Director Andrew Stanton was able to join his Pixar colleagues onstage for a celebration of the studio’s 25h Anniversary at the D23 Expo. However, he was primarily attending the show to preview the live-action film he is directing for Disney, John Carter. The film has been shrouded in secrecy for much of its development, as much of the shooting occurred in remote areas of Utah. Stanton was joined by cast members Taylor Kitsch (John Carter), Lynn Collins (Princess Dejah Thoris), and Willem Dafoe (Tars Tarkas), as they all talked about the upcoming film and showed off FOUR clips from the film. Read on to see what went down!
We were first shown the teaser trailer for the sic-fi film, which many have said tells us nothing about the film’s plot line. Stanton said that the footage he rolled into the teaser perfectly captured the dark and mysterious feeling of the movie. It looks like he was mostly trying to set the atmosphere for the film, rather than giving an overall view of the story.
Stanton went on to talk about the start of the franchise, which debuted in “All-Story Magazine” as a serial called Under the Moons of Mars in 1912. His introduction to the character of John Carter was actually the comic book, “John Carter: Warlord of Mars,” which was published by Marvel in 1977.
When speaking about his motives for casting, Stanton said that the actors had to have the right amount of “talent,” the “eyes” that he was looking for, and the “voice” which would work well on-screen, especially since some of the actors would never be seen by the audience. Willem Dafoe, who is playing alien Tars Tarcas, is doing the voice for the motion-capture CGI character. That is not all he did, though. Stanton said that his actors also had to handle special circumstances to give the most realistic performance as possible, so those playing the tall aliens were placed on stilts and had to walk around on them while filming with their fellow actors.
This is where the new details start hitting, so if you want to avoid everything, you can turn around now!
Taylor Kitsch talked about what brings his character to Mars. John Carter has lost everything, as he is a Civil War veteran. He withdraws from others and becomes reclusive. When he heads west, he encounters a cave which transports him to Mars.
Willem Dafoe spoke about what makes his character different from other members of his warrior race, which is in decline. Tars develops a close relationship with John, as he feels he has a better understanding of the human than the other warriors. The first clip that was shown gave us visual evidence of what Dafoe spoke about. It had John Carter first waking up on Mars and coming into contact with the warrior race. To escape from the oncoming attack, he jumps and realizes he can jump extremely high. Seeing this, Tars tells the other warriors to refrain from attacking. Tars approaches him but John, obviously, does not trust him. John picks up one of the warrior’s weapons and tried to utilize it but he fails. Eventually, a shot is fired with Tars getting in the way. The screen goes dark.
In the next clip, we were introduced to the creature known as “Wil-la.” John wakes up to find himself underground (or at least in some huge building). He is chained to a rock, but finds that he can break free using his new-found abilities on Mars. He encounters an ugly (and at the same time adorable) creature who follows John around as he tries to escape. John jumps high from ledge to ledge, and each time finds this creature waiting for him when he arrives. This thing moves lightning fast. John yells at it to stop following him, but does the creature listen? Nope.
Actress Lynn Collins then briefly explained why she and John Carter click so well. John apparently saves her when they first meet and she realizes that he can be the one that saves her and the planet. She is being married off to preserve peace between two warring races (humans and aliens). She sees John as their only way out. In the next clip that we were shown, she asks John to stay and fight. After some thought, John silently declines. As there is beating on the door, she helps make John disappear so he would not be discovered in her quarters.
Finally, in the last clip, John and Tars, who has been injured, must fight for their lives as they have been sentenced to death. Out of the gates comes a huge and monstrous “white ape” creature with many legs. As Tars lies on the ground, John tries to distract it to keep Tars safe. Jumping around to avoid its attacks, another one comes charging out of the gates.
This was far more footage than I expected to see come out of D23. It will be interesting to note people’s reactions. Many seem to say that they cannot avoid thinking about other sic-fi films before it such as Star Wars and Avatar. It is true that when I saw those huge creatures hurtle out of the gate, I could not help but think of the arena fight in Star Wars Episode II.
Even though the “John Carter of Mars” book came first, the film has its work cut out for it to prove to audiences that it is not copying previous films. I think they have the perfect man at the helm to accomplish that – Andrew Stanton. He gave us the amazing WALL-E, arguably one of the greatest sci-fi films in recent memory. If there is anyone who can bring John Carter to the screen and do a great job directing it, it’s him.