Andrew Stanton John Carter

Andrew Stanton John Carter

John Carter

Cast: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Willem Dafoe
Director: Andrew Stanton
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasty
Running Time: 132 minutes

Synopsis: From Academy Award® winning filmmaker Andrew Stanton comes 'John Carter' - a sweeping action-adventure set on the mysterious and exotic planet of Barsoom (Mars). 'John Carter' is based on a classic novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs, whose highly imaginative adventures served as inspiration for many filmmakers, both past and present.

The film tells the story of war-weary, former military captain John Carter, who is inexplicably transported to Mars where he becomes reluctantly embroiled in a conflict of epic proportions amongst the inhabitants of the planet, including Tars Tarkas and the captivating Princess Dejah Thoris. In a world on the brink of collapse, Carter rediscovers his humanity when he realises that the survival of Barsoom and its people rests in his hands.

Release Date: March 8th, 20121

Disney presents the epic action-adventure film "John Carter," based on Edgar Rice Burroughs' classic, "A Princess of Mars," the first novel in Burroughs' Barsoom series.

This year, 2012, marks the 100th anniversary of Burroughs' character John Carter, the original hero featured in the series, who has thrilled generations with his adventures on Mars.

Over generations, John Carter has become a heroic paradigm across all forms of pop culture. From novels to comic books, artwork to animation, TV and now cinema, the character has inspired some of the most creative minds of the last century.

A fan of the Barsoom series of books since childhood, Academy Award®-winning director/writer Andrew Stanton explains what inspired him to bring "John Carter" to the big screen: "I stumbled across these books at the perfect age. I was about ten and I just fell in love with the concept of a human finding himself on Mars, among amazing creatures in a strange new world. A stranger in a strange land. It was a very romantic aspect of adventure and science fiction. I always thought it would be cool to see this realised on the big screen."

The Legacy
Considered by many to be the first space hero, John Carter was introduced to the world in American writer Edgar Rice Burroughs' story "Under the Moons of Mars," which was published serially in All-Story magazine before being renamed and published as the novel "A Princess of Mars" in 1917. Edgar Rice Burroughs would go on to write 10 more books in what came to be known as the "Barsoom" series-Barsoom being Edgar Rice Burroughs' name for the planet Mars. Since the book's publication, some of the 20th century's greatest minds in art, literature and science have credited it with inspiring and motivating their work.

Edgar Rice Burroughs started writing the story when he was 35 years old. He was working for his brother at a stationery company at the time and used scratch pads manufactured by the company to create elaborate worksheets that helped him keep track of his plots, characters and timelines. Before he was finished, Burroughs realised that he had no idea how to get a novel published and submitted 43,000 words of the story to the editor of All-Story magazine under the title "Dejah Thoris, Martian Princess."

Managing Editor Thomas Newell Metcalf offered $400 for the serialization rights and promptly changed the title. Science fiction writers Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke and Ray Bradbury have all credited John Carter as inspiration for their own work. James Cameron has cited the John Carter books as an influence on his epic science-fiction film "Avatar," George Lucas credits John Carter with inspiring the "Star Wars" movies and writer Michael Crichton named one of his characters after John Carter. Scientist Carl Sagan read the books as a young boy and, for two decades, a map of the planet Barsoom, as imagined by Burroughs, hung in the hallway outside of Sagan's office at Cornell University.

Today, one can still visit the site of Edgar Rice Burroughs' home, which he named Tarzana Ranch, in the city of Tarzana, California.

The Story
"John Carter" is an action-adventure set on the wild and mysterious planet of Barsoom (Mars) with itsunfamiliar inhabitants: the warring Red Men of Zodanga and Helium, the savage Tharks and the manipulative and all-powerful Therns.

Once a world rich with life and civilisation, Barsoom is now a dying planet, devastated by conflicts that have raged for over ten thousand years. The Zodangans, lead by Sab Than, battle with the Heliumites, whose beautiful Princess Dejah Thoris strives to find a solution that will end the fighting and save her beloved planet.

When war-weary American Civil War veteran John Carter is unexpectedly transported from a remote cave in Arizona to the red planet, the balance of power is tipped. The change in gravity gives Carter extraordinary abilities. His apparent "super powers" flummox the warring tribes and make him a powerful asset to any who can capture him. He is initially found and enslaved by the Tharks, but Carter wins the respect of their leader, Tars Tarkas, who risks everything to help him escape the fearsome tribe so that he may find a way back home. With the assistance of Dejah Thoris and Sola, a Thark woman who is entrusted with his care, Carter embarks on the perilous journey to the sacred Gates of Iss in the hope of returning to Earth.

Following ancient Barsoomian legend and his raw instinct, Carter finds the Gates, but far more is revealed there than he and Dejah ever expected.

