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Category: John Carter

Box Office: 'John Carter,' 'A Thousand Words' both flop [Video]

March 12, 2012 |  5:15 pm

John Carter flopped at the box office this weekend
It was a depressing weekend at the box office, as two big-budget films flopped upon arrival in theaters.

Disney's $250-million-plus fantasy epic "John Carter" was overcome by bad buzz and subsequently debuted to around $30 million. And the Eddie Murphy comedy "A Thousand Words," which sources told The Times cost around $70 million, opened to only a weak $6.4 million. That was even worse than the $7 million the thriller "Silent House" brought in, but the scary flick cost less than $1 million to produce.

So why didn't fanboys show up to see the film about a Civil War veteran who ends up on Mars? And can Murphy rehabilitate his career after yet another box office bomb? Check out this week's box office video report for more details.

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-- Amy Kaufman

twitter.com/AmyKinLA

Photo: Lynn Collins and Taylor Kitsch star in "John Carter." Credit: Walt Disney Studios


Disney's 'John Carter': Why did it fail?

March 12, 2012 |  9:30 am

John Carter, starring Taylor Kitsch, was a flop for Disney at the box office this weekend. Click for more photos.

By now, the arguments seeking to explain Disney's "John Carter" debacle have flown so fast they've almost contradicted themselves.

The Taylor Kitsch-starring science-fiction epic, which grossed just $30.6 million this weekend on a budget of more than $250 million, should have played more heavily to the sci-fi crowd, one argument went (the film didn't go to Comic-con and dropped "Mars" from its title). Or maybe it was the opposite -- Disney should have made the film look and feel more accessible. Those indecipherable creatures in its billboards and its television spots emphasizing the arcana of Barsoom battles didn't exactly scream an all-ages must-see.

The truth is that both sides are a little right. Disney could have played harder to the base and potentially made the film work -- presuming, of course, that the budget and expectations were commensurately modest from the outset. 

PHOTOS: Costliest box office flops

Or, having made an absurdly expensive movie, it could have tried to figure out better ways to bring everyone along. As it was, viewership came in at ratio of 3:2 in favor of those over the age of 25 -- not exactly the youthful audience a studio wants in this and-the-teenagers-shall-lead-them era of movie consumption.

Needless to say, Disney marketers were also working with a film that didn't exactly blow anyone away. Directed by Andrew Stanton, "John Carter" was panned on many fan blogs and garnered a measly 48% positive on Movie Review Intelligence, drawing poor reviews even from those who tend to give duds a pass.

But although there's plenty of blame to go around on both the creative and marketing sides, there's another factor: the source material itself. Disney could have made a better movie and sold it more persuasively to a skeptical public. But it was dealing with a stacked deck from the start.

PHOTOS: Costliest box office flops

"John Carter" is based primarily on "A Princess of Mars," the first in Edgar Rice Burroughs'  early 20th century 11-volume series of Barsoom novels. It's a touchstone work of science fiction -- so touchstone that many viewers don't know what it is.

More to the point, it's an epic, which can be a tough sell no matter the studio or marketing strategy. In today's climate, big action-adventure movies work, but they're not usually epics -- more like movies based on a very simple concept (like, cars that turn into robots that fight each other).

Actually, "John Carter" is even tougher material than a typical epic, because it's the beginning of an epic -- not a film conceived as a stand-alone, self-contained piece, a la "Avatar."

The irony in all this is that "John Carter" follows in the tradition (and indeed, its source material helped inspire) the most successful science-fiction epic in the history of cinema, "Star Wars," with both movies featuring interplanetary combat and sprawling fictional universes, and also marrying spectacle with identifiable heroes.

Disney and Stanton didn't come within a galaxy of fashioning "Star Wars" from Burroughs' work. But it's not clear that today's "Transformers"-ready multiplex audience would have been hugely open to it even if they had.

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-- Steven Zeitchik
twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Taylor Kitsch in "John Carter." Credit: Disney


'John Carter': Critics not over the moon for Mars action epic

March 9, 2012 |  2:07 pm

John Carter

One of the big questions raised by the new science-fantasy adventure "John Carter," based on the old pulp stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs and starring Taylor Kitsch (TV's "Friday Night Lights") as a Civil War hero transplanted to Mars, is whether director Andrew Stanton (Pixar's "Finding Nemo" and "Wall-E") and his team could bring something new to an old and influential story. For movie critics, reactions have been mixed.

The Times' own Betsy Sharkey describes the film as "hit and miss, and miss, and miss." Sharkey laments that "a great story" has been "badly sucked dry" and that "Stanton can't find a way to make Burroughs' now-familiar fantasy themes feel fresh." Part of the difficulty, Sharkey notes, is that so many films have already mined Burroughs' work over the years: " 'Star Wars,' 'Star Trek,' 'Avatar,' 'Superman,' to name just a few." And unlike Kitsch's movie counterpart, the actor does not manage to save the day — so effective on "Friday Night Lights," he "simply fades here," Sharkey says.

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