Welcome to the first in a new series of reviews where we look back at some of the biggest box office flops in history to decide if they really deserved to lose so much money. This is quite an easy task since they make up most of the films on Netflix. First up it’s John Carter.
John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) is transported from the US Civil War to Barsoom where he is found by Tars Tarkus of the Tharks and proclaimed Dotar Sojat. He then becomes embroiled in a conflict between the Helium people (and their princess Dejah) against the Therns, led by Matai Shang. With me so far?
Basically we are bombarded from the start with bizarre fantasy names that are never really explained, in a conflict we never really understand, but are just expected to go with – and it’s totally baffling.
The biggest problem with the film, however, is that it lacks a sense of fun. Given how brightly coloured and CGId it is it could have worked well as a Guardians of the Galaxy style romp. But it needs humour, and a knowing wink to the audience, which are evidently lacking here. There’s also no chemistry between the characters so it’s hard to relate to. But did it deserve to lose $200m?
It’s not the worst film ever and has some great special effects which make it easy to see where its massive budget went. There are elements which could have worked if they were done differently, but ultimately there’s nothing to distinguish it from the next action/fantasy (other than the amount of money it lost) so it’s hard to imagine anyone coming out of it raving or, crucially, recommending it to anyone else.
Another big reason for its failure is the title, which tells you nothing about the film if you’re not already familiar with the source material. Disney reportedly rejected the title of the books, John Carter of Mars, in order to ‘reach the broadest possible audience’, not realising that not giving people any clue whether it’s a sci fi film, a biopic of an obscure sport star, a war drama, a romantic comedy or any other type of film might not be the best way of getting people to go and see it.
It’s also reported they wanted to distance the film from previous flop Mars Needs Moms. So Presumably this means we’re not going to see any more films from Disney with the words ‘John’ or ‘Carter’ in the title now either.