John Carter Kills an Earthling!

Well, an Earthling’s job, anyway. Both Mark Steyn and I took grief a few weeks ago from loyal John Carter fans over Disney’s $200 million debacle. I rather inartfully claimed that it was a crazy gamble to stake so much money on a relatively minor cultural character from nearly a century ago (obviously, I’d never make such a claim about Sherlock Holmes, the Three Musketeers, etc.). Anyway, seems like the repercussions for the bad decision have reached us all the way from Mars. Disney Studios Chairman Rich Ross resigned yesterday, falling on his sword (a weapon beloved by John Carter, if I watched the trailers carefully) for bad choices like . . . well, like John Carter.

But clearly the lesson has not been learned: Passing by a movie theater on my way to jury duty this week, I thought I was looking at a rerun spectacular. Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, The Three Stooges, American Reunion, Wrath of the Titans? As Mark said, Hollywood ain’t got nothing left. It’s running on fumes, bereft of ideas. And it may be sacrilege to say so, but even the Judd Apatow–Farrelley Brothers–Wes Anderson crowd is becoming a bit predictable in its quirkiness — at least those auteurs still deliver the laughs, but they’re slowly sliding into precociousness on balance. Maybe that’s why original shows on cable, like Rescue Me, Burn Notice, Breaking Bad, and Sons of Anarchy are rapidly becoming the preferred fare of the all-important 24–45 demographic. A few more John Carter’s and we may see a whole lot of vacancies in Hollywood studios.

Michael Auslin — Michael Auslin is a resident scholar and the director of Japan studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he specializes in Asian regional security and political issues.