‘John Carter’: Andrew Stanton on Martian history, Comic-Con and … Monty Python?

June 16, 2011 | 10:06 a.m.

EXCLUSIVE

Long before “Star Wars,” “Dune,” or “Avatar,” there was “John Carter of  Mars” and his epic adventures on the Red Planet, which the natives call Barsoom. Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the Edgar Rice Burroughs fantasy-adventure character that deeply influenced generations of authors, filmmakers and artists, among them George Lucas and James Cameron, who found plenty to like in the stories of outsider heroes and alien princesses. Now filmmaker Andrew Stanton (the writer-director of “Wall-E” and “Finding Nemo”) is on a quest to bring the vintage hero to a 21st century audience with the Disney live-action epic that arrives in theaters in March with stars Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Willem Dafoe, Thomas Haden Church and Mark Strong and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon as part of the writing team. Our Geoff Boucher caught up with Stanton to talk about the history, the hopes and the surprising Disney decision to skip Comic-Con International, which seemed like a natural stop on the project’s path to the public.  

john carter concept art disney John Carter: Andrew Stanton on Martian history, Comic Con and ... Monty Python?

Concept art for Andrew Stanton's "John Carter." (Disney)

GB: The last time I saw you we were both covered in desert dust out in Utah on the set. …

AS: So much has happened since then. We’ve cut the movie together and started the whole visual effects animation process last summer and then we did a month of re-shoots in L.A. in April, and now it’s just a race to get it all done in time. I knew this was going to be a long journey. It’s like saying, “We’re going to cross the ocean in a sailboat, never done that before.” You just know that every day is going to be interesting and hard or both. And that’s certainly what it was.

GB: This source material has such history and such a legacy, but all of that is lost on most people today. You’re not going to have a chance — at least not with the movie posters or television commercials  — to really communicate the fact that this is the Rosetta stone  for decades of off-world fantasies like “Star Wars” and “Avatar.”

edgar rice burroughs John Carter: Andrew Stanton on Martian history, Comic Con and ... Monty Python?

Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of John Carter and Tarzan. (Los Angeles Times archives)

AS: No, that’s true, but I don’t want to explain it. Hmm, how can I put it? The fact that I became infected with it as a kid and then sort of put it aside and then didn’t read it again until I was in my 20s — at which point I had become more serious about following a career in film – I was able to recognize the fact that [the book] was not as solid in the material as I had remembered. At the same time I put a lot of value on the fact that I had remembered it and that I couldn’t ever stop thinking about it. The bones of it were strong, the sediment, the soil of it, was really fertile and ready to have built from it. I felt like the more history I delved into, too, informed my view of the material; that first book was really episodic chapters he did for a magazine and then put together in book form, so it really was like a serial with a cliffhanger on each chapter. It was more like putting train cars together instead of something with a grand design. I feel like looking for that grand design was the next logical step, the thing that maybe never got done by the original author. So then the question became: How do you find the one big conceit that has a beginning, middle and end instead of these little individual train cars of episodes.

GB: That must have been a very liberating realization for you.

AS: Oh yeah. If it had been a perfect piece of literature I would have been a little too intimidated to tweak it. I had every desire to make it feel on the screen like how it made me feel reading the book, and to me that’s the most important thing. And I thought the only way to get there honestly was to read the book, come up with a bunch of ideas and never look at the book again. And from there just to look at what organically came together. What was really fascinating: I finally let myself read the book after the script was green-lit and all of these things that, in my mind, I was starting to give myself credit for coming up with were in there. [Laughs]  But it made me feel very confident that we took it apart and put it back together and it held.

GB: In the story, John Carter is a Civil War veteran who finds himself mysteriously transported to Mars, where due to the gravity he is able to leap tall buildings in a  single bound, so to speak,  a conceit that would pop up in the 1930s in Superman.  A battered, hardened solider, he learns of the alien culture and falls in love with a brightly hued princess, not unlike “Avatar.” In the Burroughs tales, leaders are called Jeddak, there are beasts called Banths, there’s a warrior rank of padwar — all of those seem to echo in the Lucas universe, as do key concepts and themes. Does any of that present a problem? Does it box you in or create the risk that “John Carter” will feel derivative to audiences that don’t know or don’t care about the chronology of the heritage? 

john carter concept art disney airship John Carter: Andrew Stanton on Martian history, Comic Con and ... Monty Python?

Concept art for Andrew Stanton's "John Carter." (Disney)

AS: I’m just as much a fan of all that stuff as anyone, so I didn’t want to repeat anything and I didn’t want to go exactly to where other people had gone. And I certainly recognize the influences  coming directly or indirectly from people like Edgar Rice Burroughs. But I haven’t felt the satisfaction [from the other works] that the thumbprint or the identity of the Barsoom books … [gave me] as a kid. I still felt like there was a flavor or a shading or a color that could still feel fresh or special. None of this is in reaction to those other movies. I want to come to everything honestly. If at the end of the day the dust settles and it’s very similar to another movie, then I can live with that if it came there honestly. But my big thing is this: There were so many personal fantasies that were fulfilled or cathartically found by fans through those books — in other words, they used the books as a conduit to their own fantasies and the things in their own head. I’ve never had to answer this before so I’m stumbling around a bit, but the thing is that because I know this book was so much the source material, directly or indirectly, for so many things, I got intrigued by the idea of treating it as if it really was the source material in the historical sense of the term. What if this really happened? That kind of opened my eyes. I suddenly had a fresh way to see it. And it goes back, in a way, to the way we take things in when [we were young readers]. When I was a kid I really wanted to imagine it as if it was a real sequence of events that took place on the surface of Mars in another century.

