Filming began in November 2009 with principal photography underway in January 2010, wrapping seven months later in July 2010. The film was a production of the motion picture studio Walt Disney Pictures. Theatrically, it was commercially distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, while the Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment division released the film in the home media market. John Carter explores extraterrestrial life, science fiction and civil war. Following its wide release in theaters, the film failed to garner any award nominations for its acting or production merits from accredited film organizations. With its initial foray into the home media marketplace; the widescreen DVD and Blu-ray editions of the film featuring deleted scenes, the filmmaking process, and director's commentary among other highlights was released in the United States on June 5, 2012.
Walt Disney Pictures released John Carter in the United States on March 9, 2012; the film was shown in regular 2D and in the Disney Digital 3D as well as IMAX 3D formats. Upon release, John Carter received a mixed critical reception and performed poorly at the domestic box office, although it did show strength overseas, particularly in Russia where it set box office records. Disney attributed the $160 million swing from profit to loss in its Studio Entertainment division in the quarter ending March 2012 "primarily" to the performance of John Carter. Given its marketing and production costs, the film was largely considered a box office bomb. Paul Dergarabedian, president of Hollywood.com noted, "John Carter's bloated budget would have required it to generate worldwide tickets sales of more than US$600-million to break even, ... a height reached by only 63 films in the history of moviemaking."
After a brief introduction establishing that Mars is not a "dead planet", but rather a dying one inhabited by warring civilizations with great airships, the film begins in 1881 with news of the sudden death in Richmond, Virginia, of John Carter (Taylor Kitsch), a former Confederate Army cavalry officer, who has become an eccentric and wealthy scholar-adventurer. The arrival of his nephew Edgar Rice Burroughs (Daryl Sabara)—"Ned"—at his "Uncle Jack's" funeral reveals that, in accordance with his own instructions, Carter's body has been put in a mausoleum, which can only be unlocked from the inside. The estate's attorney hands over Carter's personal journal for Ned to read, in the hope that he may discover the reason for Carter's strange behavior and death.
The film flashes back to 1868 and to the Arizona Territory, where Carter is prospecting for gold and having violent encounters with both the 7th Cavalry and the local Apache Indians. After fleeing from both, he shelters in a cave with Colonel Powell (Bryan Cranston), one of his pursuers, and discovers a large quantity of gold. A strange figure (later revealed to be a White Martian Thern) suddenly materializes in the cave; Carter kills him and, due somehow to the stranger's large elaborate medallion, is inadvertently teleported to the planet Mars, also known as Barsoom. There, due to his higher bone density and the planet's lower gravity, Carter is able to jump fantastically high and throw killer punches. He is soon captured, however, by the giant, four-armed Green Martian Tharks under the rule of Jeddak (King) Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe). Tars instructs Sola (Samantha Morton) to watch over Carter which results in her feeding him a liquid that enables him to understand the Martian language.
Elsewhere on Barsoom, the Red Martian city of Helium ruled by Tardos Mors (Ciarán Hinds) and the mobile scavenger city of Zodanga ruled by the villainous Sab Than (Dominic West) have been at war for a thousand years. Sab Than, who wants to conquer Barsoom, is now armed with a special weapon, the "Ninth Ray", given to him by a mysterious race called the Therns, led by Matai Shang (Mark Strong). The Therns are a race that travel the universe, manipulating different civilizations on different planets into their eventual self-destruction, but don't aim to cause destruction to the planets, but simply manage and feed off the destruction of the planets. Under Shang's guidance, Sab Than proposes a cease-fire and an end to the war by marrying the Princess of Helium Dejah Thoris. Unwilling to go through with the marriage, the Princess attempts to escape in a Helium ship disguised as a soldier.
As Tarkus tries to get John Carter to show off his jumping abilities, a Thark states the sightings of one ship from Helium and one ship from Zodanga about to battle each other, scattering the Tharks to their hiding place. John Carter takes action and saves Dejah from falling from the crippled Helium ship. He manages to kill some Zodanga soldiers and have a brief fight with Sab Than. Following the fight, which leads to Sab Than's ship retreating, John Carter is hailed as Dotar Sojat (which roughly translates to "My Right Arms") by Tars Tarkas due to his strength and skill. Tarkus even has Dejah given to him as part of the Thark spoils. Sometime after that, Carter, accompanied by Dejah, tries to find a way to get back to Earth, and stumbles upon a temple ruin sacred to the Tharks where Sola encounters them and tries to stop them from entering, but fails. After discovering that an inscription stating a way back to Earth in the sacred river of Iss, Carter, Dejah, and Sola are caught by two vicious Tharks, Sarkoja (Polly Walker) and Tal Hajus (Thomas Haden Church). The three of them are sentenced to death due to the Thark code, but they are helped to escape by Tars Tarkas, who reveals to Carter that Sola is his daughter. When Hajus and Sarkoja find the prisoners gone, Hajus states that Tarkus has "betrayed them".
