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Will Disney lose its shirt on pricey, under-promoted John Carter?

Taylor Kitsch in John CarterIs Disney’s John Carter doomed to fail on any planet?

The live-action film opens March 9, and by all indications so far it will hit the Earth with a resounding thud.

Last summer Disney dropped “of Mars” from the title of this adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ planetary romances. Word is that’s because its last major motion picture with Mars in the title — Mars Needs Moms — was a box-office flop. Whatever the reason, all they’ve done is muddy the waters and fail to get anyone excited for the movie, except for diehard fans of the iconic novels that have influenced everything from comic books to beefcake fantasy art to James Cameron’s Avatar.

An estimated $250,000,000 was spent on the film, according to IMDb. Some estimates place it even higher.

The way things are, anyone who’s not already a Barsoom fan who shows up on opening day is likely to expect the main character of ER (also named John Carter) to show up in a loincloth, no matter how hard Pixar golden boy Andrew Stanton, the film’s writer and director, plugs it on social networking sites. It’s amazing that they’re not even touting it as the Finding Nemo and WALL-E storyteller’s first foray into live-action filmmaking.

The fan-made trailer below, basically a re-cut of official marketing efforts, could go a long way toward repairing some of the damage. The character of John Carter is a Civil War veteran, and that angle should be played up more in light of the upcoming eagerly awaited film adaptation of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. There’s a quasi-Victorian steampunk feel to his origins as well — and it wouldn’t hurt to capitalize on the fact that 2012 is the franchise’s centennial year.

UPDATE: Disney released a new, final trailer today.

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