GB: That’s interesting. So in a way that makes the anchoring approach more like a historical epic, say a “Ben-Hur” or “Gladiator”?

princess of mars John Carter: Andrew Stanton on Martian history, Comic Con and ... Monty Python?AS: Yeah, I looked at things like “Apocaplyto” and “Rome” and even things like “Shogun” and “Lawrence of Arabia,” things that as a viewer I could accept as having a level of historical research. They give me a sense of what it would be like in that land and in that age. So then you ask, “Well, what if we just did our Martian research really, really well and treated it as a period film. There are so many times and places in history in our world that I just don’t know anything about, and when I learn about them they’re always fascinating. I don’t need a predisposed interest in them if they are presented well. So we said, “We’ll treat it this way, we won’t treat it like some fantasy being fulfilled by a fan.” We tried to make it feel like we’re going with the story of what really happened. This is how it was, this is how those cultures really existed. That was one of the many levels, for instance, that I enjoyed “The Lord of the Rings” on. One of the similarities between Tolkien and Burroughs is that they came across to the reader as if they had done so much travel research; they seemed like they had gone to these places and documented the flora and the fauna and the architecture and the culture and the rules. They did it in ways that someone who visited those places would have done it. That made it much easier to treat the film as history in a weird way because I had this encyclopedia of all the aspects of Mars.

GB: That’s very true, in reading Tolkien or Burroughs you get the sense that the story being told is the tip of the iceberg. The threads of the overall tapestry  seem as if they go well beyond the story presented…

andrew stanton on wall e John Carter: Andrew Stanton on Martian history, Comic Con and ... Monty Python?

Andrew Stanton at work on "Wall-E." (Pixar)

AS: There was a book compiled — who knows how long it took to do it — but it was compiled in the early 1970s by a fan of those Barsoom books. This fan had gone through and pulled out all the names of places and people, all the rules of measurement, the terminology of society, all of it, and put it all together. It’s an encyclopedia called, I think, “The Guide to Barsoom.” I think everyone in the art department went out and we found every copy that was out there, and we used it as our bible. It was our rule book. It made things a lot easier. When we needed a name or anything, we tried to go with a history that had already been determined. Hey, someone had already done the work, why not leverage off of it? Having created universes from scratch before, that can consume all of your time and the character/plot child gets neglected. This allowed us not to sweat all that stuff and go straight to character.

GB: I was surprised to see you’re not going to Comic-Con International with the project. It seems like the logical place to start a conversation with fans leading up to the film and the 100th anniversary next year.

AS: I think what it was is the perception that it’s getting harder and harder to stand out amid the din. We’re going to do our special event to get some focus and separation. I know some people will read that as a sign that we’re unsure of our property. It’s just the opposite. We want to control how and what is being seen and the way it is presented. So much stuff now is just spit out so fast and the churn of it all. You almost gain nothing by talking about things really early in this day and age. I think in the future we might see things arrive the way Prince announces a concert where a few days before the show he announces it and tickets just go up. You might see that with movies and other things. That seems like the only way to get people interested and then capitalize off that interest.

john carter marvel John Carter: Andrew Stanton on Martian history, Comic Con and ... Monty Python?GB: Well, it’s going to be hard to get Slurpee cups and all the Disney toys ready if you go that route. One last question: Give me some compass-point decisions you made about the look of this world and the textures of the visuals you’re going to put on the screen.

AS: I kept using the word “authentic” when I was out on set or doing art in development. I just wanted things to look like they had been through weather and use. I wanted things to look beat-up and old. This may sound weird, but I was always so impressed by the Monty Python films and Terry Gilliam’s sense of production value. Things really felt like they had been through the mud. And if you look at most historical films, for a little too long they always gave us things that looked a little too clean. People on my set could not distress things enough for me. Everything was pre-industrial; I wanted it to look made by hand. I wanted the pre-revolution days of Mars to look like tall ships on the skyline. And to get that to come across through the lens and then up on the screen, you just couldn’t beat stuff up enough. I remember once we had this great big deck gun and my weapons guy made this beautiful object. In his mind it looks weathered but I stepped back about 20 feet and said from here it looks brand new. I told him he should go take an ax to it and get it some really big nicks to it. He said, “You’re kidding me?” But he did it, he took the ax to it, he wouldn’t let anybody else do it to his baby. But that’s how we wanted everything, dirty, used, distressed and, hopefully, historical.

– Geoff Boucher

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Comments


72 Responses to ‘John Carter’: Andrew Stanton on Martian history, Comic-Con and … Monty Python?

  1. Lisa says:

    AWESOME. CANNOT WAIT to see this film

  2. JohnClayton says:

    Even Burroughs borrowed concepts from other writers who came before him, but certainly Edgar contributed so richly to the fantasy genre that he can hold his place as the "grandfather" of what we see today. In 2012 another of his creations turns 100 in October. Never produced on film (I mean never) as Burroughs wrote it is Tarzan of the Apes. Perhaps the greatest romantic adventure of all time. Tarzan was the first James Bond, working for HMSS and speaking nine languages fluently. Stick to the books Hollywood, then sit back, strap yourselves in and enjoy the rollercoaster ride.

    • John K says:

      Perhaps. But you see, Tarzan was a human after all. ERB's greatest hero was ERB himself, no matter if he was John Carter, or Julian, or his final hero in "Beyond the Farthest Star", he was still an immortal. Tarzan was never that.

