Edgar Rice Burroughs created the character of John Carter in the early twentieth century with a series of eleven novels that has since influenced some of the great science fiction that many hold dear today. Director Andrew Stanton, who up until now has only been involved in creating animation features, takes his first step into live action with his imagining of the origin story. This film was born out of love for the novels that Stanton has been a fan of since he was eight years old.
Disney recently hosted an evening showcasing footage of the film, five clips in total, and allowed some of the people involved to speak about their experiences in making it. Producer Kevin Kurtz, visual effects supervisor Sue Rowe and John Carter himself, Taylor Kitsch all made an appearance at the event.
First up was a clip introducing us to the character of John Carter in his civil war surroundings, as he tries to escape from the law. The footage demonstrated a good sense of fun and the fighting spirit of Carter as he attempts to flee with some well-timed physical comedy. Next we were introduced to some inhabitants of Barsoom with footage of baby Tarks hatching out of eggs and an alien dog who watches over Carter when he is captured, which were both excellently conceived. Everything about the clips suggested an epic film that has been made with a precise and passionate hand. If Andrew Stanton pulls this origin story off, and from what I’ve seen it looks like he can, this could be the start of something special.
Here's Taylor Kitsch on the role of John Carter...
"It’s truly an origin story of where Carter is from; obviously you can’t relate to being on Mars or being attacked by the Tharks, but the Civil War and the family and honour is what is truly grounding and that is something I definitely held onto throughout the whole thing. The first meeting I had with Andrew (Stanton) and I had not heard of John Carter - it was snowing really bad in London and just me and him made it to the rehearsals - I walked into his office and in 360 across the ceiling is the emotional arc of the character. From the loss of his family, to where he is in Mars and his relationship with his dog and to the Tarks. That was a defining moment; I thought I could trust this guy.
It’s an honour to breathe life into a guy (Stanton) idolised growing up and I think when you can get Stanton thanking you for what you have given in the film that is probably the best part of the whole experience."
And on the title change…
"It’s an origin story and when you see the film in its entirety you will understand why it was that way. Story wise he earns that title (John Carter of Mars)."
Producer Kevin Kurtz on Andrew Stanton’s vision of John Carter...
"Andrew was going back to the books themselves and trying to be as true as possible to how Burroughs saw Mars back then and how Burroughs looked at an astronomer of that time called Percival Lowell and some of his theories that have since been disproven but that’s how Burroughs thought in that time. That is essentially what Andrew tried to bring to life, the same thing with the civil war story and the interesting arc of the character. It’s an event in John Carter’s life that people can relate to, they can relate to war, loss and trying to find themselves."
Visual Effects Supervisor Sue Rowe on the setting and production...
"No matter how big the set we built on stage with a cinemascope lens you can see for miles and we needed to get that big scale, this movie needed to have gravitas, so my job was to take these small sets, replicate them and get that real cinematic scale. It was quite a challenge. What does Mars look like? We shot in Utah, which was an amazing place to go, the light, and the environment there. The rocks, the dust, the sand, all that sort of stuff was great. We (also) didn’t go for the red sky which people traditionally think Mars would have. In fact a sunrise on Mars would be purple.
I did a lot of research in to the biggest crater on Mars, and looked at a lot of NASA photographs. In, fact the opening shot of the movie we start in space and we travel all the way through and you can see the canals of Mars, or what Edgar R Burroughs thought were the canals of Mars, and we travel all the way through the clouds right down into the landscape and then integrated the Utah landscape into that."
John Carter is released in the UK on 9th March 2012.
For an in-depth history of the character's origins leading up to the aforementioned big-screen adaptation, see our new issue of Starburst magazine released February 14th (get your copy here).