Carter, Dejah and Sola embark on a quest descending the sacred River Iss to find a way for Carter to get back home. There, they find information about the Ninth Ray, the medallion, and the process by which the Therns teleport ("telegraph") from planet to planet. But they are later attacked by the Green Martian Clan of Warhoon, which were manipulated by Matai Shang to pursue them, as part of a new plan by himself and Sab Than. After initially fleeing, Carter decides to buy the others time by fighting the horde himself as atonement for not being able to save his family years ago. Though defeating many Warhoon, Carter is ultimately overpowered and is saved when a Helium ship, commandeered by Tardos Mors, intervenes. Sab Than is also in the company as Tardos Mors mentions to Dejah that he came alone and stated that he organized the rescue party. The demoralized Dejah grudgingly agrees to marry Sab Than as Carter is taken to Zodanga to be healed.
When Carter awakens, he is guided by Helium captain Kantos Kan (James Purefoy) to Dejah's room. After Kantos and the servant girls leave, Dejah gives Carter his medallion and tells him to go back to Earth. As Dejah leaves with Sab Than, Carter is met by Matai Shang, who takes him for a walk around Zodanga. There, Shang explains to Carter about the purpose of the Therns and their age-old manipulations of the histories of civilizations on different planets, also revealing Sab Than's secret plan that he will kill Dejah once he marries her; therefore, he'll rule Barsoom forever, thus completing the course the Therns set for Barsoom's fate in the process. Carter is able to escape from Zodanga, as Sab Than's and Dejah's wedding begins to proceed.
Carter and Sola go back to the Tharks and ask for their help, but discover that Tarkas has been overthrown as Jeddak by Tal Hajus. Tarkas, Carter, and Sola are subjected to a gladiatorial contest with two gigantic white Martian apes. After defeating them and easily killing Hajus, Carter is acclaimed leader of the Tharks. A vast Thark army, with Carter at its head, advances on Zodanga, then on Helium, and stops the wedding ceremony. Sab Than reveals his true intentions and sends his soldiers to attack Helium's soldiers, but the combined efforts of Carter, Dejah, the Tharks and the Helium army defeat the Zodangan army in a huge battle, ultimately killing Sab Than, while Matai Shang is forced to escape. Carter then marries Dejah himself and becomes Jeddak of Helium. That night, Carter decides to stay forever on Mars and throws away his medallion. Seizing this opportunity, Matai Shang re-emerges from hiding and sends Carter back to Earth.
Resuming the original framing story, it is revealed that Carter has undertaken a ten year long quest, looking for clues of the Therns' presence on Earth and hoping to find another medallion to return to Barsoom. His sudden "death" and unusual funeral arrangements would seem to indicate that he had succeeded and returned to Barsoom, leaving his "Earth body" in a coma-like state. His presence on Mars was via a sort of virtual body, and the death of his Earth body would end his life on both planets. He has made Ned his protector, giving him clues about how to open the mausoleum. Ned now hastens to the mausoleum, opens it, but finds no body. He has been covertly stalked by Matai Shang, in the form of a man with a bowler hat. As the would-be assassin prepares to strike, Carter suddenly reappears and kills Shang. He discloses to Ned that he never found any medallion, but instead laid a clever trap for a Thern. Carter then reaffirms that he does need a protector, and Ned happily accepts, with Carter also telling him to enjoy his life on Earth and write a book. He then takes Shang's medallion, enters the mausoleum, invokes the necessary code words, and is instantly teleported back to Mars, to resume his Barsoomian life with Dejah.
- Taylor Kitsch as John Carter, the protagonist
- Lynn Collins as Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium
- Willem Dafoe as Tars Tarkas, a Barsoomian warrior and ally of John Carter
- Thomas Haden Church as Tal Hajus, a vicious Thark warrior
- Samantha Morton as Sola, daughter of Tars Tarkas
- Dominic West as Sab Than, Prince of Zodanga and the secondary antagonist
- Polly Warker as Sarkoja, a merciless, tyrannical Thark
- James Purefoy as Kantos Kan, captain of the ship Xavarian
- Mark Strong as Matai Shang, leader of the Holy Therns and the main antagonist
- Ciarán Hinds as Tardos Mors, Jeddak of Helium
- Bryan Cranston as Colonel Powell, a Civil War colonel who comes into conflict with Carter
- Daryl Sabara as Edgar Rice Burroughs, nephew of John Carter
Jon Favreau, who was once attached to direct the film when it was still a Paramount production, has a cameo as Thark Bookie in the film.
The Earthmen From the planet Earth of the late 1800s—light years from Barsoom (Mars)
John Cartor (Taylor Kitsch)
- Quote: "No good'll come out of me fightin' your war."
The main protagonist, born in Virginia, John Carter served as an officer in the Confederate army in the Civil War. He is an honorable and courageous hero, but the ravages of the Civil War have left him broken, dispirited and personally defeated. Accidentally transported to Barsoom (Mars), Carter begins to realize that his strength and jumping abilities are greatly amplified in the low gravity of the planet. Carter reluctantly begins a journey to rediscover his humanity while at the same time saving his newfound world.
Colonel Powell (Bryan Cranston)
- Quote: "Captain, I'm finding it difficult to reconcile the man on this piece of paper with the one I'm looking at."