      JK

  3. ProperVillain says:

    Looks too much like Vulcan in the Star Trek movies. In the Burroughs books the cities were these vast, gleaming walled structures. I'm pretty confident this movie will deviate VERY far from the original John Carter stories. I also disagree with Stanton. They are great pieces of literature. I think he is using that as a copout so he can pursue his "vision" of mars and ignore Burrough's vision as set out in the books.
    The first time I read Burrough's Martian series was in Junior High. I've read them several times since. I have a feeling the upcoming movie will be a watered down, overly hyped, special effects heavy pale reflection of the original stories. The original stories are savage and wonderful. I can guarantee Disney will not allow a film out that comes anywhere near the original vision of Burrough's. Another upcoming piece of special effects laden crap…

    • John K. says:

      “The Martians, for example, wear breast plates and swords and helmets with wings on them. I think that’s what’s going to distinguish it visually.”

      Mark Strong (Matai Shang)

      Oh great, so now we have a Roman/Viking movie set on Mars? (LOL) Shound be a real hoot.

      JK

  4. pronountrouble2 says:

    Am I the only one who finds Stanton's reason for not bringing a John Carter presentation to Comic Con this year a little bizarre, especially in light of this interview?

  5. M-K says:

    Great article/interview. Thank you. I just hope Stanton doesn't embellish too much.

    Just for the record, A Princess of Mars was not written as a serial (but was published as one). It was Burroughs' first novel, and that accounts for some of the missteps in it. He was a fast learner though.

    • M-K says:

      I'll try to make my point a little more clearly:

      Stanton said, " . . . that first book was really episodic chapters he did for a magazine and then put together in book form, so it really was like a serial with a cliffhanger on each chapter."

      Although A Princess of Mars (serialized as Under the Moons of Mars) is somewhat episodic, the nature of its first publication is not the cause. Burroughs did not write separate installments, shipping them off to the magazine editor as he completed them. He wrote a complete novel, which the editor then divided up into parts for serial publication. (That's the way it almost always was done in the 20th Century.) Burroughs could not anticipate with any accuracy where those installment breaks would fall–certainly not on his first book. A novel could be serialized in two to seven parts, or published whole like Tarzan of the Apes some months later. Editors sometimes deleted large chunks of text to balance out the pages in their issues. None of this could an author predict.

      Later Burroughs did become a master of the cliffhanger at the end of each chapter. But not in the first Mars book.

      • John K. says:

        Really?
        I don’t think you can get much better of a cliffhanger ending than that of Princess: John Carter lies dying at the portal to the atmosphere plant- suddenly he is back on Earth, and for ten long aching years he has no idea if the woman he loves and their hoped for child as well as the rest of the planet he had come to love and call his own are alive or dead…

        JK

  6. Laurence says:

    You are mistaken M-K, 'Under the Moons of Mars' was published in six parts. See http://www.erbzine.com/mag4/0419.html

    • M-K says:

      Read more carefully: "A Princess of Mars was not written as a serial (but was published as one)" Burroughs wrote the complete story before it was published, and could not have had any idea where the installment breaks would appear.

  7. Theodora says:

    M-K there were several books in the John Carter series, of which I have read them all, they obviously they will not all be called Princess of Mars the potential for a series of films.

    • M-K says:

      Sorry, Theodora, but I don't understand your comment. This first movie, whatever it is eventually called, is said to be based primarily on the first story of the series: A Princess of Mars in book form, Under the Moons of Mars in its magazine serialization.

    • Steffen says:

      Ok, Burroughs Barsoom is a rich and beautiful world. I always liked it. But I agree with Stanton: Compared to today standards of novel writing, the first Barsoom books are no masterpieces. But Burroughs world building and imagination does compensate this fact.

  8. Aleric says:

    Beat up and used?? In all the years and mutiple times I have read the books I never once read where martian cities or anything the Barsoomians used was ever described as beat up and used. Gleaming is a term used often in the books even down to the warships that had been in service for centuries.

    I am begining to think that Stanton has decided to make the movie he wants and not how the fans and burroughs would have wanted.

  9. VLaszlo says:

    Agreed, ProperVillain. The all caucasian cast alone, not to mention the way Disney is sure to tone it down, all point to a film that will impress those who haven't read the books — but will not come within miles of the source materials' potential. We already know they're going to excise the brilliantly conceived use of telepathy. The only misstep in that first book, in my opinion, is giving Helium telescopes that can see people on Earth (an idea which never resurfaced). The first two books are both serialized pulp AND Great American Novels. I shudder to think of how neutered Gods of Mars will be if they get to make sequels – we'll never see an armada storm the gates of lies once thought to be Heaven, and John Carter fighting knee-deep in blood as he literally debunks/crushes (not one, but two) corrupt religions. STanton is looking at the right films for influences, and I like a lot of what he says here, but the deck is stacked against this being what it ought to be.

    • John K. says:

      Actually, they are both the same religion, it is just that of the First Born was a higher “inner circle” version of the Holy Thern’s variety.

      As to the cast, ERB had all Basoomians look pretty much the same physically, except of course for the Green Men, and indeed the black First Born would have been Caucasian in features, only their skin color was different. The Yellow Men of the far North were bearded, but with a little pigment and some added hair, John Carter was easily able to pass for one. You have to remember the context and the time frame in which ERB wrote this- a full century ago.

