Vids I Dig 409: Filmento: ‘John Carter’: How Disney Lost 200 Million Dollars

From Filmento’s YouTube description: Although 2013’s The Lone Ranger might’ve become the biggest box office flop of all time, Disney was not resting on their heels in that time period because just one year earlier they released another huge summer blockbuster flop, John Carter. This project was based on a book that was hot in the early 1900s, A Princess Of Mars, and ultimately became the first film in history to lose more than 200 million dollars. Business reasons aside, the core factors that contributed to this are quite similar to the main problems with The Lone Ranger, but only functioning in very different ways. So, in today’s Anatomy of a Failure, let’s see what Disney did with John Carter that broke the record of a 200 million dollar box office bomb. Well, firstly it’s like a mix of Lone Ranger and Mortal Engines which is not so great box office wise, but maybe there’s something else too.

Comic Review: Warlord of Mars, Vol. 1

Published: October 12th, 2011
Written by: Arvid Nelson
Art by: Lui Antonio
Based on: A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Dynamite Entertainment, 275 Pages

Review:

I never was a big fan of the Barsoom stuff by Edgar Rice Burroughs. That’s probably because I never read the books and have just had vague knowledge of the characters John Carter and Dejah Thoris. However, since Thoris has been appearing in lots of crossovers with other characters I’m a fan of, I wanted to check out her earliest stories. Also, with the Star Wars, Star Trek and Doctor Who franchises putting out a lot of bullshit the last few years, maybe it is time to give the Barsoom franchise a shot.

This was a cool story and I like the world that these characters live in. I also recently watched Disney’s John Carter for the first time, as I wanted to compare two different versions of this same story. Both this comic and that movie are adaptations of the first Barsoom novel, A Pricess of Mars.

For the most part, the film and this comic are pretty close, narratively. There are some small differences and I’m not sure which is closer to the novel but I definitely prefer the look of the Martians in the comic and the more adult tone. Here, the Martians look like four armed Hulks with orc-like heads and tusks. In some ways, it reminded me a lot of the Planet Hulk storyline.

The story is well presented and it flows nicely. My only real complaint about this was the art. It’s not terrible but it feels rushed and a bit overly fantastical. Also, Dejah Thoris is basically naked minus her pasties and loin cloth. I’m not sure if that’s how she appears in Burroughs’ book but it felt a bit unnecessary and I’m no prude. I’m a fan of boobies for sure but I felt like an old perv reading this while waiting for my order at Five Guys.

Warlord of Mars was amusing and entertaining though. I’ll probably check out more of these stories by Dynamite, in preparation before reading some of Dejah Thoris’ crossovers with Vampirella and Red Sonja.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Dynamite’s other Barsoom related comics.

Film Review: John Carter (2012)

Also known as: John Carter of Mars, A Princess of Mars, Barsoom (working titles)
Release Date: February 22nd, 2012 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Andrew Stanton
Written by: Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews, Michael Chabon
Based on: A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Music by: Michael Giacchino
Cast: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Samantha Morton, Mark Strong, Ciarán Hinds, Dominic West, James Purefoy, Willem Dafoe, Don Stark, Bryan Cranston, Thomas Haden Church, David Schwimmer, Jon Favreau

Walt Disney Pictures, 132 Minutes

Review:

“Did I not tell you he could jump!” – Tars Tarkas

I got to be honest, I didn’t think I’d get much out of this film but I was pleasantly surprised.

I never planned to watch it but I recently started reading Dynamite Entertainment’s comic book adaptations of the Barsoom stuff (titled Warlord of Mars) and I wanted to see how similar the comic book version of A Princess of Mars was to this film, a live action version of the same story.

They were pretty close, for the most part. Having never read the novel though, I’m not sure which is closer to the source material. I’d assume the comic though, as Disney loves to put their own stamp on their adaptations.

This is an action packed, epic adventure story. It’s grand in scale, is a hell of a lot of fun and is basically a swashbuckling romp on Mars. It’s like if you merged Disney’s Prince of Persia and Pirates of the Caribbean movies together and then threw them into outer space.

This was also one of the most expensive movies ever made but completely flopped at the box office and has become one of Disney’s biggest failures. The sad thing is that it wasn’t shit and the film did a fantastic job of world building: setting up future sequels. Honestly, having seen this now, I wish it would have evolved into a franchise.

I thought that Taylor Kitsch was convincing as John Carter and his chemistry with Lynn Collins’ Dejah Thoris was pretty good. But I actually preferred his relationship with his badass Martian dog, Woola. I smiled every time this cosmic canine was on the screen.

Plus, the Michael Giacchino score is superb. I loved the themes in this picture.

My only real complaint about the movie is that I didn’t like some of the character design. I’m not sure how true to the books the look of the Martians was but I preferred the bulkier, heavyset versions in the comics, as opposed to these skinny ones in the film. Still, the actors that played the Martians (primarily Willem Dafoe) did a solid job.