Colonel Powell is a seasoned, by-the-book, tough-as-nails U.S. cavalry officer. Powell's mission is to enlist John Carter to fight the Apaches from his unit's outpost in the Arizona Territory. He is thwarted in this by John Carter's abject refusal to have anything to do with the military—or any cause, no matter how just.
Edgar Rice Burrough (Daryl Sabara)
- Quote: "My mother always said Jack never really came back from the war."
Edgar Rice Burroughs is John Carter's inquisitive 18-year-old nephew. Edgar adores his Uncle John and as a child enjoyed listening to wild tales he spun that took him on journeys to places Edgar could hardly even imagine. Burroughs receives an urgent telegram from his Uncle and rushes to him—only to find it may be too late.
The Inhabitats of Barsoom Mars or Barsoom, as it is called by the natives of the planet, is home to a host of different races, ranging from the "Red Men:" the sophisticated Heliumites and war-like Zodangans, to the tribal, primitive "Green Men", the Tharks, and the mysterious, advanced Therns.
Human-like, red-tattooed inhabitants of the city of Helium characterized by their sophisticated and conservationist policies. They proudly wave the blue flag that symbolizes their nation, and their longing for the oceans long gone.
Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins)
- Quote: "If you had the means to save others, would you not take any action possible to make it so?"
Dejah Thoris, the beautiful, raven-haired princess of Helium, is a passionate advocate for the Heliumites and their way of life. Dejah is Regent of the Royal Academy of Science, and was trained to rule and fight. She is on the verge of a discovery that could permanently shift the balance of power between her nation Helium and their enemy Zodanga. But time is running out, and Dejah must convince John Carter to enlist in the fight to save Helium.
Tardos Mors (Ciarán Hinds)
- Quote: "Helium is lost. My people. I have failed them all."
Tardos Mors is the Jeddak (King) of Helium and father to Dejah Thoris. He is a tough and pragmatic ruler, who is forced to find a solution to save his beloved Helium—even if it means breaking his heart and Dejah's to do it.
Kantos Kan (James Purefoy)
- Quote: "Hello, ladies."
Kantos Kan is the Odwar (Captain) of the Helium air navy and is fiercely loyal to Tardos Mors and his daughter, Dejah Thoris. Intelligent, handsome and brave, Kantos will do anything in his power to fight for Helium and protect the royal family.
Human-like, red-tattooed inhabitants of Zodanga; war-like, manipulative and exploitive and always on the move—a predator race. They are represented by a bold red flag that symbolizes their aggressive and destructive nature.
Sab Than(Dominic West)
- Quote: "Death to Helium!"
The secondary antagonist of the film, Sab Than is the Jeddak (King) of Zodanga. He is impulsive, arrogant and aggressive, promoting war and conquest as the Zodangan way of life. With a dangerously calculated charm, Sab Than will even try to make a deal with the devil to destroy Helium and rule all of Barsoom.
In the religion of Barsoom, Therns are the heralds of the Goddess Issus. In fact, they are an inconspicuous race and Barsoom's most highly advanced beings, whose motives are always self-serving.
Matai Shang (Mark Strong)
- Quote: "We do not cause the destruction of a world, Captain Carter. We simply manage it. Feed off it, if you like."
The main antagonist, Matai Shang is the Holy Hekkador (King) of the Therns. Using their advanced technology, the mysterious Therns represent themselves as the messengers of the Barsoomian Goddess Issus in order to manipulate their own plans.
The "Green Men" of Barsoom. Tusked, 9–10 foot tall, four-armed creatures, who are tribal and primitive. Historically a once great race but now nomadic and dispersed; their survival-of–the fittest beliefs often fuel their aggressive, combative behavior.
Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe)
- Quote: "When I saw you leap into the sky, I wished to believe it was a sign that something new can come into this world."
Tars Tarkas is a fierce green Martian warrior who is the Jeddak (King) of the Tharks. The last vestige of nobility runs in his blood and is the only thing that keeps the Thark tribe from turning into beasts. Blessed with a good sense of humor and patience, Tars befriends the earthman John Carter and gives him the Thark name Dotar Sojat, which roughly translates as "my right arms."
Tal Hajus (Thomas Haden Church)
- Quote: "I claim the right of challenge! Who will pledge their metal to mine?"
Tal Hajus would like nothing better than to become the leader of the Tharks and depose Tars Tarkas by force. He is a brutal and conniving Thark warrior, with a single-minded belief that only the strong have the right to survive.
Sola (Samantha Morton)
- Quote: "May the Goddess find me worthy."
Sola is a caring and nurturing Thark, which makes her a pariah in the cruel Thark society. She is often at odds with the Thark way of life because she thinks with her heart, not her head. She is the runt of the litter and is given the responsibility of stewarding John Carter after he is adopted by the tribe.
Sarkoja (Polly Walker)
- Quote: "Sola can take the little white worm."
Sarkoja is the ideal Thark; calculating, cold and cruel. Like Tal Hajus, she believes that only the strong should survive, and she has survived a long time. She targets Sola at every opportunity for she has no patience with Sola's humanity, which she perceives as weakness.
