But is the sci-fi epic big enough, bad enough and toxic enough to qualify as one of Hollywood's epic flops? Let's run through some of the all-timers, and see:
1. Heaven's Gate: The word disaster doesn't cover this disaster. The period drama went over budget, it got pulled from release, it sank a studio (United Artists) and it forever tarnished an Oscar winner (Michael Cimino).
Can John Carter "Top" That? Uh, no—and neither can Disney, which isn't sunk. Its stock actually closed up on Monday.
3. Gigli: In the 2000s, this not-cheap Jennifer Lopez-Ben Affleck comedy was synonymous with Ishtar. Even more destructive than the Beatty-Hoffman bomb, this one blew up Affleck's career as a leading man, as well as his offscreen relationship with Lopez.
Can John Carter "Top" That? Probably not. The biggest relationship at stake here is Disney's with director Andrew Stanton, and Stanton's run at Pixar (Finding Nemo, WALL-E) arguably has been too stellar to trigger a clean break. Also, John Carter's shortcomings have hardly been blamed on star Taylor Kitsch, who already has Battleship on deck to shore up his box-office average.
4. Mars Needs Moms: This 2011 failure, devoid of tabloid drama, wasn't spectacular except where it counted: at the multiplex, where it awed with its inability to get people into the theater. The Robert Zemeckis family movie, made for as little as $150 million, or as much as $190 million, grossed exactly $39 million worldwide.
Can John Carter "Top" That? It already has. It's made about $180 million worldwide.
5. Waterworld: This 1990s Kevin Costner sci-fi film was so swamped with production troubles and headlines over its then-historic budget that by the time it didn't lose money, it hardly mattered: "Fishtar," as far as the casual moviegoer was concerned, was sunk.
Can John Carter "Top" That? Actually, Exhibitor Relations analyst Jeff Bock thinks John Carter's just about equaled it. "Everyone wanted to call [Waterworld] a huge bomb, and it wasn't," says Bock, who doubts John Carter will end up as the biggest bomb of 2012, much less of all-time.
The Bottom Line: No, John Carter probably won't become the 21st century way of saying Ishtar—except maybe at a certain studio. "Financially," Bock says, "Disney made a huge misstep."