was more than thrilled to be one of only thousands of individuals to see early scenes of John Carter at the Disney D23 Expo in August 2011. Some felt apathetic over the clips. Me, I was engaged every second. My fascination with this project led me to write many John Carter articles for Fused Film, the site I previously wrote for, and I have continued to throw in references to Carter in many of my Geeks of Doom pieces. I was on cloud nine when I saw that a book about this topic entered the market.