      JK

      • VLaszlo says:

        I'll rephrase: Two Distinct Tiers of a corrupt religion… I was referring to the way the Therns were preyed upon by the First Born in much the same way as they preyed upon the rest of Barsoom. I always loved the way Burroughs underlined the dangers of blind superstition by having the oppressors themselves falling into a similar trap as the one they've laid.

        My point about the cast can be summed up by the very fact that there ARE different humanoid races on Barsoom, characterized as Red, Green, Yellow, White, and Black. I think it's a real shame and a missed opportunity for an incredibly diverse cast, but Disney/STanton has gone the opposite route. I always thought it would be interesting to deliberately subvert skin-color expectations by, for instance, casting the Red Men Asian, or Native Americans as the First Born. Tricky waters to navigate, and it would be tough to escape racial criticism no matter how you treat it – but to me the answer would be to take a bold stance and play up everything that would seem exotic or strange to the Civil War era fighting man. Part of the thematic drama is in finding the common 'human' ground between all the warring races of Barsoom, as Carter eventually sees, and helps them see beyond racial divisions to achieve common goals (that all just happen to revolve around rescuing his love). I think the books are ahead of their time in terms of racial equality, and I always found it interesting that Carter was originally a Confederate Officer (something that will surely, unfortunately, be changed).

        Of course, no matter what you'll have people crying about the White Messiah 'complex' they ignorantly spit at Avatar, but you can't win them all. My biggest disappointment in the way this film is shaping up is that they've cast an entire world of diversity with actors of the same ethnicity. Stanton keeps talking about authenticity, but nothing feels quite as false as one (bland) group of people standing in for an entire multicultural world. To me, a true Barsoomian epic was an opportunity to elevate/emphasize the groundwork in the books and say something real about the few shades of color that too often separate us.

  10. John K. says:

    I have very mixed feelings about this one. This was one of the very first sf book series I read as a boy and I have waited many years to see it done justice on the movie screen, but it looks like it may turn out to be a combo of Avatar meets Indiana Jones.

    I wonder how they will deal with the black First Born, who were the actual masters of the Therns? Perhaps Gods and Warlord will never be made…

    JK

  11. John K. says:

    The concept art is interesting, especially the second one. My guess is the upper works of a flier (battleship probably) with the lower part coming at the viewer through the cloud layer and mostly obscured, but who knows…

    JK

  12. VLaszlo says:

    We've still heard precious little from Stanton on the project, but it's troubling that he hasn't said a word about the romance. At it's heart, above-all-else, A Princess of Mars is unquestionably a love story.

    Everything Carter does, he does for her – it's the engine that drives ALL of the action. She is the motivation for every choice he makes from the moment they meet, and the real, raw power of the books emanates from the ferocity of this passion. He explores forbidden lands, wages wars, and forges alliances from pole to pole, he unites warring tribes, topples religions, slays thousands and saves millions, all for her. The geopolitical climate of an entire planet is forever remade because of this love story. He will do anything, and we must believe him. To my mind, everything about a film like this depends on the audience feeling the same way — we have to be in love with her, we have to be willing to die for her right there in the theatre.

    I'm prepared to eat my words if he pulls it off, but the casting is already working against him here.

    I think part of that ought to be the discovery of a new face, first seeing Dejah Thoris as a mysterious unknown (we are dealing with the Exotic-Alien-Princess-Who-Loves-You-Only-You archetype here)… google Lynn Collins and within seconds you'll be looking at her naked on HBO or making out with Wolverine. I'm not disparaging her (possible) talents, but part of me wonders if Disney is banking on the fact that you can see her (un)dressed more like Dejah Thoris online than they're willing to put in their sure-to-be-chaste costume. If that is the case, I find that a crass and undignified way to leverage the Princess of Helium.

    As before, I think race is being mishandled here. It's a story about an interracial, intercultural, interspecies, interplanetary romance, and both actors hail from the same ethnic (caucasian) slice of Los Angeles. You could justifiably call this offensive, but it's worse than that:
    It's boring.

    These are all things Cameron got right in Avatar with his Neytiri, and I grimly suspect that when all is said and done, the last hour of that film may remain the best John Carter of Mars adaptation we're likely to get.

    • John K. says:

      We agree to disagree on the Caucasian issue. I will go with you on the actress choice for Deja Thoris.

      I think what we are likely to see on screen is Stanton’s idea of ERB’s series rather than ERB’s idea of it.

      JK

      • John K. says:

        “He will do anything, and we must believe him. To my mind, everything about a film like this depends on the audience feeling the same way — we have to be in love with her, we have to be willing to die for her right there in the theatre”.

        Indeed, but the problem is that the film (like the book) is still about John Carter- the deathless Virginian. He winds up with the exact same problem Phra the Phonecian had- he doesn’t age or ever really die, but all his companions will in due course, including his princess. What does he do then? This is the great paradox ERB knew and set out in his works. His best handling of it is as Julian in his series of forward lives. Which is another reason you will never see that filmed, far too deep.

        JK

      • VLaszlo says:

        Yes, yes, and yes.

        Carter doesn't have to face that prospect immediately, with the thousand year Martian lifespan… but he will eventually, and that figures into the way you feel when the novel ends and we're left staring up into the sky across known space and unknown time.

        Right now I'm just wondering if they'll even dare to end the film respectably, framed by one of the most potent, poignant literary cliffhangers they could ask for… or if they'll run scared and wrap everything up nice with a happy-ending bow.

    • SadFace says:

      I have to agree with you about the romance and love between these two characters
      Unfortunately look who we got directing.
      As far as the romance goes, I think you will get more romance from Wall-e and Eva then John Carter and Dejah Thoris.