- “Woola would find you anywhere on barsoom”
- ―Sola to John Carter
Woola is a Calot, a large, lizard-like dog, that takes John Carter as his master. Calots are incredibly fast with 10 legs and a mouth full of sharp teeth. Woola is fiercely protective of Carter for he is the first person to ever come to his rescue.
The film is largely based on A Princess of Mars (1917), the first in a series of 11 novels to feature the interplanetary hero John Carter (and in later volumes the adventures of his children with Dejah Thoris). The story was originally serialized in six monthly installments (from February through July 1912) in the pulp magazine The All-Story; those chapters, originally titled "Under the Moons of Mars", were then collected in hardcover five years later from publisher A. C. McClurg.
Bob Clampett involvement
In 1931 Looney Tunes director Bob Clampett approached Edgar Rice Burroughs with the idea of adapting A Princess of Mars into a feature-length animated film. Burroughs responded enthusiastically, recognizing that a regular live-action feature would face various limitations to adapt accurately, so he advised Clampett to write an original animated adventure for John Carter. Working with Burroughs' son John Coleman Burroughs in 1935, Clampett used rotoscope and other hand-drawn techniques to capture the action, tracing the motions of an athlete who performed John Carter's powerful movements in the reduced Martian gravity, and designed the green-skinned, 4-armed Tharks to give them a believable appearance. He then produced footage of them riding their eight-legged Thoats at a gallop, which had all of their eight legs moving in coordinated motion; he also produced footage of a fleet of rocketships emerging from a Martian volcano. MGM was to release the cartoons, and the studio heads were enthusiastic about the series.
The test footage, produced by 1936, received negative reactions from film exhibitors across the U.S., especially in small towns; many gave their opinion that the concept of an Earthman on Mars was just too outlandish an idea for midwestern American audiences to accept. The series was not given the go-ahead, and Clampett was instead encouraged to produce an animated Tarzan series, an offer which he later declined. Clampett recognized the irony in MGM's decision, as the Flash Gordon movie serial, released in the same year by Universal Studios, was highly successful. He speculated that MGM believed that serials were only played to children during Saturday matinees, whereas the John Carter tales were intended to be seen by adults during the evening. The footage that Clampett produced was believed lost for many years, until Burroughs' grandson, Danton Burroughs, in the early 1970s found some of the film tests in the Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. archives. Had A Princess of Mars been released, it might have preceded Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to become the first American feature-length animated film.
Walt Disney and Stanton progression
During the late 1950s famed stop-motion animation effects director Ray Harryhausen expressed interest in filming the novels, but it was not until the 1980s that producers Mario Kassar and Andrew G. Vajna bought the rights for Walt Disney Pictures, with a view to creating a competitor to Star Wars and Conan the Barbarian. Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio were hired to write, while John McTiernan and Tom Cruise were approached to direct and star. The project collapsed because McTiernan realized that visual effects were not yet advanced enough to recreate Burroughs' vision of Barsoom. The project remained at Disney, and Jeffrey Katzenberg was a strong proponent of filming the novels, but the rights eventually returned to the Burroughs estate. Andrew Stanton, director of the animated Pixar hits WALL-E and Finding Nemo, lobbied the studio to reacquire the rights from Burroughs' estate. "Since I'd read the books as a kid, I wanted to see somebody put it on the screen," he explained.
He then lobbied Disney heavily for the chance to direct the film, pitching it as "Indiana Jones on Mars." The studio was initially skeptical. He had never directed a live-action film before, and wanted to make the film without any major stars whose names could guarantee an audience, at least on opening weekend. The screenplay was seen as confusing and difficult to follow. But since Stanton had overcome similar preproduction doubts to make WALL-E and Finding Nemo into hits, the studio approved him as director. Stanton noted he was effectively being "loaned" to Walt Disney Pictures because Pixar is an all-ages brand and John Carter was rated PG-13. By 2008 they completed the first draft for Part One of a John Carter film trilogy; the first film is based only on the first novel. In April 2009 author Michael Chabon confirmed he had been hired to revise the script.
Following the completion of WALL-E, Stanton and Wells visited the archives of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., in Tarzana, California, as part of their research. Jim Morris, general manager of Pixar, said the film will have a unique look that is distinct from Frank Frazetta's illustrations, which they both found dated. He also noted that although he had less time for pre-production than for any of his usual animated projects, the task was nevertheless relatively easy since he had read the Burroughs' novels as a child and had already visualized many of its scenes
Producer James Jacks read Harry Knowles' autobiography, which lavishly praised the John Carter of Mars series. Having read the Burroughs' novels as a child, Jacks was moved to convince Paramount Pictures to acquire the film rights; a bidding war with Columbia Pictures followed. After Paramount and Jacks won the rights, Jacks contacted Knowles to become an adviser on the project and hired Mark Protosevich to write the screenplay. Robert Rodriguez signed on in 2004 to direct the film after his friend Knowles showed him the script. Recognizing that Knowles had been an adviser to many other filmmakers, Rodriguez asked him to be credited as a producer.