Additionally, the CGI was questionable in the quality of the characters. The special effects work great for the ships, vehicles, landscapes and architecture but the living, breathing characters felt artificial. And that’s kind of baffling considering the immense budget of this top tier motion picture.

None of the flaws are enough to distract you though. The total package is good and I enjoyed it enough to not want to nitpick the shit out of certain things that don’t wreck the film.

I hope that this being a massive flop won’t deter future filmmakers from taking on the Barsoom material. John Carter is a worthy enough character to live on in various forms forever. I just hope that someone can eventually make something that the people want to see because the Barsoom mythos is rich and deserving of further adaptations.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Disney’s Prince of Persia and Pirates of the Caribbean movies, as well as the first two Brendan Fraser Mummy films and Aquaman.

Film Review: At Earth’s Core (1976)

Release Date: July 1976 (US)
Directed by: Kevin Connor
Written by: Milton Subotsky
Based on: At Earth’s Core by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Music by: Mike Vickers
Cast: Doug McClure, Peter Cushing, Caroline Munro

Amicus Productions, American International Pictures, British Lion Films, 89 Minutes

Review:

Being that I have now watched At Earth’s Core means that I have now gotten through the new season of Mystery Science Theater 3000, which is kind of friggin’ depressing.

Truthfully, I had already seen this, as it is an Amicus film with Peter Cushing in it. It also has Caroline Munro, a huge childhood crush of mine, who always turned my heart into putty I would have freely given her to play with. I still would. I am weak in the presence of Ms. Munro even though she’s only been on my television set. Also, I’m calling her “Ms.” to ignore whether or not she ever married.

Anyway, Caroline Munro perv rant out of the way, on to the movie itself.

The film actually isn’t too bad. Considering that it is an Amicus production and that it has a tiny budget, I can live with the results.

It stars Doug McClure, who starred in Amicus’ other Edgar Rice Burroughs adaptation The Land That Time Forgot. He’s a hammy and bulky “save the babe” sort of guy. The babe being Ms. Munro.

It also stars Peter Cushing, one of my all-time favorite actors. However, in this, he is really bizarre and overly goofy. His voice is weird and quite annoying and his mannerisms are like that of a regal British gentlemen drinking too many pints of ale and being dared by his mates to walk around like that asshole Jerry Lewis. I pretty much hate Cushing in this movie and I hate saying I hate Cushing in anything. I mean, it’s Peter F’n Cushing!

The film is colorful, I like the cinematography even if it feels really dated for 1976. The colors and sets look like something out of a 60s Roger Corman sci-fi picture. I love the colors, actually but the film feels like it has less production value than its predecessor The Land That Time Forgot, which predates this by two years.

Additionally, the effects, in general, are also a step down. While the creatures and monsters are cooler concepts than the standard dinosaurs in The Land That Time Forgot, their rubber suits and overall construction just look really shoddy.

Don’t even get me started on the atrocious ape men.

Despite its faults, At Earth’s Core is still a fun picture to check out if you love the classic Burroughs and Jules Verne adventure films from the 1950s through 1970s.

Rating: 5/10

Film Review: The Land That Time Forgot (1974)

Release Date: November 29th, 1974 (UK)
Directed by: Kevin Connor
Written by: Michael Moorcock, James Cawthorn
Based on: The Land That Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Music by: Douglas Gamley
Cast: Doug McClure, John McEnery, Susan Penhaligon, Keith Barron

Amicus Productions, American International Pictures, 91 Minutes

Review:

The Land That Time Forgot is a better film than what is typically featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 but it was nice seeing it pop up in the new revival season. Also, it is made by Amicus and compared to the quality of most of their pictures, this is like a big budget epic for them. I’m not knocking Amicus but they were sort of a poor man’s Hammer Studios in the UK and typically made small gothic horror pictures.

This film features rubber dinosaurs, cavemen and a submarine. Those three things are an interesting enough mix. Unfortunately, the film spends more time on the submarine than the island it seems. Being that Amicus is not a big studio, they needed to distract from the island wildlife for budgetary reasons but there were probably better ways to do this.

The creatures aren’t horrible but they also aren’t great. What you have here is a typical rubber suit monster movie. It isn’t as cool and creative as a Toho kaiju flick but it is still well executed for what Amicus had to work with. The dinosaur battles were fairly decent despite the film’s limitations, technically and financially. The pterodactyls probably could have been a bit more convincing though.

The cast is pretty decent and the characters are an interesting mix. You have the military men from a German submarine, a few people from a ship that they sank and a caveman sidekick. Ultimately, the group has to work together, as they try to traverse and survive the dangerous island.

The Land That Time Forgot is not the best of the classic literary sci-fi adventure pictures that were big from the 1950s through 1970s but it is a really good effort from a studio that didn’t have Disney money. It is a good and fun film with a lot of flaws but it doesn’t get dull and it keeps your attention throughout. It is also a quicker paced film compared to others in its genre.

Rating: 5/10