  13. Rick Tucker says:

    As usual I have mixed feelings. It has been over 20 years since I broke out my copies and reread them but I never got the impression that the Cities on Barsoom gleamed. Nor did I get the impression that is was beat up. I could be wrong but the impression I have od cities like Helium is one being very old and structurally sound but aging. Barsoom was a dying world with ever dwindling resources. Even it's oceans had dried up (visually I'd love to see those useless but archaic harbors with ancient ports and docking areas). Barsoom is an odd mix of radical science and the struggle to survive the slow death of a world. The overt adventure themes are the last vestige of a once vital world reduced to tribal/feudal desperation with rare truces allowing the to peoples of Barsoom a breather while repairing water systems and the atmosphere plants.
    So, will this film live up to memories? Not likely. Hopefully it will entertain but whether I see the film or not I'll always have the books. I grow weary of fandom trying to validate itself through the utter and inevitably disappointing films. So few of them live up to expectations and the new fans who only know the films could not care less.

    • John K. says:

      My take as well.

      My guess is it will come out a lot like Disney’s 1950′s “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea”. Fun to watch on a certain level, but no real depth.

      JK

    • VLaszlo says:

      I agree with your perceptions of Barsoom. I also think there is a balance between the gleaming spires of Helium and the long history they've endured.

      I love and respect that, as a fan of the novels, you are on the fence about whether or not you'll even see the film. Too often Hollywoodland assumes that they've got the reading fanbase in the bag, no matter how they treat an adaptation — and too often they are right.

      We do always have the books, but I think there is a caveat there.
      What bothers me most about the potential of a watered-down adaptation is the way it defines the property for new fans. Even those who are led back to the books by the film will enter them with Disney's images in their head, and will not have that personal sense of the words creating images in their own minds' eye.
      But it doesn't end with new fans. The LOTR films got me thinking about this, and it's a testament to their overall tastefulness that I find it difficult to even picture Legolas without Orlando Bloom's face… but there's also something so sad about that. I read those books many times before the films came, but re-reading them now, the experience is forever changed. The private imagination of the reader is violated by the adapted images, if they're strong enough.

      There's no way to stop it. It's a lamentable effect that underscores the importance of doing justice to the original work.

      A film adaptation is simply too often the end of a novel's innocence.

      • John K. says:

        “There’s no way to stop it. It’s a lamentable effect that underscores the importance of doing justice to the original work.

        A film adaptation is simply too often the end of a novel’s innocence”.

        Interesting. I have never found that to be true in the least. The mental images I formed when reading books are the same as after viewing any films made. I read the book again, I see things as I visualized the first time years ago.

        Perhaps you need to strengthen your mental powers if this bothers you? Read more and watch less.

        Grins,

        JK

      • VLaszlo says:

        Ok, admittedly I went a little overboard there. Still, I'm not the first to bring this up when it comes to the noted effects of dominant cultural imagery. Keep grinning if you want, I guess. Before we chased everyone away I was about to comment on this being a fun conversation.

  14. VLaszlo says:

    7+ hours later and still nothing I wrote is up — I can't imagine on what grounds any of that not would be approved… Was this not a healthy discussion? Moderators?

  15. Guest says:

    What I really don’t understand is how Disney expects to build some awareness if not hype for this movie based on a license few people know (especially teenagers) without showing ANYTHING less than one year before the movie is out. There has been no trailer, not production art, no set shots, no shots of the actors, just those 2 little images that at this point look like nothing.
    Why all the secret with this?
    We all know it’s going to be light PG classic heroic fantasy fare ala Star Wars/Avatar with none of the sexy/violent edginess that some could expect, so why all the secret? Show us the toys already!

    • John K. says:

      There were a few shots of some of the Utah set remains a few months ago released unofficially. Hard to tell much from them though.

      My understanding is that the first trailer is to be out this weekend with the opening of “Green Lantern”.

      JK

  16. VLaszlo says:

    I'm actually very impressed with how tight they've kept a lid on everything, and I also admire how classy and mysterious the poster looks. Maybe I'm not in a rush to see the designs because I kept hoping the project would just get cancelled like it always does, but I kind of like the way the secrecy is already distinguishing the project from it's peers. Dropping 'Of Mars' from the title is buffoonery of the highest order, but it doesn't bother me overmuch. I think they're going to try for a quick explosion of an ad campaign prior to release instead of the sustained builds that can end up wearing audiences out (Tron:Legacy).

    There's nothing wrong with the production art here, per se (unless that's -gah- supposed to be Helium), but it's not very exciting either. I'd heard we'd see a trailer on the final Harry Potter…

    • John K. says:

      Agreed.

      I like the poster myself. Note the stylized “M” at the bottom. Perhaps the “of Mars” part will in the end be part of the title. I remember when the early trailer for Lucas’ “Return of the Jedi” had it as “Revenge of the Jedi”- Lucas commented “I like to throw the fans a curve once in a while”. The “Revenge” later surfaced in the last episode “Revenge of the Sith”. The sith was of course the giant wasp-like creature encountered by John Carter and Woola during part of their journey- it nearly killed them both. Wheels within wheels…

      JK

  17. Jeff Dee says:

    While it terrifies me to hear Andrew Stanton denigrating my beloved JCoM books as "not a perfect piece of literature" (true – but must he SAY it?) – somehting else he said convinces me that he GETS Barsoom: "Everything was pre-industrial; I wanted it to look made by hand." That's a realization I came to myself when attempting to adapt Barsoom to a tabletop role-playing game. Sure, there's 'science' and 'scientists', but Barsoomian scientists are these mad loners locked up in a private lab in some remote tower, and the 'science' they produce consists of very personal, very unique, completely hand-made gadgets. They're not academics working together in shared laboratories doing pure research. Same goes for the technology Barsoomians use every day; it's all very personal, very unique, hand-crafted by some centuries-old master – not churned out on an assembly line by nameless workers. Yes, yes, yes. That's the culture, bravo Mr. Stanton.

