Disney's John Carter 2 never happened, despite having all of the trappings associated with a franchise-starting film. The 2012 John Carter movie was an adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' sci-fi epic series John Carter of Mars, boasting a solid cast including Willem Defoe, Dominic West, Ciaran Hinds, Lynn Collins, and Taylor Kitsch. Plus, its cosmic setting and premise revolving around warring alien tribes felt like the stuff franchises are made of. So why did John Carter 2 never materialize?
John Carter told the story of the titular John Carter, a Civil War veteran who becomes something of a treasure hunter in the years after the war. His nephew, Edgar Rice Burroughs (a fictionalization of the author for storytelling purposes), is told of his uncle's mysterious death and inherits John's estate. As Edgar looks through John's possessions, he discovers a journal discussing his time on Mars, or Barsoom as the people living on the planet call it. From there, audiences are transported to Barsoom and follow John's accidental transportation to the planet through his rise to help fight a warlord keen to take over the planet. John Carter's enticing premise could have served as the foundation of another big action-adventure franchise for Disney, similar to the success of Pirates of the Caribbean. Then, the box office numbers came in.
To date, John Carter is considered one of the biggest bombs in film history, if one goes by the box office earnings alone. The movie barely earned back its estimated $250 million budget, only earning $73 million domestically and $211 million worldwide. It took a four month-run domestically and three months internationally to earn this money but it had an abysmal opening weekend in the U.S., netting $30 million and continuing to lose money every weekend afterward. Add to this the mixed-to-negative reviews for the film, and both audiences and critics spoke loud and clear: John Carter just wasn't for them.
Another big factor in why Disney won't make John Carter 2 is the fact that the studio lost the rights to Burroughs' John Carter book series. By 2014, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. took back the rights to the author's work. This came on the heels of the massive financial losses the movie sustained and the exit of former studio head Rich Ross, whose exit was tied to John Carter flopping (among other risky bets). At the time, a statement from Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. implied Disney hadn't done Burroughs' work justice in its adaptation and would seek out another studio to better adapt the author's work.
Disney has since learned from its Barsoom-sized error back in 2012. The studio had focused its energies on developing franchises which have proven themselves critical and financial successes. Since 2012, this has meant pouring even more time and attention into live-action remakes of Disney's animated films and developing the Marvel Cinematic Universe through Marvel Studios, among other creative endeavors. Even though some of Burroughs' earlier work, like A Princess of Mars, are in the public domain, it's unclear if any studio will go near it or other John Carter novels if only because of the unfortunate legacy Disney's adaptation has left behind.