John Carter’s Massive Bomb and Screenwriting Beats – Part 1

If you are unsure what screenwriting beats are or need a quick refresher, please read my article on beats first. Now…

The film John Carter was a very expensive, massive bomb in the spring of 2012, almost five years ago now. (Reading online that it was estimated this film would have needed to gross $600mm just to break even.) If you didn’t see it, that’s okay, nobody else did, either.

Except I was sort of curious why it bombed so badly. Monsters on Mars? (I mean, come on who doesn’t love the red planet!) Space wars? Romance? Teleportation? It all sounded like a fun space romp to me. So I TIVO’d it the other day.

Not dissimilar from The Lone Ranger, another incredible bomb, the beginning of the movie was absolutely *unwatchable.* But why?

The script was based on the book series of the same name (specifically, A Princess of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs)— and there we may find the first clue to what went to wrong. I haven’t read the books, but I’m guessing they tried to literally interpret the content of the books instead of doing a true filmic adaptation. Maybe that explains why the film version was horrible.

However, not all of the movie was horrible. I thought once we got past Act 1 and into Act 2 it started becoming decidedly more watchable. So, really, the complete and total error in judgment was in the crafting of Act 1.

Go on to Part 2 of this post, the analysis of beats.

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