Disney has had a lot of successes and flops over the years, and John Carter fell into the latter category as far as American movie revenue earned goes. However, as an adaptation of the source material John Carter did everything but include the gratuitous nudity of John Carter of Mars. John Carter is a character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of other prominent early fantasy heroes such as Tarzan. John Carter, a decorated Civil War veteran who fought on the wrong side, is prospecting for gold when he finds a secret cave with bizarre markings on it. Upon accidentally affecting the runes his soul is transported to Barsoom, known to those on Earth as Mars. While on Mars Carter gets embroiled in the tribal politics of the Tharks, four armed green men, meets and falls in love with a Martian princess, and has to save the world from destruction. That is the story in the book, and it is the same story the audience sees unfold on screen.
John Carter as a character set the standard for many of the comic book heroes that came later on. Due to his time on Earth in a higher gravity he is considerably stronger than the inhabitants of Mars, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Critics at the time of the film's release chided it for being too much like the book, as well as too much like many of the other comic book films being released, but the entire point of the film was to present the origin story of John Carter of Mars. The film even went so far as to cast Edgar Rice Burroughs as the narrator, since the stories were written from the author's perspective about his crazy, rich uncle John.
The tone of the film was a technicolor update of a story that was more 20th century than anything else. John Carter as a film managed to coalesce a complex origin story and give an easily understood and visually stunning run to a fantasy science fiction story that is often mentioned in the same circles as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. However, while it performed poorly in America, its international performance was stellar, raking in high ratings and large audiences. The reasons for that vary, but it's a combination of the popularity of the character and the series along with different film cultures which led these audiences to support the film in a much bigger way than domestic ticket sales would have people believe.