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FIRST LOOK: Andrew Stanton’s “John Carter”

In what I’d like to think of as Pixar’s first live-action film, here’s the teaser for Andrew Stanton’s adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter (no longer called John Carter of Mars because, I assume, the marketing folks think we are too sophisticated these days to believe that the red planet is populated with scantily clad princesses and four-armed barbarians). Disney is releasing the film next spring.

(Thanks, Jakob Schuh)

  • After only two films, Andrew Stanton has become one of my favorite directors and this looks interesting as well. I wasn’t expecting it to look as ‘Conan’ as it does, however. Nevertheless, Im in. Can anyone tell me how faithful this looks to the original source material?

    • tom

      Well, John’s not naked, and Tars Tarkas (if that’s him) seems a little less enormous than I’d imagined him, but it all looks great.

    • Keith

      So far it seems fairly faithful. In the books, there’s very little cloth on mars (or hair, aside from on the heads of the red men of Mars and on the great white apes). Mostly the people of Mars wear harnesses of metal & leather to carry weapons, and baubles & assorted jewelry…not much else. Obviously that’s impossible to stick to and avoid an NC17 rating, and US audiences are too prudish by far anyway.

      But they’ve stuck to the proper time period, post-Civil War… the beginning of the trailer, with Burroughs being informed of his “uncle’s” death, takes place a few decades later (note Carter is very much alive in that scene, however–as he narrates the story in the book, he reveals early on that he’s apparently immortal tho he has no idea how or why, or for how long since memories over a hundred years old tend to fade). The design of the green men differ a bit; the books describe their tusks reaching up to the center of their faces. Their eyes should be on the sides of their heads, like a bird’s, giving them a wider field of view & less reason to turn their heads. Their lower set of arms are described as being limbs that can function as extra legs OR arms. Tricky to portray.

      • Tricky to portray. But that is where the magic of film making comes in: “to make the impossible, seem possible”. I feel that the alien has been “humanized” i.e. made to look more human, based on the assumption that the audience will connect with it more easily.

      • AnthonyA

        Indeed, I agree that it just won’t be anywhere near close, visually, as anything I imagined while I was reading the books. Too much cloth in the trailer, and not nearly enough jewelry and flashy bits of metal. I believe Dejah is suppose to be nearly dripping with the stuff when she is able to properly accoutrement herself in the books. Stupid morals in the USA, and worse at Disney. You can shoot someone in the chest on film, and show blood spatter and bone, but heavens forbid that you show that chest unclad!

        That said, as long as the CGI is reasonably convincing, I’ll give the movie a try.

  • Ira

    Has a similar feel to it but then again the novels were pretty outlandish but still a very fun read. In the books the Princess of Mars is basically butt-naked…then again so is John Carter when he first arrives. I’m looking forward to it, loved seeing a shot of John Carter leaping through the air, that got me excited.

  • So how long before people start to complain that this movie is an obvious Avatar ripoff?

    • It won’t be considered as a rip-off since Avatar was partly based on ERB approach to describing extra-terrestial world[s] and Barsoom books were written long time BEFORE Avatar was made. If non-Americans are aware of that, US audiences should know it much better.

    • There’s craploads of people already doing so on youtube. But you’re too smart to think that right? Because you clearly know it predates all that crap.

    • NC

      Sorry but the Martian Tales bares no story similarities to Avatar and the Martian Tales was first by about a hundred years.

    • Avatar rip-off?

      Avatar is an obvious everything rip-off, just done really pretty.

      Or don’t you remember all the script comparisons being made when it came out?

    • anonymush

      how long until you realize this story is older than avatar?

      • How long before you realize he was being sarcastic?

    • Scott B.

      Oh fluffy … I feel your pain, reading the responses to your clever post.

  • Frank Ziegler

    I’m still very optimistic about the film, but that trailer seemed too somber to me.

  • Rodrigo

    Looks like “Heavy Metal” without as many tits.

    • SB

      No, it looks like one of the primary sources “Heavy Metal” stole from. Which it is.

