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Hand-wringing over Disney blockbuster John Carter has reached new heights, as director Andrew Stanton has revealed that the only thing holding back a sequel is box-office receipts somewhere in the range of $700 million (that’s a 7 followed by 8 zeros for any of you reading in the cheap seats. It would seem Disney is holding out hopes for big returns on its estimated $250 million investment; the film, starring Friday Night Lights actor Taylor Kitsch, is set for release on Mar. 9, a full century after the John Carter character was introduced to the world.
Based on the serials of author Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Carter follows the titular Civil War veteran after he’s mysteriously transported to Mars, the surface of which is not only hospitable, but happens to be a battleground for warring factions of 12-foot tall green-skinned barbarians. Now, Stanton is no stranger to blockbusters, having directed or written some of Pixar Studio’s biggest films, including Finding Nemo and the Toy Story trilogy. Beyond the top-tier effects that early trailers are promising, the film could garner interest with its impressive supporting cast, including Bryan Cranston, Willam Dafoe and Mark Strong, not to mention a score by Academy Award-winning composer Michael Giacchino.
Attempts at a filmed John Carter of Mars go back as far as the 1930s, and this will be the first big-screen taste of the expansive universe Burroughs created. But even including foreign markets, $700 million is an astronomical figure, one that would require cracking the top-50 best-selling films of all time list. It’s an ambitious task, especially considering that John Carter is hardly a household name. Between the sci-fi/fantasy setting and largely unknown star, hitting that mark will almost certainly require great word of mouth or one heck of a marketing blitz. John Carter branded red planet Dr. Pepper anyone?