Disney is writing off the $35o million spent on John Carter. They figure the movie will earn no more than $150 million. It's too bad, there will be no sequels. So why? What did they mess up?
The fans have been generally supportive with their Internet reviews. The pro's have panned it from the beginning.
First off, the camera work was bad. Here we are on Mars, with big green men, exotic animals, strange scenery, and we want to see it, take it in. But the camera never steadies down to let us admire the view. For that matter we would like some good views of Dejah Thoris looking beautiful and John Carter looking heroic. In Avatar, we get a good look at the colorful, romantic, and beautiful world of Pandora. In fact Avatar was a National Geographic documentary of the wonders of far off Pandora. And we viewers enjoyed the show. On Mars, the camera never steadies down long enough to enjoy the view, and, what little we can see is dusty and shabby, not red romantic desertscapes under two moons.
Then the movie lacks the deep love between John Carter and Dejah Thoris. In the book it goes like this.
"I understand your words John Carter," Dejah Thoris said, " But you I do not understand. You are a queer mixture of child and man, of brute and noble. I only wish that I might read your heart."
"Look down at your feet, Dejah Thoris; it lies there now, where it has lain since that other night at Korad, and where it will ever lies beating alone for you until death stills it forever." replied John Carter.
No American man from this age of instant hookups, pre nuptial agreements, no fault divorce, and single parent families, is going to make such an irrevocable declaration of love and loyalty to a woman. Not in the 21st century. But oh boy, how we would love to meet a woman worthy of such devotion. This relationship made the Mars books what they are. The movie lacks it, and turns Dejah Thoris into Xena the Warrior Princess. Xena had many virtues, but you wouldn't want to fall in love with her.
In the book, John Carter and Dejah Thoris escape from captivity among the Tharks and set off riding double across the red ocher moss of the Martian desert. Along the way they are discovered and attacked by yet another tribe of green Martians. In an emotional scene, John Carter sends Dejah Thoris to safety over her protests, and takes his long radium rifle, with 100 rounds in the magazine, and another 100 rounds in a backpack, and stands off a charge of mounted green Martians. After expending all that ammunition, he lays into them with the sword. The movie skips the gunfight and cuts the sword fight down to just another passage of arms. They did not show John Carter pulling the strangely wrought Martian firearm from a scabbard on the riding animal, snapping down the bipod legs, and taking a prone shooting position hidden on a ridgeline. We did not see the crosshairs line up on a enemy, and the explosive round blowing the target off his mount. Couple more such shots, and we would believe that a great battle had occurred. The movie skips all this.