      • Rodrigo

        Which I’m sure still had more tits.

      • Hal

        Check out the AWESOME Frazetta JOHN CARTER paintings – basically just wrought iron pasties on women’s chests. Them paintings makes a man out of ya.

  • Looks like Bob Clampett’s John Carter from the 1930’s will finally make it to the big screen.

    • John A

      I kinda liked Clampett’s version better. This one looks like it’s really lost its “pulp novel” look. It looks like it’s trying to be Avatar, and I was bored to death by Avatar.

  • snip2346

    They most likely didn’t shorten it because they don’t recognize that it’s Mars- they shortened it so it would fit on the marquee!

    Marketing these days…. I could go on and on….

    • Mmm, then how would you explain “The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn”, or “Captain America: The First Avenger”, or even “Borat: Culteral Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan”.
      “John Carter of Mars” seems positively snappy by comparison.

  • “Mars” was dropped from the title due to the non-performance of MARS NEEDS MOMS. I hope they’ll expand it to JOHN CARTER OF BARSOOM (ERB’s Martian word for Mars.)

    • tommy

      Oh my god, is that for real? Do they really think that using the word “Mars” in the title is why no one liked “Mars Needs Moms”? Or that, when someone hears the word “Mars”, the first thing they’ll think of is a horrible movie no one even watched?

      • Keith

        According to Stanton, they dropped “Mars” because it immediately says “sci-fi” and a lot of people have a negative knee-jerk reaction to sci-fi… tho that explanation is pretty lame, as the trailers will show it for what it is. “Hey, I wanna go see that John Carter movie today.” “Yeah, what’s it about?” “I dunno, I just wanna see it cuz it’s probably about a dude named John Carter, like Noah Wyle’s character on ER!” “Sweet, let’s check it out.” “WHAT THE HELL, MAN, IT’S SCI-FI?! This blows!” “Maybe we shoulda watched a trailer first.”

      • Looks like the logic of “Rapunzel” to “Tangled” marketing thinking. And since “Tangled” was a success, of course perhaps the conclusion is that the name change helped, whether it’s true or not.

        I think they should just call it “Of.”

      • Funkybat

        I don’t know about the assumption that a wide audience will turn up their noses at anything that suggests “sci-fi.” Lots of action/adventure movies have a sci-fi element these days, and this movie seems to be in that mold. I was actually expecting something a lot MORE sci-fi and less “Conan” as one commenter put it, but I suppose that’s due to my relative unfamiliarity with the original stories. I was expecting something more akin to “Flash Gordon.”

        Considering that Avatar was basically a huge sci-fi/action story and it made lots of bucks, I don’t buy the idea that “Mars” was stricken from the title because of “sci-fi.” The fear that it would somehow be associated with “Mars Needs Moms” seems a lot more likely, knowing how Hollywood marketers think…

  • (Pssst, Jerry…Despite the director, I don’t think that this is a PIXAR production.)

  • Claudia

    This looks dangerously similar to Prince of Persia, then again Andrew Stanton is a very competent director, and I’m really looking forward to see how he handled this story.

    • DonaldC

      Videogame movies are never good.

      Movies based on pulp fiction tend to be a 50/50 thing.

  • Doug Drown

    That brooding piano score grabbed me, to say nothing of the visuals. I think I’m gonna want to see this.

    • Gobo

      The brooding piano/vocal piece is Peter Gabriel’s orchestral version of Arcade Fire’s “My Body Is a Cage”. It’s from his “Scratch My Back” album.

  • It’s post-converted? Why?
    “3D conversion” means “don’t bother seeing it in 3D”.
    I’m looking forward to JOHN CARTER, though.
    Some shots in this trailer don’t look entirely finished.

    • Amy

      That horrible tim Burton Alice in Wonderland was converted from 2d to 3d. As bad as the movie and 3d was, it made over a billion.

      • ALICE was okay. Pleasantly weird. I saw it in 2D, though.
        Conversion is a trick that doesn’t work properly yet, in my opinion.
        A movie is 3D or not. If it ain’t shot in 3D, it’s not 3D.
        Real 3D would have been a pain in ALICE with the zillion-layer composites.