Filming was set to begin in 2005, with Rodriguez planning to use the all-digital stages he was using for his production of Sin City, a film based on the graphic novel series by Frank Miller. Rodriguez planned to hire Frank Frazetta, the popular Burroughs and fantasy illustrator, as a designer on the film. Rodriguez had previously stirred-up film industry controversy owing to his decision to credit Sin City's artist/creator Frank Miller as co-director on the film adaptation; as a result of all the hoopla, Rodriguez decided to resign from the Directors Guild of America. In 2004, unable to hire a non-DGA filmmaker, Paramount assigned Kerry Conran to direct and Ehren Kruger to rewrite the John Carter script. The Australian Outback was scouted as a shooting location. Conran left the film for unknown reasons and was replaced in October 2005 by Jon Favreau.
Favreau and screenwriter Mark Fergus wanted to make their script faithful to the Burroughs' novels, retaining John Carter's links to the American Civil War and ensuring that the Barsoomian Tharks were 15 feet tall (previous scripts had made them human-sized). Favreau argued that a modern-day soldier would not know how to fence or ride a horse like Carter, who had been a Confederate officer. The first film he envisioned would have adapted the first three novels in the Barsoom series: A Princess of Mars, The Gods of Mars, and The Warlord of Mars. Unlike Rodriguez and Conran, Favreau preferred using practical effects for his film and cited Planet of the Apes as his inspiration. He intended to use make-up, as well as CGI, to create the Tharks. In August 2006 Paramount chose not to renew the film rights, preferring instead to focus on its Star Trek franchise. Favreau and Fergus moved on to Marvel's Iron Man.
Principal photography commenced at Longcross Studios, London, in January 2010 and ended in Kanab, Utah in July 2010. Locations in Utah included Lake Powell and the counties of Grand, Wayne, and Kane. A month-long reshoot took place in Playa Vista, Los Angeles. The film was shot in the Panavision anamorphic format on Kodak 35 mm film. Stanton denied assertions that he had gone over budget and stated that he had been allowed a longer reshoot because he had stayed on budget and on time. However, he did admit to reshooting much of the movie twice, far more than is usually common in live action filmmaking. He attributed that to his animation background. "The thing I had to explain to Disney was, 'You're asking a guy who's only known how to do it this way to suddenly do it with one reshoot.'" he explained later. "I said, 'I'm not gonna get it right the first time, I'll tell you that right now.'" Stanton often sought advice from people he had worked with at Pixar on animated films (known as the Braintrust) instead of those with live-action experience working with him. Stanton also was quoted as saying, "I said to my producers, 'Is it just me, or do we actually know how to do this better than live-action crews do?'" Rich Ross, Disney's chairman, successor to Dick Cook, who had originally approved the film for production, came from a television background and had no experience with feature films. The studio's new top marketing and production executives had little more.
Disney's head of marketing during the production was MT Carney, an industry outsider who previously ran a marketing boutique in New York. Stanton often rejected marketing ideas from the studio, according to those who worked on the film. Stanton's ideas were used instead, and he ignored criticism that using Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir", a song recorded in 1974, in the trailer would make it seem less current to the contemporary younger audiences the film sought. He also chose billboard imagery that failed to resonate with prospective audiences, and put together a preview reel that did not get a strong reception from a convention audience. Stanton said, "My joy when I saw the first trailer for Star Wars is I saw a little bit of almost everything in the movie, and I had no idea how it connected, and I had to go see the movie. So the last thing I'm going to do is ruin that little kid's experience." Following the death of Steve Jobs, Stanton dedicated the film in his memory.
Although being based on the first book of the series, A Princess of Mars, the film was originally titled John Carter of Mars, but Stanton removed "of Mars" to make it more appealing to a broader audience, stating that the film is an "origin story. It's about a guy becoming John Carter of Mars." Stanton plans to keep "Mars" in the title for future films in the series. Kitsch said the title was changed to reflect the character's journey, as John Carter will become "of Mars" only in the last few minutes of the picture. Former Disney marketing president MT Carney also has taken blame for suggesting the title change. Another reported explanation for the name change was that Disney had suffered a significant loss in March 2011 with Mars Needs Moms, the studio reportedly conducted a study which noted recent movies with the word "Mars" in the title had not been commercially successful. Earlier, two and a half years before the premiere of the film, on December 29, 2009, a low budget film produced by the independent film company The Asylum, entitled Princess of Mars, was released direct-to-DVD in the United States.
Music and soundtrack
Walt Disney Records released the soundtrack on March 6, 2012, three days before the film's release. In February 2010, Michael Giacchino revealed in an interview he would be scoring the film. Giacchino's score had been positively compared to the works of composer John Williams, and the music of traditional epic serial films which predate John Carter.
Although the original film release date was June 8, 2012, in January 2011 Disney moved the release date to March 9, 2012. A teaser trailer for the film premiered on July 14, 2011 and was shown in 3D and 2D with showings of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2; the official trailer premiered on November 30, 2011. On February 5, 2012 an extended commercial promoting the movie aired during the Super Bowl, and before the day of the game, Andrew Stanton, a Massachusetts native, held a special screening of the film for both the team members and families of the New England Patriots and New York Giants.
