When it comes to exciting movie titles, “John Carter” is right up there with “Fred Smith.” Not exactly scintillating stuff.
Which is odd, because Disney has a lot riding on “John Carter,” its upcoming (March 9) sci fi epic. I mean, even titling it “The Martians” or “War on Mars’ might have given it a bit more buzz.
But no. “John Carter.” Snore.
Despite its somnolent title, “John Carter” is supposed to be an exciting movie. Built on a pretty-much forgotten series of books from Edgar Rice Burroughs, the film follows a Civil War soldier who somehow gets transported to Mars, where he has to break up an intergalactic civil war.
Needless to say, the film will not begin with the line “Based on a true story.”
How big a risk is “John Carter”? Let’s review:
* Its production cost is estimated at $250 million. Add in about half that again for marketing and you’re at $475 million before even selling one ticket.
* It stars Taylor Kitsch. To which virtually everyone will reply — who? Although he was a star of TV’s “Friday Night Lights,” and he has a number of films due this year, Mr. Kitsch is hardly a box office draw.
* OK, so the movie must have a big-name director, right? Right. Except he’s a big name in the world of animation, not live action. Andrew Stanton is the genius behind “Finding Nemo” and “WALL-E.” But he’s never shot a live action film before.
Stanton told the New Yorker in October that “John Carter” would have to gross $700 million worldwide to justify a sequel.
Look, people were skeptical about “Avatar,” too. But it was being made by the guy who’d already made the most successful movie in history. This movie is being made by a guy who’d never even filmed a human being before.
This isn’t to say “John Carter” will be bad. Who knows? It might be great. It’s pretty much going to have to be just to break even. And that title isn’t helping.