    • Avatar had scenes converted into 3Dm and I can almost guarantee that you can’t pick them out form a lineup- when conversion is done well, by someone like Legend 3D instead of Prime Focus (who handled Clash of the Titans), it can be indistinguishable from the real thing. All it requires is the time and patience to paint in the depth accurately, and not rush the process.

    • Funkybat

      I already don’t bother seeing most “filmed in 3D” films in 3D, but after Alice in Wonderland I’ll make sure to never see a post-converted 3D film in 3D again.

  • Kartoonz kritik

    Unfortunately, this trailer feels a bit underwhelming to me. I hope the movie is a hellava lot better.

    The locations doesn’t look/feel very Mars-ish. In fact it looks like it recycled locations from Cowboys and Aliens.

    • tom

      According to an animator working on the film, most if not all of the good stuff isn’t shown. It’s a teaser – a first look. Not really a “trailer”.

    • 2011 Adult

      Does he ever spend time on Earth in this film? I can’t tell which shots are supposed to be on Mars or Earth at all!

      • SB

        On the off-chance that that wasn’t supposed to be irony…

        The stuff that looks like America in the 1860s is Earth. The stuff with, you know, reddish sand and big green aliens with tusks and elaborate flying vessels is Mars. You’re welcome.

      • I can understand 2011 Adult comment. The “Mars-like” setting in the teaser lacks imagination. It doesn’t look alien or mystical – it just looks too normal.

        But, its too early too be bored. I’m sure the film will reveal a grander, more breath-taking Martian landscape.

    • NC

      True, the book’s version of Mars was like more like the Navi’s world of Avatar. I think the fact that people today now know that Mars does not look like that was the reason why they went with a desert instead.

      • Gray64

        No, it’s described as being very desert-y in the books. Burroughs works with the notion that Mars is a dying planet, which was a popular theory (even in serious astronomical circles) in the late 19th, early 20th century.

      • NC

        I;m sorry your right it’s been a few years since I read the books.

  • TStevens

    John Carter: “Where am I?”

    Based on the looks of it, I would say either Ship Rock New Mexico or somewhere near Monument Valley.

    Stanton sure has come a long way since Randy the Killer Clown. Does “A Story” exist anywhere on line? I can’t seem to find it.

  • I like my version better.^_^

  • I wish we’d gotten a better image of a green Martian. Even freeze-framing the shot of him doesn’t show a lot. Those guys were a major part of The Princess of Mars and it would be a shame if we don’t get to see lots of ’em playing an important part in this movie. I liked the trailer as far as it goes (and I agree that the musical score really sets the mood), but it left me with the impression that Tars Tarkas has a very limited role. I hope that’s a false impression.

    • Keith

      The main characters are John, Dejah, Tars, and Sola. They asked Willem Dafoe and Samantha Morton (who voice the latter pair) if they’d be up for spending 4-6 weeks in a desert on stilts in gray pajamas with some sorta motion/face-capture camera on ’em to play the characters. So I don’t think their roles will be limited. Remember, this trailer’s a TEASER… so we only get one shot of Tars. Leaves us wanting more. But notice that the voiceover at the end, “When I first saw you, I believed it was a sign…” was Dafoe’s voice. I don’t think they showed the white apes, or Woola, or thoats or any of that, except whatever creatures were in that stampede/charge towards John in that one shot.

  • Skeptical

    ERB was a deeply racist dude, and ‘John Carter’ was his reaction to the south losing the Civil War. John Carter plays out Burroghs’ ideas of racial superiority, with the southern gentleman civilizing the savages, who are meager stand-ins for his take on blacks and northern carpetbaggers. Ironically, in his world, it is the southern gentleman who ends up being enslaved, which justifies Carter’s savagery.

    Burroughs was also sexist, and female characters in ERB’s world only exist to be lusted after by the hero or threatened with rape by savages. They are classic southern belles, who speak gently, suffer bravely, are virtuous no matter the circumstances, and never have ambitions of their own.