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment released John Carter on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital download June 5, 2012. The home media release was made available in three different physical packages: a four-disc combo pack (1 disc Blu-ray 3D, 1-disc Blu-ray, 1 DVD, and 1-disc digital copy), a two-disc combo pack (1 disc Blu-ray, 1 disc DVD), and one-disc DVD. John Carter will also be made available in 3D High Definition, High Definition, and Standard Definition Digital. Additionally, the home media edition will be available in an On-Demand format. The Blu-ray bonus features include Disney Second Screen functionality, "360 Degrees of John Carter", deleted scenes, and "Barsoom Bloopers". The DVD bonus features include "100 Years in the Making", and audio commentary with filmmakers. The High Definition Digital and Standard Definition Digital versions both include "Life by the Second: The Shanzam Unit", Disney Second Screen, "Barsoom Bloopers", and deleted scenes. The Digital 3D High Definition Digital copy does not include bonus features. In mid-June, the movie topped sales on both Nielsen VideoScan First Alert sales chart, which tracks overall disc sales, and Nielsen’s dedicated Blu-ray Disc sales chart, with the DVD release selling 980,812 copies making $17,057,283 and Blu-ray and 3-D releases selling 965,275 copies making $19,295,847, with a combined total of $36,353,130 in its first week alone.
One week before the film's release, Disney removed an embargo on reviews of the film. John Carter received mixed reviews from critics. As of November 19, 2012, it holds a 51% rating on the film-critics aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes based on 216 reviews; its consensus is, "While John Carter looks terrific and delivers its share of pulpy thrills, it also suffers from uneven pacing and occasionally incomprehensible plotting and characterization." At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average out of 100 to critics' reviews, the film holds a score of 51 based on 42 reviews, signifying "Mixed or average reviews".
Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter wrote, "Derivative but charming and fun enough, Disney's mammoth scifier is both spectacular and a bit cheesy." Glenn Kenny of MSN Movies rated the film 4 out of 5 stars, saying, "By the end of the adventure, even the initially befuddling double-frame story pays off, in spades. For me, this is the first movie of its kind in a very long time that I'd willingly sit through a second or even third time." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times rated the film 2.5 out of 4 stars, commenting that the movie "is intended to foster a franchise and will probably succeed. Does John Carter get the job done for the weekend action audience? Yes, I suppose it does." Dan Jolin of Empire gave the film 3 stars out of 5, noting, "Stanton has built a fantastic world, but the action is unmemorable. Still, just about every sci-fi/fantasy/superhero adventure you ever loved is in here somewhere." Joe Neumaier of the New York Daily News gave the film 3 out of 5 stars, calling the film "undeniably silly, sprawling and easy to make fun of, [but] also playful, genuinely epic and absolutely comfortable being what it is. In this genre, those are virtues as rare as a cave of gold."
Conversely, Peter Debruge of Variety gave a negative review, saying, "To watch John Carter is to wonder where in this jumbled space opera one might find the intuitive sense of wonderment and awe Stanton brought to Finding Nemo and WALL-E." Owen Glieberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a D rating, feeling, "Nothing in John Carter really works, since everything in the movie has been done so many times before, and so much better." Christy Lemire of The Boston Globe wrote that, "Except for a strong cast, a few striking visuals and some unexpected flashes of humor, John Carter is just a dreary, convoluted trudge – a soulless sprawl of computer-generated blippery converted to 3-D." Michael Philips of the Chicago Tribune rated the film 2 out of 4 stars, saying the film "isn't much – or rather, it's too much and not enough in weird, clumpy combinations – but it is a curious sort of blur." Andrew O'Herir of Salon.com called it "a profoundly flawed film, and arguably a terrible one on various levels. But if you're willing to suspend not just disbelief but also all considerations of logic and intelligence and narrative coherence, it's also a rip-roaring, fun adventure, fatefully balanced between high camp and boyish seriousness at almost every second." Mick LaSelle of San Francisco Chronicle rated the film 1 star out of 4, noting, "John Carter is a movie designed to be long, epic and in 3-D, but that's as far as the design goes. It's designed to be a product, and it's a flimsy one."
A.O. Scott of The New York Times said, "John Carter tries to evoke, to reanimate, a fondly recalled universe of B-movies, pulp novels and boys' adventure magazines. But it pursues this modest goal according to blockbuster logic, which buries the easy, scrappy pleasures of the old stuff in expensive excess. A bad movie should not look this good."
In the UK, the film was savaged by Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian, gaining only 1 star out of 5 and described as a "giant, suffocating doughy feast of boredom". The film garnered 2 out of 5 stars in The Daily Telegraph, described as "a technical marvel, but is also armrest-clawingly hammy and painfully dated". BBC film critic Mark Kermode expressed his displeasure with the film commenting, "The story telling is incomprehensible, the characterisation is ludicrous, the story is two and a quarter hours long and it's a boring, boring, boring two and a quarter hours long."
