Tars Tarkas, center, voiced by Willem Dafoe, and John Carter, played by Taylor Kitsch, right, in a scene from "John Carter." (Disney Enterprises)Link
Tars Tarkas, left, voiced by Willem Dafoe, and John Carter, played by Taylor Kitsch, in a scene from "John Carter." (Disney Enterprises)Link
An airship from the film "John Carter." (Disney Enterprises)Link
John Carter, portrayed by Taylor Kitsch, and his pet Woola in "John Carter." (Disney Enterprises)Link
John Carter, played by Taylor Kitsch, Sola (Samantha Morton) and Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) in "John Carter." (Disney Enterprises)Link
Taylor Kitsch plays the title character in "John Carter." (Disney Enterprises)Link
The city of Helium, also referred to as "The Jewel of Barsoom (Mars)," is the home of Princess Dejah Thoris in "John Carter." (Disney Enterprises)Link
Massive airships sail on rays of light on Mars, also known as Barsoom, in "John Carter." (Disney Enterprises)Link
"John Carter" director Andrew Stanton, center. (Jessica Lifland / Disney Enterprises)Link
"John Carter" producer Jim Morris. (Jessica Lifland / Disney Enterprises)Link
"John Carter" movie poster. (Disney)Link
“Star Wars,” “Superman,” “Avatar” — for decades, Hollywood has found box-office treasure in fantasy science fiction epics about heroes adventuring in strange and mysterious lands. “John Carter,” director Andrew Stanton’s upcoming Martian war tale, is based on the 100-year-old Edgar Rice Burroughs yarn that helped inspire many of those stories.
The script by Stanton, Mark Andrews and Michael Chabon is adapted from the Burroughs novel “Princess of Mars,” which was first published as a magazine serial in 1912 and introduced the movie’s title character, a Civil War veteran who is astral-projected to the red planet. Upon arriving on Mars, known as Barsoom, John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) meets a fierce race of 15-foot-tall, four-armed green warriors called Tharks and a passionate, human-like princess named Dejah (Lynn Collins).
The $250-million film is something of a big bet for Disney, but Stanton, best known for directing the Pixar animated films “Wall-E” and “Finding Nemo,” said he had an aesthetic idea to distinguish his sci-fi epic from the many others derived from its source material.
“I love all those movies,” Stanton said. “To me they’re all movies from the same tree. How can I make this film so it can stand on its own? Taking a period approach, so you feel like it’s antiquated, I felt was the way out of that. I kept saying, I want a really great historical Martian film.”
Aiming for an antique feel, Stanton built tall ships in the sky, powered by manual labor and gliding on rays of light.
“I wanted that romance of the high seas, but it’s romance of the high air,” Stanton said.
Though his design sense was based on a bygone era, Stanton felt he had to update some of the series’ characters for more modern sensibilities.
“It’s written at the turn of the century — a damsel in distress, a guy swings in on a rope, that’s all anybody asks for at that time,” Stanton said.
In the 2012 version, Stanton said he endeavored to make John Carter a more complex, reluctant hero and to imbue Princess Dejah with a Shakespearean sense of duty about her planet. One character the filmmakers didn’t alter much, however, was John Carter’s strong but kind four-armed sidekick, Tars Tarkas, played in the film by Willem Dafoe.
“Anybody I had ever met that had read the book, that tended to be their favorite character,” Stanton said. “As a kid, you wanted to meet him, and you were kind of jealous that John Carter got to hang out with him. Tars Tarkas was one thing we didn’t want to mess with at all.”
“John Carter” opens March 9.
– Rebecca Keegan
RECENT AND RELATED