Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Updates: John Carter of Mars

A "John Carter of Mars" film has been in the works off and on since 1931 with twists and turns, bouncing from studio to studio. Here's a short roundup of up and downs of "John Carter of Mars" and its pursuit to finally being made. It started with Bob Clampett (Looney Tunes director) along with Edgar Rice Burroughs, who tried to make a full length cartoon film based on the original book series, only to be shot down by MGM, who wanted a slapstick vs a faithful adaptation. Later in the 1980s Disney scooped up the rights to the novels in hopes to make a rival to the infamous Star Wars and Conan series. The pre-production on the film was later shutdown when the director attached, John McTiernan noted visuals effects were too lacking to capture Edgar Rice Burroughs vision. In 2001, Cloumbia and Paramount Pictures began a bidding war on the rights to the novels after the Lord of the Rings series was so successful. Paramount won and had Robert Rodriguez signed on to direct. Rodriguez however, dropped out of the Director's Guild of America in 2005. Paramount pushed on trying two other directors (Kerry Conran & Jon Favreau) both having rivaling visions for the film, leaving Paramount to abandoned the project in 2006 and focus on Star Trek. Disney in 2007 regained the rights to "John Carter of Mars" and hired Mark Andrews to pen a script and Andrew Stanton to direct. That brings us to today....

Andrew Stanton, who is fresh off his WALL-E success, recently sat down with SCI FI Wire and talked about where exactly the film is at and what we can expect. Stanton who was weary not to give away too much, still did give the some nice insight into the development on "John Carter of Mars."

Most importantly Stanton reveals that the film will be live action! Stanton said when asked of the subject, "Yeah, I think that's the only way." He added, "I mean, there are so many creatures and characters that half of it's going to be CG whether you want it to be [or not], just to realize some of these images that are in the book. But it will feel real. The whole thing will feel very, very believable." With Stanton's keen eye for CG were assured that the "creators" will be outstanding, but this will be the director's first live action film. Stanton Told MTV, “It’s the perfect definition of a hybrid movie."

Andrew Stanton was next asked where exactly the project stood. Stanton's instant answer was, "[I'm] deep into it." He continued, "I'm on my next draft of it. We're in preproduction art-wise, and we're starting to talk to actors. So it's full bore." With the film having a projected 2012 release, having Stanton "full bore" speaks very well of "John Carter of Mars" actually getting done. Adding to the assurance Stanton will see the film through, he told MTV, "We’re over the hump of the writing phase, and we’re certainly far from rewrites."

Just how true to the source material will Stanton stay? Stanton making sure he was clear, said that the original material definately needed tinkering in order to make a true cinematic event and not just an episodic film. "In its day it was a comic book. I mean, this book was written in 1912. It was the comic book you got in the time before there was such thing as comic books. So, it was really just about the next fight, the next adventure, the next romance." Clarifying Stanton continued, "the key was putting a story into it and creating characters that had to grow and real basic stuff that we all know a movie needs."

"John Carter of Mars" has some amazing imagery throughout it's lore and a big point to all of the adaptation and attempts at getting it made, was the art and concept designs. It is safe to say that here with the newest attempt, the same can be said. Andrew Stanton made very clear that he is going very realistic with his vision. Stanton declared, "Well, we're going very authentic, I guess is the way to put it. I don't want to give too much away, but it's such a foundational story to so many films and stories and sci-fi ideas that have come since the '30s and 1912 and stuff. So the trick is how to not make it seem cliché and derivative because it's such an archetype story now."

Stanton up to this point has been a Pixar guy directing both The Incredibles and WALL-E, so will the studio be apart of "John Carter of Mars"? The short answer is, no. Stanton articulated on the matter to SCI FI Wire, "Well, it's not being done by the Pixar crew. It's being done by Disney, and I'm sort of being loaned out. We're sort of using any element that we need to to make the film right. We're not being purist with Pixar, but Pixar's a brand that you have to trust that's for all ages." Andrew Stanton will, for the first time, work outside of Pixar and make a live action film with real actors! Furthermore, it is clear that Disney is making sure that Pixar is soely an "all ages" production company and leaving its darker content for Disney. Stanton drove home the point on John Carter by saying, "This story of John Carter is not going to be an all-ages film." If Stanton is saying this is not going to be an all ages film, what rating will Disney and he be shooting for? Stanton was quickly asked if they were aiming at a PG13 rating. He said, "Well, if you do the story right, there's no way you couldn't." Here, here...although, an R rating would be even better!

Lastly, Andrew Stanton was asked if they are talking to actors, just who are they targeting? Back in the 1980's Tom Cruise was attached to star, more recently Hugh Jackman has been rumored to star. Andrew Stanton voiced his opinions on the matter by saying to MTV, "I know everybody wanted Hugh Jackman forever. But he’s only getting older and more exposed now, so it’s a tough call. I’m your typical filmmaker, I want to find the next best unknown." So looks like at this point Stanton has the Disney execs looking at a unknowns, but all studios quiver at the idea of a non-marketable lead. So I am sure, some big names are sure to be thrown around as the months pass.

What say you? Any interest in "John Carter of Mars"? Do you have faith that Andrew Stanton will do a good job? Who would you want in the lead? How bout the sexy Mars Princess John always has at his side? Strikeback...


I have not read the "Carter" series at all, but it looks cool and I'd like to see what Stanton can do in the transition from animated to live action.