    His characters are two-dimensional, and are either courageous, loyal, and honorable (even when they resort to extreme violence), or evil, cowardly, lying, and lazy. His plots are almost identical from novel to novel.

    It’s interesting that the film seems to be based on the first John Carter book, ‘A Princess of Mars.’ I can see why they changed the title. Must not confuse the boys. For ERB, the princess’s main attribute was beauty, and the fact that she was buck naked. It seems they’re going to clean that up, too. Given all the above, I can understand why pubescent boys might be fans of this nonsense, but I can’t imagine why any adult would want to watch this nonsense. Especially when it looks just like a cludge of Avatar, Prince of Persia, and The Last Samurai.

    • That made it sound even better

      • Most of ERB’s novels are trash, but they are GLORIOUS trash!

      • Yep, the little boy in me is sold, and the grown man timidly agrees. I also somewhat agree with Skeptical, if what they’re saying is “Burroughs lived in a different time with different societal norms, and this film will likely update the literature to suit a more enlightened, pc-prissy audience.”

      • Skeptical

        Even in ERB’s time he was writing pulpy crap, and sexist/racist crap at that. At a time when Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, and others, had been using science fiction to not only explore extraordinary fantasy worlds along with potent social and psychological themes, but also writing with some decent skill, Burroughs came along with ‘white man supreme in the world of ethnic savages, here to save the naked beauty’ stories. Has anyone honestly tried to read either a Tarzan novel or a John Carter novel as an adult? Good luck.

        Updating Burroughs can only eliminate what antiquated charm and lusty appeal his writing has. That seems to be the case from looking at the trailer.

      • Not now

        “Has anyone honestly tried to read either a Tarzan novel or a John Carter novel as an adult? ”
        Why yes. And if you can put your mind into context, they are just fun adventure tales. And that’s looking to be how the movie will turn out, a fun adventure.

        Is it bad that people where (and unfortunately still are in some cases) judged for how they where born? Yes, but you can’t hold it against the work as a whole, especially when you take into account historical context.

        If we denounce and bury every racist and sexist story ever made, we may as well throw out most books made before the PC boom (and many after), we’d be left with very few novels on our recommended reading lists.

      • Skeptical

        When I read Huck Finn, I understand the historical context, and I don’t cringe every time the n-word is used. I appreciate the novel because it’s a brilliant, well-written book that treats it’s characters as unique, fleshed-out individuals who do interesting things. When I read Dicken’s, it’s the same thing, even though he tended to make American and Jewish characters look bad.

        Burroughs’ fiction is just pulp, blandly written in a paid-by-the-word manner to be consumed like a McDonald’s cheeseburgers. There are people who celebrate their love of McDonald’s, too, but that pride baffles me just as much. It’s easy to list a hundred books that provide more fun, better adventure, richer characters, all within a silly fantasy context, than anything ERB wrote. Life’s too short to read bad books when there are thousands of good ones. And life’s too short to waste time elevating pulp trash into expensive, empty movies.

        I don’t advocate denouncing and burying every racist and sexist story. I just wonder who sees the appeal in John Carter, especially when the nudity and gore are excised, as they will be here. I won’t be surprised if this is a big money loser.

    • Bud

      ERB created John Carter PURELY as a marketing ploy–just to make money. They books are quite lame, really…but that doesn’t necessarily mean the movie will be bad. Although I think this trailer is pretty ball-less and bland.

    • NC

      Are you mad because Brenda Chapman didn’t direct it?

  • I’d rather this have gotten the Tarzan treatment, minus Phil Collins.

    • NC

      You mean have Rosie O’Donnel voice Tars…

  • Somewhat interesting, however, being unfamiliar with the property, the trailer didn’t tell me anything about the film’s story other than something about a half-naked guy running around what looks like an Arizona desert.

  • I’m making my own version called: “John Deere of Sears”

  • Lumiano

    “Avatar”, “Prince of Persia” and “The Last Samurai”, not so much. George Pal’s movie swan song “Doc Savage”, yes!