Meanwhile, Sab Than has convinced Dejah's father, the King of Helium, to agree to a political marriage of convenience between himself and Dejah in order to unite the warring entities and end the civil war. Unbeknownst to the king, Sab Than is operating under the control of the all-powerful Matai Shang, leader of the Therns. The intention is not for peace but to overpower the Heliumites, paving the way for the Therns to take ultimate control.

When John Carter learns of this treacherous plot, he embarks on a mission of heroic proportions. With the help of his ally Tars Tarkas, Carter forms a formidable army, setting out to reach Helium and stop the wedding before it is too late. The survival of Princess Dejah, of Helium, and the entire planet of Barsoom rests in the hands of one extraordinary man-John Carter.

The Director and His Vision
For acclaimed director Andrew Stanton, it wasn't as simple as just getting the chance to bring Burroughs' book to the screen. He wanted to distinguish his first live-action film from all of the other sci-fi movies out there too. "'John Carter' is a big, epic sci-fi action-adventure with romance and action and political intrigue," he says. "Because the subject matter was written so long ago, it became an origin of those kinds of stories in the last century. It was sort of a comic book before there were comic books, an adventure story before it became a whole genre of its own. It was difficult to go back into this book and not look like you were being derivative of everything else, because it's been an inspiration for things for 100 years."

One of the unique things about the "John Carter" story that appealed to Andrew Stanton is that it takes place just after the Civil War on both Earth and Mars. Andrew Stanton explains, "The view of science and of future technology and fantasy is very reflective of how people understood the world at that time [1912]. I think that part of the appeal and charm of these books and of these characters is that they are not of our time; they're of the post-Civil War era. I wanted not only Earth but also Mars to have a bit of that flavor, to place it in its own category and not make it possible to even accidentally compare it to other more current science-fiction films or fantasy films.

"Because it's science fiction seen through the eyes of somebody at the turn of the century, there's a cool, old-fashioned feel that you can play off of. I wanted to be in real locations and make it feel like I was really in that time, on both planets," he concludes. As Andrew Stanton points out, however, at the heart of "John Carter" is the very human story of a man caught up in circumstances that will force him to choose what is right and what is wrong.

"The thing that fascinates me the most about the story is that it's about a stranger in a strange land and a man who suddenly becomes, against his choice, extraordinary," Andrew Stanton says. "It's the analogy of somebody who is given gifts and has to decide whether to use them for the betterment of others or keep them to himself. John Carter is a man who's at a crossroads with that choice. He comes across a world in the middle of a crisis where the scales are going to get tipped in a direction that's not good for the planet, and he realises he can play a key role to bring the scales the other way. The question is, will he or will he not?"

"John Carter" is Andrew Stanton's first foray into the world of directing live action, but he quickly found out that directing live action and directing animation features are not polar opposites. Comparing the challenges of each discipline, he says, "The nice thing is that making movies virtually isn't as different as people think it is from making movies live. Certainly there are a lot of obvious differences, but the fact that you are trying to make a great image on the screen that captures you, that moves the story forward and supports the narrative, is exactly the same goal for both. I don't mean to sound like I'm saying it's easy-it's not. But the two disciplines are much closer siblings as opposed to distant cousins. I was very happy to discover that. The only major difference for me is that what I would have to decide in a week for animation, I'd have to decide in a day or an hour on a film set. Luckily, I knew that was coming."

Andrew Stanton began the "John Carter" project with the team he affectionately refers to as his "comfort zone": Jim Morris (producer), Mark Andrews (co-writer and 2nd unit director) and Lindsey Collins (producer)-all long-standing colleagues from Pixar.

Expounding on the other members of his core filmmaking team, he says, "First we brought Colin Wilson on board, who has tons of experience producing live-action movies as well as big effects movies-he was the perfect complement to the other strengths that Jim Morris and Lindsey Collins brought to the table.

"Once that was decided, we had to get a production designer on board as soon as possible, and we chose Nathan Crowley,"

Andrew Stanton continues. "He and I came together right at the height of the awards season that was honoring 'WALLoE' and 'The Dark Knight,' so it was really exciting to be working with each other based on all the hype surrounding our films. Nathan Crowley brings a really fresh eye and original perspective. Besides Nathan Crowley's sensibilities, he has an astonishing aesthetic sense. He totally rethought the architecture and the functionality for a world that isn't coming from our own. He started thinking about why people would decide to open windows on Mars and contemplating if they would need doors and the like. It is actually an exciting challenge to rethink a world from scratch-you are literally reinventing the wheel on a lot of levels. I thought it was great."

Soon after, the production hired cinematographer Dan Mindel. "What is really nice about his scope of work is that it shows you how adaptable and eclectic he can be," says Andrew Stanton. "He is a cinematographer who really understands that principal photography isn't the be all and end-all for a film like this; it is only half of the equation. Visual effects is the other half, and it is the combination of the two that gives you the final image."

