The Times gives its autopsy report:
... [A]lthough there's plenty of blame to go around on both the creative and marketing sides, there's another factor: the source material itself. Disney could have made a better movie and sold it more persuasively to a skeptical public. But it was dealing with a stacked deck from the start.
"John Carter" is based primarily on "A Princess of Mars," the first in Edgar Rice Burroughs' early 20th century 11-volume series of Barsoom novels. It's a touchstone work of science fiction -- so touchstone that many viewers don't know what it is.
More to the point, it's an epic, which can be a tough sell no matter the studio or marketing strategy. ...
I've only seen the trailer and a five-minute clip for JC, so I'm not the best one to judge, but the environment for Carter seems to be all dry and desert-like.
You know, unappealing? Like Mars? (Avatar, by contrast, looked like it had been shot on Kauai.)
Further, we all know that no Mars feature has been boffo at the box office. Even Tim Burton couldn't pull it off. Even with Jack Nicholson doing his best Richard Nixon impression.
So if John Carter ends up being a write-off for the Mouse, it had plenty of omens and portents. (Maybe a $150 million budget would have helped get a different result?)
Add On: The New York Times weighs in with its morgue notes.