  18. Jeff Dee says:

    Aleric, Beat up and used? Yes, of course. Stanton is dead right about everything on Barsoom being hand made, and 'beat up and used' is what hand-made objects are, already, when they're first constructed (that is to say, they're not perfectly precision manufactured – they're works of art, not soulless products of automation). Then add several thousand years of use on top of that. Yes, the big deck gun should 'gleam' – because the disciplined Navy keeps it so. But it should ALSO be 'beat up and used'. My opinion, anyway. I share your foreboding about Stanton's apparent eagerness to fiddle with thing, but I don't agree this is one of the things he's getting wrong.

    • John K says:

      I don't think "beat up and used" also automatically equates with "hand made"…

      JK

    • John K says:

      Could well be. But you can actually produce art that is precise and cannot be duplicated by any machine. THAT is perfectly precision manufactured.
      "Beat up and used" implies crude, which none of the Barsoomian equipment (including that of the Green men) ever was.

      JK

      JK

      • John K says:

        Well, it so far looks like my worst fears are being realized; the movie will be Stanton’s “Barsoom” and not ERB’s.

        No telepathy, one more of the key plot elements gone.

        The armor (where are the harness and no helmets??) look like fire sale castoffs from an old “B” grade Viking or Roman movie of the 1940′s.

        The Green Men, from the little glimpse shown look like lanky mantis/reptilians toting a pair of tusks any ivory poacher would be proud to lay claim to. There are many more examples.

        I’m sorry Andrew, your film is not likely to be well received and the word “flop” comes to mind quite strongly.

        JK

  19. John K. says:

    Burrough’s best work by far is The Moon Maid/Moon Men duo. Here you have a feud that destroys a world coupled to a love story that spans not just time and space, but separate lives. Most amazing stuff- it will never be filmed. The John Carter series is number two and he should have quit with Warlord.

    JK

  20. John K. says:

    Interesting…

    “Of course, no matter what you’ll have people crying about the White Messiah ‘complex’ they ignorantly spit at Avatar, but you can’t win them all. My biggest disappointment in the way this film is shaping up is that they’ve cast an entire world of diversity with actors of the same ethnicity. Stanton keeps talking about authenticity, but nothing feels quite as false as one (bland) group of people standing in for an entire multicultural world. To me, a true Barsoomian epic was an opportunity to elevate/emphasize the groundwork in the books and say something real about the few shades of color that too often separate us.”

    That’s 21′st Century politically correct, not ERB. Sounds racist as all get out to me.

    I am part American Indian- my great grandparents were full blood Choctaw and my great grandfather a half-breed. You think Caucasians are bland? You wouldn’t be typing or reading any of this without Nicola Tesla (a Serb), the discoverer of alternating current and about as Caucasian as you can get.

    JK

    • VLaszlo says:

      Sigh… My use of the word 'Bland' refers to all the races of Barsoom being played by the same ethnicity, not an attack on a particular ethnicity. I assumed that was clear, but perhaps I made a grammatical error. I am (mostly) Caucasian myself, and Nicola Tesla is a totally awesome dude.

      I also wasn't saying definitively which division of the human 'race' should play which fictional Barsoomian 'race', merely that it would be interesting to use preconceptions of race to make a point about race not being important.

      I don't appreciate being called racist, but part of my point was that this was a tricky issue destined to attract controversy, so being misinterpreted shouldn't surprise me.

      Allow me to re-phrase::
      The all-Caucasian casting of this motion picture is, to me, just as offensive and boring as the 'racebending' charge appropriately leveled @ 'The Last Airbender' and the only reasons it hasn't attracted similar attention is that the Internet fanbase for a 1912 novel adaptation isn't as voracious as one for a popular modern cartoon show, and this film has yet to register on most radar screens with it's lack of marketing material.

      My point is that no matter how well Stanton spins the story (and he's good, so I expect a lot), I fear the film is hamstrung by this failure to recognize the ethnic diversity that is central to Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom in the casting of its principal actors.

      • John K. says:

        But, you see, that is not a misinterpretation- it is your view just as mine was saying it doesn’t jive with ERB’s era or the way he would see it.The same is true of Stanton. I understood exactly what you meant- I simply don’t agree with it at all.

        JK

  21. Stacey says:

    I am so glad he wants everything to look beat up, used, and dirty. That's the biggest problem I have with the new Conan movie coming out. The people populating Conan's world should not looked scrubbed within an inch of their life. They, their armour, everything is so clean it looks ridiculous. The original Conan the Barbarian is a movie that handled that excellently – everything looked so natural, it really put you in that world. I hope this movie gives me the same feeling.

  22. Matt says:

    1/3rd earths gravity. No one ever captures that detail on film yet it affects everything from walking to fighting styles. Movement would simply not be the same on Mars as it would on earth. Having read Kim Stanley Robinsons Trilogy on Mars I can’t take any film about Mars seriously that misses out this important fact. I guess the cost of imparting that impression prevents anyone making a film that convinces us its set on a planet a 3rd the size of our own.