John Carter earned $73,078,100 in North America and $209,700,000 in other countries, for a worldwide total of $282,778,100. It had a worldwide opening of $100.8 million. In North America, it opened in first place on Friday, March 9, 2012 with $9.81 million. However, by Sunday, it had grossed $30.2 million, falling to second place for the weekend, behind The Lorax. Outside North America, it topped the weekend chart, opening with $70.6 million. Its highest-grossing opening was in Russia and the CIS, where it broke the all-time opening-day record ($6.5 million) and earned $16.5 million during the weekend. The film also scored the second-best opening weekend for a Disney film in China ($14.0 million). It was in first place at the box office outside North America for two consecutive weekends. Its highest-grossing areas after North America are China ($41.5 million), Russia and the CIS ($33.4 million), and Mexico ($12.1 million).
In the week following the John Carter's domestic release, movie industry analysts predicted that Disney would lose $100-to-150 million on the picture. However, its box office strength outside North America led some analysts to speculate that the write-down would be significantly less than expected. On May 8, 2012, the Walt Disney Company released a statement on its earnings which attributed the $161 million deterioration in the operating income of their Studio Entertainment division to a loss of $84 million in the quarter ending March 2012 "primarily" to the performance of John Carter and the associated cost write-down.
The film's perceived failure led to the resignation of Rich Ross, the head of Walt Disney Studios, even though Ross had arrived there from his earlier success at the Disney Channel with John Carter already in development. Ross theoretically could have stopped production on John Carter as he did with a planned production of Captain Nemo: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, or minimize the budget as he did to the upcoming Lone Ranger starring Johnny Depp. Instead, Stanton was given the production budget requested for John Carter, backed with an estimated $100 million marketing campaign that is typical for a tentpole movie but without significant merchandising or other ancillary tie-ins. It was reported that Ross later sought to blame Pixar for John Carter, which prompted key Pixar executives to turn against Ross who already had alienated many within the studio. The film rebounded at the domestic box office charts from No. 38 to No. 12 on the first weekend of May 2012 after drive-ins paired it with Disney's release of The Avengers which brought John Carter's domestic gross to about $70.8 million.
|Annie Awards||Best Animated Effects in a Live Action Production||Sue Rowe, Simon Stanley-Clamp, Artemis Oikonomopoulou, Holger Voss, Nikki Makar and Catherine Elvidge||Nominated|
|Golden Trailer Awards||Golden Fleece||Ignition Creative and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures|
|International Film Music Critics Association Awards||Best Original Score for a Fantasy/Science Fiction/Horror Film||Michael Giacchino||Won|
|Film Music Composition of the Year - John Carter of Mars||Nominated|
|Saturn Awards||Best Special Effects||Chris Corbould, Peter Chiang, Scott R. Fisher and Sue Rowe|
Prior to the film's release, the filmmakers reported that John Carter was intended to be the first film of a trilogy. Producers Jim Morris and Lindsey Collins began work on a sequel to be based on Burroughs' second novel, The Gods of Mars; the working title is John Carter: The Gods of Mars. However, the film's poor box office performance put plans for sequels on hold.
In June 2012 co-writer Mark Andrews said in interview that he, Stanton, and Chabon are still interested to do sequels, stating "As soon as somebody from Disney says, "We want John Carter 2", we'd be right there." Despite the flop of the film, lead actors Taylor Kitsch and Willem Dafoe both showed strong support, with Kitsch stating "I would do John Carter again tomorrow. I'm very proud of John Carter" and hoping for a sequel as well. However, in September 2012, Stanton announced that his next directorial effort would be Finding Nemo 2, and that the plan to film a John Carter sequel "went away".
- Disney previously touched upon the material in the Disneyland television series episode Mars and Beyond with the usage of Burroughs' Barsoom dictionary.
- This is Disney's 6th PG-13 film, but the second not from the Pirates of the Caribbean films, after Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and followed by The Lone Ranger, Saving Mr. Banks and The Finest Hours.
- John Carter is based on Edgar Rice Burroughs' first novel, A Princess of Mars. An American writer, Burroughs was born in Chicago and is best known for writing and creating "Tarzan"—still one of the most successful and iconic fictional creations of all time.
- 2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the character John Carter, the original space hero featured in Edgar Rice Burroughs' "Barsoom" series. Heroic John Carter has thrilled generations with his adventures on Mars.
- Since 1935, various filmmakers have attempted to make a movie based on "A Princess of Mars"—the first was intended to be an animated feature film by Bob Clampett of "Beany and Cecil" fame. If it had been made, it would have been America's first full-length animated film, prior to Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which premiered in 1937.
- Academy Award®–winning director/writer Andrew Stanton directed and co-wrote the screenplay for WALL-E, which earned the Academy Award® and Golden Globe Award® for Best Animated Feature of 2008. He was Oscar®-nominated for the screenplay. Stanton made his directorial debut with Finding Nemo, garnering an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay and winning the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film of 2003. He was one of the four screenwriters to receive an Oscar nomination in 1996 for his contribution to Toy Story" and went on to receive credit as a screenwriter on subsequent Pixar films A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo and WALL-E.
- A fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs' "Barsoom" series of books since childhood, Director/Writer Andrew Stanton says he was inspired to bring "John Carter" to the big screen—in his first foray into live action—because he had always been attracted to the concept of a human finding himself on Mars, among the creatures of a strange new world.
