By Jesse Thompson
|John Carter movie poster|
After decades of starts and stops, a film adaptation of the wildly popular “Warlord of Mars” pulp character finally sees the Martian light of day on March 9, 2012, thanks to Walt Disney Pictures and some incredibly talented filmmakers. Never heard of Mr. Carter? Here’s why you should be stoked:
1. He’s an immortal Tarzan in space who alternates between worlds
John Carter stands as a crucial forefather of the Super Heroes who populate the Marvel Universe, from his sci-fi origins to his heroic deeds. Another strapping, raven-haired man’s man hatched from the mind of Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs, Carter debuted in Burroughs’ 1912 novel “A Princess of Mars,” where he traveled (via astral projection following his “death” in a cave while hiding from Apaches) to a fictionalized Mars known as Barsoom. While on Mars, Carter, being the quintessential Virginian gentleman, becomes a savior of the planet’s inhabitants. This doesn’t happen overnight, as...
|John Carter, Warlord of Mars #21 cover art|
2. He battles all manner of insane-looking creatures native to the Red Planet
Peruse any of the covers from Marvel’s late-’70s JOHN CARTER, WARLORD OF MARS series (which borrowed heavily from the Burroughs novels), and you’ll get an idea just how bizarre his adversaries on Mars could be. The filmmakers are sticking primarily to the Tharks, a warring race of four-armed, 9-10-foot-tall green aliens whose nature leads them to savagery, but we’re holding out hope for an appearance by a giant White Ape or even a Banth, a Martian lion with 10 legs and a mighty appetite.
|John Carter director Andrew Stanton|
3. Director Andrew Stanton is a distinguished Pixar vet
Stanton is best known for helming “Finding Nemo” and “Wall-E,” and he’s had some form of input of nearly every Pixar release over the last 15-plus years. “John Carter” will be his first foray into live action, but he’s put in five years of work and has a decades-long passion for the director. “Most people know me at Pixar as the guy who doesn’t like to do sequels, or who is very reluctant to do sequels,” the director said at a recent set visit attended by Marvel.com. “The irony was not lost to them when I asked them to do this first book, to option the first three. I said, I really wanted to try to attack it, [to do] the first three like a trilogy and give us a fighting chance to introduce it to the world the way it was introduced to me, which was as an ongoing series with a promise of something going on. Not as a cold-cash franchise, but to try and capture what I felt as a young kid when I was introduced to it. There were already 11 books, and they were my Harry Potters.” Plus, with Stanton on board, we know those CGI Tharks are going to look fearsome, freakish and fantastic.
|John Carter movie concept art|
4. Michael Chabon co-wrote the screenplay
It’s a tough job selling the average movie-going public on a 100-year-old dude in a loincloth “projecting” himself to Mars and back again in between quick bouts with death. But when you have a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist such as Michael Chabon attached, a guy with an undying love of comics and adventure stories who helped shape Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man 2,” it’s safe to say that his take on Carter should have an emotional impact balanced with plenty of sword-slinging action. Co-writers Chabon, Stanton and Mark Andrews (another Pixar vet) are all hardcore John Carter fans, yet won’t sacrifice story for their own fanboy glee. Fun fact: In the original novels, Burroughs even inserted himself as a character, a plot element that the filmmakers are maintaining.
|John Carter: World of Mars #1 cover art by Esad Ribic|
5. Check out that cast!
With apologies to the direct-to-DVD 2009 “Princess of Mars” flick starring Antonio Sabato Jr. and Traci Lords, we’re far, far more excited for the cast that Stanton and Co. have lined up for their take on John Carter. After all, it’s practically a Marvel movie veteran reunion! “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” co-star Taylor Kitsch transitions from the roguish ways of Gambit to the steely nobility of the title role, while his “Origins” co-star Lynn Collins (Silver Fox herself) quickens our heartbeats as Princess Dejah Thoris. Willem “Green Goblin” Dafoe lends his voice and partial likeness to the Thark known as Tars Tarkus who befriends Carter. “I worked with my Pixar gut and experience and got actors because of their eyes, their voice and their acting ability, because that is all that is going to be left when all of this is said and done,” Stanton said. Thomas “Sandman” Haden Church, Dominic “Jigsaw” West and Mark Strong from “Kick-Ass” lend their talents, as well. Even Bryan Cranston from “Breaking Bad” wants in on this action!