I took Joel's advice and went to see the movie tonight. It appears to be headed to box office disaster, but I'm really not sure why. There is quite a lot to recommend the movie. The very few things that annoyed me about the movie seem to be greatly in line with popular culture: the quick edits toward the beginning tracking his multiple escape attempts, for example, annoy me but are very popular just now.
Likewise -- to tie this to an earlier discussion -- there is an inexplicable scene where the heroine shows up the hero in physical combat. The same hero personally destroys nearly an entire army a few minutes later while the heroine flees for her life; but when they are on screen together she shows him up, and he states that he ought to be hiding behind her. Later in the movie, in case anyone missed it, they repeat the sequence.
But again, this is par for the course today. Whatever is driving the box office troubles the movie is having, it isn't that.
I wonder if the problem is just the name. The story dates to 1917, and had a much more evocative title in the original. "John Carter" could be a movie about a dryer salesman. It seems like a small thing -- a very small thing -- but perhaps the difficulties the movie is experiencing really just do come down to a name that doesn't explain the film. One ought not to judge a book by the cover, but one very often does so all the same.