Disney is the most successful movie studio by a mile. They’ve got Star Wars, Marvel and Pixar and after acquiring 20th Century Fox, you can add Deadpool and the rest of the X-Men franchise to that stacked lineup, too. Oh, I almost forgot. They also have a little property in Avatar with endless sequels in the works. Long story short: the Mouse House is doing just fine financially.
It also means they can afford a few misfires along the way. Dumbo and Maleficent: Mistress of Evil didn’t connect with audiences, but it’s okay because Avengers: Endgame, The Lion King and Toy Story 4 made (checking the numbers) all the money.
Perhaps Disney’s most notorious flop though is the 2012 sci-fi fantasy, John Carter. Andrew Stanton had directed two of the more successful Pixar films in Finding Nemo and WALL-E, so the studio decided to give him a shot at live-action. And let’s just say it wasn’t a typical happy Disney ending.
John Carter carried a production budget of $275 million (before marketing) but opened to $30 million and failed to reach not only $100 million domestically, but even $300 million globally. Why did the film tank, though? Well, the two most obvious reasons were marketing and casting an unknown in the lead role.
The movie was originally titled John Carter of Mars, but was ultimately shortened. There are conflicting reports as to why this change was made but regardless, casual moviegoers didn’t quite know what the pic was about, so they went elsewhere.
The other issue was casting Taylor Kitsch in the titular role. Known mainly for the television show Friday Night Lights (Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose!), Kitsch was a pretty face but had no connection to film fans.
But in the seven years since its release, John Carter has gained some traction as an underrated gem and while speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Kitsch talked about the pic’s ever evolving reception.
“I think it got another life when it went on Netflix not long ago, maybe a year ago or something, but, yes, to be blunt,” he responded when asked about the film. “People stop me all the time for that, especially in Europe. It’s had a little mini-resurgence. Maybe, at the time, it was more of a knee-jerk reaction of ‘Let’s see how we can bury this and everyone that has a part in it.’”
He also reflected on the overall experience and making lasting friendships on the film, saying:
“Over time, I think you take a breath and understand that it is what it is … I guess people who watch it now for the first time can take a lot more away from it than people did at first. It’s always flattering, and I learned a ton on that movie. I honestly don’t see it as a failure. I have great memories from it, and I still talk to a bunch of the cast. It is what it is, right?”
That’s a refreshingly positive admission from the actor. It’s easy to dwell on failure, but Kitsch chose to learn from the experience and remember the fond memories. 2012 was an interesting year in general for him, too. His television show had just ended and then boom, he’s the star of two blockbusters that both bombed (Battleship was the other one).
He’s been very selective in his roles since and has chosen to work mostly in ensembles with the occasional starring role sprinkled in. His performance as David Koresh in Waco was perhaps his best performance to date.
Meanwhile, fans curious to rewatch and rethink their initial opinion of John Carter can catch it on the new streaming service, Disney Plus. Perhaps you’ve heard of it?