Trailer Tuesday: John Carter
Disney's big live-action fantasy adventure for 2012 comes with a real old school pulp fiction pedigree. I mean really old school! John Carter is based on the Barsoom tales written by Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs in the 1910s through 40s.
Massively popular in their day, it's debatable how familiar modern audiences are with Burroughs's tales of scantily clad, sci-fi adventure. Hell, it's debatable whether audiences have ever even seen the stunning Frank Frazetta artwork based on the collected stories.
Anyway, filmmakers have been wanting to make a John Carter film since the 1930s but apart from a straight-to-DVD release in 2009, nobody has had the budget, special effects technology or commitment to make the film... until now.
Based chiefly on the first John Carter book, the highly influential A Princess of Mars, Taylor Kitsch stars as the title character, a Civil War veteran who is inexplicably transported to Mars. The planet is not as we know it, however. Rather, it's a dying world — once lush, now arid and war-torn; and populated by a variety of weird and wonderful beings. Physically more powerful in the low gravity environment, Carter becomes a reluctant saviour on Barsoom (the native name for Mars). He sets out to overcome the divisions between the various tribes, including the green, multi-limbed Tharks and the human-like Red Martians.
Out of interest, Willem Dafoe plays the most peaceable of the Thark leaders, while Lynn Collins is Red Martian princess Dejah Thoris, Carter's love interest. Thomas Haden Church, Samantha Morton, Dominic West, Polly Walker, James Purefoy, Mark Strong and Ciarán Hinds all appear in the film or lend their voices to CGI-characters. Surprisingly, it's animator and long-time Pixar employee Andrew Stanton in the directing chair, who previously helmed the Oscar-winning films Finding Nemo and WALL-E. John Carter is Stanton's first ever live-action film.
If you can excuse John Carter running around in the Prince of Persia's hand-me-downs — and if you can ignore the fact that the film flaunts the tired "You are the Chosen One" message — then I think John Carter will definitely be worth a viewing. It's been a while since audiences have been treated to an ambitious, but still family-safe, sci-fi epic, and John Carter looks like a tasty successor to other "Earth man on a fantastic alien world" movies like Flash Gordon, Stargate and Avatar.
Of course, why the upcoming release doesn't use the far more evocative full title of John Carter of Mars (which is typically applied to this Burroughs's literary creation), I really don't know?
John Carter opens on 9 March 2012 in North America, where it will screen in 2D, 3D and 3D IMAX. The film's South African release date has yet to be set.