    • VLaszlo says:

      Completely agreed, Matt.
      A typical Hollywood strategy would be to have JC 'leap tall buildings' when it's appropriate to the plot, but ignore the effect of his Earth muscles in Martian gravity/air pressure the rest of the time. Your point goes farther, though. EVERYTHING should move differently in this film than it would if it were set on Earth. Falling objects, explosions, splashing water… Everything ought to adhere to the actual 1/3rd Gravity of the Red Planet.

      In an earlier interview, Stanton talked about aiming for a 'scientifically accurate (or was it just 'historically' accurate Mars), and with luck he was referring to this as one of the main issues.

      I truly hope that, with his physics-conscious Pixar animation background, that he made the application of these physics a paramount part of his directorial process on the project.

      • John K. says:

        One wonders why you would try? This is an Edwardian era adventure saga, not a download from NASA.

        JK

    • John K. says:

      Amazing…

      You guys are worried over trivial physical science of the modern era- think about this for a second: John Carter is never once in his physical, Earthly body while on Mars- he is in an Astral one, with all the metaphysical ramifications that conjures up.

      Again, ERB’s vision of Barsoom is what counts, not ours of the present day- or else we wind up like Speilberg remaking “War of the Worlds”.

      Shazzam!

      JK

      • VLaszlo says:

        I thought we were talking about the effects of the lower Martian gravity & air pressure, which are repeatedly cited throughout the novel for granting the protagonist his strength and unique leaping ability. The basic physics of Mars were well known in the Edwardian era, and Burroughs seized upon this to drive the physical action in the book.

        It's never made clear, at least not in the early books, in exactly what form Carter exists in on Mars. It's a deliberate mystery and the metaphysical nature of his astral projection are subject to debate. Regardless, he behaves there as if he had a physical body with Earth-trained muscles that give him advantage in the new environment. Also, a lot of other presumably flesh & blood beings do (did?) live on Barsoom, a world which has all the physical attributes of Mars known to Science in 1912 – including lower gravity and air pressure.

        It would be cool to see that faithfully adapted from ERB's vision of Barsoom.

      • John K says:

        “I thought we were talking about the effects of the lower Martian gravity & air pressure, which are repeatedly cited throughout the novel for granting the protagonist his strength and unique leaping ability. The basic physics of Mars were well known in the Edwardian era, and Burroughs seized upon this to drive the physical action in the book.

        It’s never made clear, at least not in the early books, in exactly what form Carter exists in on Mars. It’s a deliberate mystery and the metaphysical nature of his astral projection are subject to debate. Regardless, he behaves there as if he had a physical body with Earth-trained muscles that give him advantage in the new environment. Also, a lot of other presumably flesh & blood beings do (did?) live on Barsoom, a world which has all the physical attributes of Mars known to Science in 1912 – including lower gravity and air pressure.

        It would be cool to see that faithfully adapted from ERB’s vision of Barsoom”.

        We were. Must be another of your “misinterpretations”.
        He (ERB) also said it was hot during the day and cold at night. It’s no mystery at all- ERB made it quite clear if you read his first and last book. He (through John Carter) also says that the Barsoomians are adapted to their environment- he is convinced that even the powerful Green men could not stand upright under Earthly gravity. You actually have read these books haven’t you???

        JK

      • VLaszlo says:

        Surely no one who thinks he should have quit after Warlord would take the posthumous 11th book so seriously…

        What I take from this post is that you agree with us that the gravity is important to get right.
        I am glad we all agree.

  23. markus says:

    I kinduv hoped the film would look like the Frank Frazetta paintings brought to life but there is no way that disney will put that much nudity into the film, partial or otherwise. That said, didn't I read a casting call for real breasted buxom women recently?

    • Tyler D says:

      I would like some clarification on the possible casting calls for 'breasted buxom women'. This is one of the qualms I have with Disney 'doing' this film. Disney is my passion, and my primary life focus – pretty much – but they are WAY to simple-minded of a company. They twist Walt's words to work in their favor at the time. It's ludicrous. Anyway, Dejah Thoris is a sexualized Godess, and if they don't add a slight nod to that fact, I will refuse to see the film, and wish it a box office flop.

      … okay, so I probably will go see it. But that doesn't mean I won't be mad if Dejah's breasts are predominate! :o)

  24. John K says:

    “Yes, yes, and yes.

    Carter doesn’t have to face that prospect immediately, with the thousand year Martian lifespan… but he will eventually, and that figures into the way you feel when the novel ends and we’re left staring up into the sky across known space and unknown time.

    Right now I’m just wondering if they’ll even dare to end the film respectably, framed by one of the most potent, poignant literary cliffhangers they could ask for… or if they’ll run scared and wrap everything up nice with a happy-ending bow”.

    Beautifully and perfectly said. Correct in every detail.

    JK

  25. Spaceman Spiff says:

    I'm sorry but several other things I've read from Stanton leads me to believe that he DOESN"T get it. Read the book once then never look at it again? That's the problem, He said in an earlier interview that he wants to do the film the he remebers it rather than the way it actually is. I agree with ProperVillain seems to me as if Stanton is making this 'HIS' movie the same way Abrams butchered Star Trek in order to turn it into 'HIS' movie. I hope I'm wrong but I'm afraid this movie will be a BIG disapointment.