Peter Chiang, who runs Double Negative, a big effects house in London, became the film's VFX supervisor. "We met Peter Chiang and his team, and it felt like they were running an operation that seemed very similar to Pixar in its early days, so we felt very comfortable bringing his team on board," recalls Andrew Stanton.

Director Andrew Stanton sums up his approach to "John Carter," saying, "The answer always seems to come to me if I look at it as a fan of going to the movies as opposed to being a filmmaker. What would make this feel fresh for me and not derivative of other things? I want the 'Martian history' on this film to be done so well that it feels like some sort of remote place that you just didn't know about."

Adapting the Story
Director Andrew Stanton approached adapting the original source material both with excitement and respect for its origins. "I was a huge fan of the book as a kid, but when I rediscovered it in my late 30s and read it again, it was with the eyes of somebody who has had to write their own stories and had to make films," he comments. "It made me not only appreciate what was still really great stuff in the book but also how much needed to be altered or edited in order to make it work as a movie and capture the feeling you get from reading the book. "I think that is really the job of the filmmaker when you are adapting a book; it isn't so much about being literally faithful, although it is great if you can be. What is more important is that you make the audience feel what it felt like to read the book. To me, that is the sign of a good adaptation and that is what I have tried to do," says Andrew Stanton.

He adds, "I've also looked at the other books in the Barsoom series and sometimes found a character orsituation that I felt might be better served to work in the first story and embellished anything that I felt we might want to explore more. [Screenwriters] Mark Andrews, Michael Chabon and I worked very hard at balancing these elements so you get a better rhythm and arc of what you expect in a movie while keeping all the best bits of what it was like to read the first book."

Widely recognised as one of the best storytellers of his generation, Andrew Stanton is no stranger to fantasy. Explaining his approach to making the unbelievable believable, he says, "When you describe the ideas behind a lot of Edgar Rice Burroughs' books, it seems like crazy fantasy. To me, that was something I really wanted to overcome. How can you sell a nine-foot-tall, four-armed, tusked character and get the audience to completely accept it? How can you have a multilegged, lizard-like creature that acts like your pet but can run faster than any other creature on the planet and believe it might actually exist? I thought that was the way into the film- not so much trying to be fantastical, it was actually the opposite."

Producer Colin Wilson further elaborates on adapting Burroughs' material, which he calls "essentially a gold mine."

"We have tried very hard to avoid the clich├ęs to ensure we are not derivative and there is no association to other science-fiction projects," he says. "What has been really exciting is exploring all avenues and aspects of the design, from creatures, characters, airships, the set design and the environment. In each of these integral elements we must create something fresh, new and inspiring."

Elaborating on the differences between Burroughs' book and the screenplay, Colin Wilson continues, "The main structural addition to the screenplay is the principal antagonist, Matai Shang. He is the leader of the Therns who creates conflict between Carter and the indigenous groups that live on the planet. The idea is that the Therns are controlling the planet and its natural resources and slowly letting it destroy itself by depriving the inhabitants of the things they need to survive. The Matai Shang character enables us to thread the needle and create natural conflict to the story."

Mark Andrews, who wrote the screenplay for "John Carter" with director Andrew Stanton and Michael Chabon, explains how the film relates to the original source material: "Edgar Rice Burroughs was a very good plot writer. He wrote his Barsoom series for a magazine that would come out every month, so he basically wrote 12 chapters that would each end with a cliffhanger," he says. "That format doesn't work in a two-hour story for a motion picture- Carter needs to have more of a goal than just moving from episode to episode, entertaining as it is. What we have done is simplify a lot of the ideas so that we really get the cream of Burroughs' imagination."

The screenwriters agreed that the major theme of the movie is one of division. Carter is a divided soul-he is divided between giving up and doing what he was born to do. Dejah Thoris is divided between her passion of saving Helium and her feelings for John Carter. Tars Tarkas is divided between following the old Thark ways so the race can survive and changing their ways to retrieve some of the ancient, more civilised values they once had. Barsoom itself is divided-it is at war within itself.

Andrew Stanton sums up, "You get all the themes that come with an epic: good vs. evil, loyalty vs. selfishness, cruelty vs. compassion. However, the spine of the story is the division within each of the characters and the division of the world they are in."

One of the most important elements that the writers wanted to convey in their screen adaptation of the source material was authenticity-authenticity of who the characters are, authenticity of the production design and authenticity of the world.

"We are taking the audience to another planet, an unfamiliar place with creatures that we are creating-it has to be real," emphasises Andrew Stanton. "We don't want it pretty and slick; we want it gritty and dirty. That is why we went to Utah to get the dust and the haze, so we can really get a sense of how harsh the environment is for these characters."

Producer Jim Morris comments on the adaptation, "What I'm really excited about is that Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews and Michael Chabon have written a script that is wholly character-based but set against this really expansive and epic background. As written, it is more an adventure than alien period piece, so it is a very different type of film from a lot of the science fiction that we have seen in recent years."

John Carter Review -
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