Disney's upcoming sci-fi blockbuster John Carter could be "the biggest write-off of all time," warns Deadline's Nikki Finke. The film, based on Edgar Rice Burroughs' fantasy novels about a Civil War soldier (Friday Night Lights' Taylor Kitsch) transplanted to Mars so he can save a princess, cost a reported $250 million to make. Add in the price of reshoots and marketing, and John Carter will need to pull in $400 million just to break even, estimates Chris Lee at The Daily Beast. Such a haul seems highly unlikely. Tracking reports indicate that most movie-watchers don't know that the flick is opening this weekend, and those who are aware of John Carter's existence don't want to see it. (Watch a 10-minute preview clip below.) Considering the spate of negative press surrounding the film's ballooning budget, confusing marketing campaign, and poor tracking, is John Carter "doomed" to be among the biggest flops in movie history?
History says yes: John Carter is reminiscent of Kevin Costner's Waterworld — one of the biggest box-office disappointments of all time, says Brad Brevet at Rope of Silicon. In both cases, "all this negativity is swirling around a movie most haven't even seen," and the skepticism isn't even about the story or acting — it's about budget and marketing. Such unsavory pre-release buzz predetermined Waterworld's fate, as "such negativity and expectations creep into the psyche" of the audience. John Carter seems doomed to the same fate.
"Is John Carter this year's Waterworld?"
Hold on. John Carter has a chance: Disney did itself a huge favor by releasing a 10-minute clip of the movie in an attempt to ramp up excitement for the Friday opening, says Craig Dietz at The Big Picture. The footage is entertaining, packed with impressive action sequences and offering proof that Pixar's Andrew Stanton can deftly handle live-action directing. And remember, other underestimated films, like The Lorax, have done quite well at the box-office in recent weeks. John Carter could easily outperform its low expectations.
"10 minute John Carter clip lowers my 'this movie will suck' expectation"
If John Carter flops, blame Mars: John Carter may be doomed to fail, says Kyle Buchanan at New York. But don't blame Disney, the director, or audiences. Blame Mars. "When it comes to the box office, there's very little life on" the Red Planet. The animated Mars Needs Moms was one of last year's biggest flops, earning just $25 million on its $200 million production and promotional budget. The past 10 years also saw Mission to Mars, Red Planet, Ghost of Mars, and Doom all tank spectacularly; Mars Attacks! is Tim Burton's lowest-grossing movie of the past 15 years. "The amount of Mars-related flops could fill a crater," and John Carter looks to be next.
"Are Mars movies doomed?"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Obama just kneecapped Jeb Bush and Chris Christie's 2016 prospects
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- It's official: The religious right is calling it quits
- The dangerously childish morality of liberal ObamaCare supporters
- 10 classic Sesame Street moments we wouldn't show today's kids
- Why insects are the future of food
- Alien conspiracy theorists think the government is on the verge of spilling big secrets
- How science is accelerating our search for alien life
- How to be charismatic, according to science
Subscribe to the Week