  • Andrew

    If it wasnt Andrew Stanton none of you would care

    • I admit, the fact that it IS andrew stanton (a competent director) means that I am more optimistic about it. Why not?

  • Andrew

    Because you have eyeballs is why not. This trailer looks forgettable at best and crappy at worst. If it gets above 80% on rotten tomatoes I’ll eat my Nemo hat

    • I guess we’ll have to wait and see. I enjoyed the trailer.

  • Toonio

    Smells like bomb around here.

    • Gobo

      What, in your house? Sorry to hear! Hope you get that cleaned up.

  • Vzk

    Sorry Disney, but The Asylum beat you to it:

  • YouFloob

    They apparently use the performance capture only for reference for the animators. Major props for doing that.

    Also the whole thing is pretty much written by the ‘brain trust’ over at PIXAR. So yes Jerry is pretty much right about this being (unofficially) a PIXAR film.

    • Sardonic Tuba

      Wrong on both counts.

  • Billy Batz

    Too bad they made the Tharks look like Delgo.Big mistake.

  • anonymous

    I think this trailer was meant to be a bit more subdued then most of the hollywood action trailers out there.Usually they cram as many action scenes in as possible to make your mouth drop,this one, not so much.

  • C. Stulz

    Anyone else reminded of the Grand Councilwoman from Lilo and Stitch when they see the Alien characters at the 1:09 mark?

    Grand Councilwoman from Lilo & Stitch

    • Andrew

      I didnt know you could post images in comments! Howd you do that? Standard link? Html code?

      • amid

        You can post images by using the “img src” code with HTML brackets.

    • Gene

      Thank goodness, no. The Carter stuff looks GOOD.

      • So, are you saying Lilo and Stitch looks bad?

        I think that movie looks A LOT more appealing than anything from that John Carter trailer.

  • Gerard de Souza

    By the trailer’s absence of non-stop explosions and fights and running-away, it actually looks like it may be a film of substance.

  • I think the martians should have transformed John Carter into ten identical, glassy-eyed clones who would wander around town causing comical chaos while repeating “yah-ba, dah-bah, dooh.”

  • Frank Ziegler

    The more I think about it the more disappointed I am in the airship design. They were such an iconic visual for those books. Plenty of good descriptions by Burroughs and to think of all the wonderful cover art and illustrations from a century that the book has been around…just seems a real waste to throw it all out.

  • fremgen

    Looks pretty good to :) And being the man I am, if everyone was running around naked, I doubt I’d be pay too much attention to the story!

    And I can’t believe who anyone could say the public doesn’t want to see sci-fi films?! Was “Mars needs Moms” their only test subject????

    • looniINmiami

      If its good ,people will go see it; sci-fi or not.

  • E. Nygma

    Stop talking about Avatar, that movie sucked.

  • The Obvious

    This is a rough situation for Andrew Stanton. James Cameron already made this film and pretty much said that these ERB stories were the inspiration for “Avatar”. I found aspects of Avatar playing to many of the stereotypes and exploitation aspects that people level at the books, and lets not forget the alien creatures with their extra limbs and the use of blue aliens to justify an essentially nude female lead.

    I think Stanton can make a great film, but it will be difficult to escape the fact that the concepts of the ‘John Carter’ series have already been put on the screen, adapted for a modern audience, and been hugely successful in terms of ticket sales and box office.

  • lola

    First impression: looks pretty crap. The aliens look way too cartoony to be believable next to a human figure, the half-naked beef boy may be faithful to the character in the book but next to the Prince of Persia and the new Conan movies it doesn’t stand out much, and otherwise it looks pretty disappointing.

    I’ll go see Tintin intead.

  • I’m not too troubled that this does not look precisely like Barsoom as *I* personally imagined it, nor does the lack of nudity bother me. My great hope is that it sticks closely to the story and flavor of the books. I like the fact that it is properly a period piece.
    I can already tell that it will be *far* better than the abomination produced by Asylum in ’09.