  26. BenG says:

    John Carter (with a little help from ERB) taught me a lot about life, honor and courage. He taught me to always persever–as long as I still breathe. As a child l loved those stories. As an old man I still do. Dejah Thoris was beyond a doubt my first crush. The story that played out in my mind as I raced through those wonderful books can never be reproduced on the screen. I walked upon the lands of Barsoom. I fought the great white apes and battled alongside John Carter beneath the moons of Mars. Once you have been to a land and learned to love it, no one can paint a picture that quite captures the way you remember it. My only hope for this movie is that it awakens some old memories and that for a moment or two I am transformed into that child that I once was, walking again with my old friends across the parched lands of a dying planet. If the producers and cast members have no love for these stories they will not come close to getting it right.

  27. John K says:

    Surely no one who thinks he should have quit after Warlord would take the posthumous 11th book so seriously…

    What I take from this post is that you agree with us that the gravity is important to get right.

    I am glad we all agree.

    You have read that one?

    I don’t agree that it (gravity) is relevant at all to the degree you seem to think it is.

    JK

  28. John K says:

    “Ok, admittedly I went a little overboard there. Still, I’m not the first to bring this up when it comes to the noted effects of dominant cultural imagery. Keep grinning if you want, I guess. Before we chased everyone away I was about to comment on this being a fun conversation”.

    Indeed so.

    You gotta grin to keep from crying sometimes.

    Ignore dominant cultural imagery- you are the master of your own mind and I’m sure you can tune this stuff out as well as I can-perhaps better.

    JK

  29. John K says:

    “The basic physics of Mars were well known in the Edwardian era, and Burroughs seized upon this to drive the physical action in the book”.

    How could they possibly be?

    There were a great many assumptions (just as with today), but other than observations with a telescope and spectrographic analysis of the reflected light from Mars- there was NADA.

    JK

  30. John K says:

    “Keep grinning if you want, I guess”.

    “Make today your next day’s dawn, and you’ll still be here grinnin’ when today’s long gone”.

    The Ballad of Cable Hogue

    JK

  31. SadFace says:

    Part1
    I have to agree with what a lot of people are saying and thinking. This movie, as it seem, is a joke and a mockery of what Edgar Rice Burroughs try to portray.
    And yes it has a lot to do with the love between the two main characters. You really got to believe the love between these two, not just think that Gambit stole Wolverine’s girl.

    IMO there is a good cast that I would have love to have seen play parts in the Princess of Mars, but I don’t think it will cut it looking more like “Rome, the aftermath”.

    Why in the world would Disney even want to try and do this movie? It’s not a kiddy flick even if it’s to be portrayed half correct.
    Stanton puts down everyone else’s vision of the story and then turns around and gives as A Bugs Life clone for older kids.

  32. SadFace says:

    Part2
    The green men of Mars look nothing like is described in the stories, from the pictures they look like he went back to his hard drive, pull out his old renders and redid his characters from “A Bugs Life”. I mean seriously where did he dream up those skinny green men with elephant tusk. From their cheek bone??
    Of the 100ths of vision I’ve seen of Tharks, these are so off if not the worse. You would more laugh at them then be scared of then.

    John Carter, a well statue, clean cut short black hair gentleman form Virginia, where is he? And he lands on mars with his clothes… What, he get beamed over to Mars??
    The concept is off big time. Did he read the later books that more describe the idea behind the concept?

  33. SadFace says:

    Part3
    The red people of mars with Tattoos?? OMG I can’t believe this. Where in any of the books in this universe did they mention Red people with tattoos? And no I’m not including Comic-Books.
    You have different color races, Red, Green, White, Black and Yellow, is he going to represent them with different color tattoos??
    I hope he doesn’t have Black men in this movie as the First Born don’t show up in the first story, but then again he already has Mark Strong as Matai Shang, leader of the Holy Therns (the White Race) which is not in the first book.

    I see gray coats that seem to be chasing JC, what happen to the Indians or is he going to be scared to portray them?

  34. SadFace says:

    Part4
    The Cities are like nothing from the books and the aircraft look like spaceship with feathers not air ship that closer resemble Galleons. How is he going to depict the Firstborn’s ship which convert to sail on the water as well as the air.

    You give the directors about 75% of all the work already done, background, history, cultures, descriptions, STORY and he just toss it all out the window to give us his take.
    Many have read the books and made their own stories from the ideas from the books. If he want to make his own stories, fine, just don’t call it John Carter.
    Others who have not read the story can look at this as if it is a rip off from everything that came before it when in fact it’s the other way around.

  35. SadFace says:

    Part5
    This looks like another sad fake copy like the Traci Lords versions just with more money pumped into it.

    I’m just piss at Paramount because they gave up on this story and to me they seem to have had a better take on the whole idea.

    As for romance (the most driving force of the story), I think you will get more believable romance from Wall-E with Eva then John Carter and Dejah Thoris.
    Sad… So very very Sad.
    :-(

  36. A.L. Hern says:

    If, instead of "John Carter of Mars," the filmmakers had, say, decided to make "Jimmy Carter, Peanut Farmer of Mars," there would now be no danger of audiences mistakenly thinking the thing's cribbed its concepts from "Star Wars."

    Why do I have to point out these things to all this high-priced talent?

  37. @dopper0189 says:

    What year is that Marvel Comic?

  38. 062241 says:

    Boy, Geoff Boucher really asked some great questions. I'm writing this after we all know what happened to the film. I think Disney and Stanton really missed the IMPORTANT underlying facts of the questions he was asking. The film would have been better and the marketing would have been vastly improved if they really thought through and responded to them.
    Great job Mr. Boucher. You should be working for them.
    ken

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