- The stellar ensemble cast is led by Taylor Kitsch (NBC's Friday Night Lightso, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) in the title role, Lynn Collins (50 First Dates, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) as the warrior princess Dejah Thoris and Oscar® nominee Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man, Shadow of the Vampire) as Martian inhabitant Tars Tarkas. The cast also includes Thomas Haden Church (Sideways, Spider-Man 3), Polly Walker (Clash of the Titans, Patriot Games), Samantha Morton (Elizabeth: The Golden Age, In America), Mark Strong (Sherlock Holmes, ody of Lies), Ciaran Hinds (Munich, There Will Be Blood), British actor Dominic West (300, Chicago), James Purefoy (Vanity Fair, Resident Evil) and Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad). Daryl Sabara (Disney's A Christmas Carol, Spy Kids) takes the role of John Carter's teenaged nephew, Edgar Rice Burroughs.
- Michael Chabon, who won the Pulitzer Prize in Literature for his novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, is a writer on the screenplay along with Andrew Stanton & Mark Andrews.
- John Carter screenwriters Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews and Michael Chabon discovered they had something in common when they met: they all still possessed the John Carter drawings and artwork that they had done when they were boys.
- The award-winning below-the-line team includes Production Designer Nathan Crowley, Oscar®-nominated for both Dark Knight and The Prestige, and Costume Designer Mayes C. Rubeo, whose work is showcased in Avatar and Apocalypto.
- Award-winning composer Michael Giacchino has received numerous accolades for his work on previous Disney•Pixar films Up (Oscar® winner, Best Original Score; BAFTA winner, Best Music; Golden Globe® winner, Best Original Score for a Motion Picture; GRAMMY® Award winner, Best Score Soundtrack Album), Ratatouille (GRAMMY Award winner, Best Score Soundtrack Album; Annie Award winner, Best Music in an Animated Feature Production; Oscar nomination, Best Original Score) and The Incredibles (Annie Award winner, Best Music in an Animated Feature Production; GRAMMY nomination, Best Score Soundtrack Album).
- Filming of John Carter began in the UK on January 4, 2010. The bulk of the movie's stage work (along with exterior sequences set on Earth) was filmed at Shepperton Studios, London and Longcross Studios in Chelburn, over a four-month period. Then production moved to Utah for an additional 12 weeks of shooting, with locations in Moab, Lake Powell, the Delta salt flats, Hanksville (where the US space agency, NASA, has tested robotic vehicles), and Big Water—a vast mesa of granulated shale and sandstone set before a towering ring of red cliffs that border the Grand Staircase National Monument.
- On Saturday, June 5, 2010, crewmembers, working on location in Utah, found a large bone protruding from the ground. The Bureau of Land Management confirmed it was in fact a Sauropod bone—either a femur or scapula—from a dinosaur that could have been 60 ft long. An excavation is currently taking place to retrieve the rest of the prehistoric skeleton discovered by the John Carter crew.
- Battling the extreme conditions of the desert, the film unit worked in temperatures in excess of 120 degrees in Hanksville, Utah, and consumed over 360 gallons of water per day.
- Lake Powell, Utah, the location used for the River of Iss in the film, is over 180 miles in length and has over 2,000 miles of shoreline—more than the whole of the west coast of America.
- For the battle scenes between the Zodangans and the Heliumites, over 1000 extras were given a professional, if slightly darker than average, St. Tropez fake tan.
- The Ancient Barsoomian typography carved into the walls of the sacred temples in John Carter took their original design from actual markings found on the surface of the planet Mars.
- Working from the original source material, a linguist was hired to create the entire Thark Martian language, using just a few words mentioned in Edgar Rice Burroughs' novels.
- The actors playing the nine-foot tall, green Thark characters had to learn to walk on stilts to film the scenes with John Carter, giving the correct eye-line contact for the dialogue.
- Over 120,000 Swarovski crystals were used in Dejah Thoris' Zodangan wedding outfit, including her dress, the train, crown and cuffs, and each stone was applied by hand one by one.
- Stunt Coordinator Tom Struthers was delighted and amazed that Taylor Kitsch did 98% of his own stunt work, including an 85-foot jump in the learning-to-walk sequence, a 65-foot jump in the arena, battling the ferocious white apes, and a 250- foot long series of jumps in the Martian wilderness.
- Cinema audiences will be astonished to see actress Lynn Collins, when not donning her Dejah Thoris look, has strawberry blonde hair and fair skin.
- The approximate number of costumes designed by Mayes C. Rubeo for the film was 1,800.
- 383 yards of material were used for just one of Matai Shang's silver Thern robes and the robe took approximately 250 man-hours to make by hand.
- While filming in Utah, the film crew came across a small space center called the Mars Society Desert Research Station. No one was home but the Website reads: "Teams of hard-working volunteers, working in full simulation mode in the barren canyon lands of Utah, continue to explore the surrounding terrain, cataloging more waypoints, and analyzing the geology and biology of this fascinating and remarkably Mars-like region."
- Several trailers for the movie pointed out how the original books inspired the Star Wars franchise, which Disney would later acquire with their purchase of Lucasfilm.