‘John Carter’ could head back to Mars now that Disney has lost the film rights

10.21.14 2 years ago

Walt Disney Pictures

My guess is that it will not take as long for us to see a second “John Carter” movie as it did for the first one to get made.

It still seems sort of amazing that it took almost 100 years for John Carter to jump from the pages of the stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs to the big-screen, especially considering how many other properties took direct inspiration, sometimes to the point of theft, from the writing of Burroughs. While “John Carter” does not completely work, and it definitely suffers from having to follow many of its antecedents into the pop culture arena, it at least managed to capture some of the spirit of the source material.

Andrew Stanton's film may prove invaluable to whoever steps up next to try to turn the property into a viable big-screen franchise. They'll be able to learn from the casting, from the marketing, from the creative choices that worked and the ones that didn't. And make no mistake… someone will try. Even as a flop, the film raised the awareness level of the underlying material, and as I've said a few times now, I think pulp is starting to make a creep into the mainstream.

Now that “Guardians Of The Galaxy” has become the monster hit that it has, expect to see other studios pushing for their own funny, light, fast and frenzied space opera stuff. If “Star Wars” pulls off what I believe they're going to try to pull off, we could be on the cusp of a whole bunch of this kind of material. Some of it will be terrible and inspired simply by imitation, and some of it may actually be great and push the genre forward.

Even before the press release was issued today about Disney losing the rights to “John Carter,” I'd been hearing rumblings about a few different filmmakers and producers putting together materials to try to woo the Burroughs estate to let them have a shot at it. Right now, it would be premature to name names, especially if the rights are just now starting to be in play. It could undercut someone's ability to make an offer. I'll say that I've heard that there are people who have had a long-stated interest in the material who are attempting to double back to it now, and it could be interesting to see if their take remains the same as it was previously. It would be a very indie approach to the series, but there's a good chance they'd actually make several of them quickly instead of waiting around and market researching the whole thing to death.

I've also heard rumblings on a corporate level that there is some interest and some hesitation, and both from the same place. It should be interesting to see what Warner Bros does with “Tarzan” next year. When I spent some time with Samuel L. Jackson at Comic-Con this summer, he was unusually effusive about “Tarzan,” and he's not the only one I've heard that from. They're betting big on that one and trying some big things with it visually. That's what you get with Burroughs books if you adapt them properly… big landscapes to enjoy and big crazy story devices.

If “John Carter” does land somewhere else soon, I would expect Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. to place some very tight restrictions on how long someone can noodle around in development. They're not looking to spend another thirty years of false starts. They're going to want to see a somewhat aggressive plan for how these books start to make their way to the screen, and whoever makes the best case for being able to actually make what they want to make is going to end up the new custodians of Barsoom.

I would expect news about this one to break by the end of the year.

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