John Carter

Release Date: March 9, 2012
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Movie of the Day for Wednesday, May 5, 2004
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It looks like this story might have some sexy results.

On the Big Board
Position Staff In Brief
5/12 Les Winan Better than the advertising campaign -- it's a shame we won't get a sequel.
131/169 Max Braden The film drags a bit, but I maintained interest by wikipediing related subjects, and by falling in love with Lynn Collins repeatedly in every scene she was in.

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For the past few years, all eyes in Hollywood have been squarely focused on the portly figure of Peter Jackson. His creation of a multi-billion earning trilogy is a feat for the ages, and one that will keep New Line accountants smiling for years to come.

Such success inevitably leads to coypcat behavior as competing studios look to create their own cash cows. That makes every existing established literary franchise a potential gold mine for someone.

Paramount Pictures is not normally known as a financially adventurous studio. After the disappointment of the Tomb Raider sequel, many observers expected the studio to grow even more fiscally conservative. Oops. Paramount is spending over $100 million to ignite a new potential franchise, and it's not exactly a Harry Potter situation.

Edgar Rice Burroughs, noted author of Tarzan of the Apes, also wrote a slightly less famous (though still widely recognized) 11 volume literary series called John Carter of Mars. The first novel in the serial, written in 1912, is now the subject of a tentpole release with Spy Kids director Robert Rodriguez at the helm.

The obvious question here is this: why would a risk-averse studio and a highly credentialed director be willing to undertake such an ambitious project? For people who lack familiarity with science fiction literation, this is particularly understandable. The rationale is the fact that the John Carter of Mars series has long been hailed as one of the seminal works of fiction of the 20th century. The only reason a theatrical adaptation has not been attempted before now is that the special effects were considered impossible to render. With state-of-the-art computer rendered graphics, that concern is resolved, leaving Rodriguez and Co. free to attempt to duplicate Jackson's success.

The storyline is the stuff of 1950s B-movie madness. A southern soldier named John Carter has recently retired from fighting to uphold the honah of the Confederacy during the Civil War. Rather than sit around doing nothing, he continues to pick his battles from time to time. When things go south, Carter is forced to retreat and hide in a cave lest he be slain by the Indians. As often happens at times such as this, Carter finds himself transported to the surface of Mars. Does NASA know it's this easy to colonize the red planet?

A quick analysis of the lay of the land and the denizens of Mars reveals to our hero a few startling tidbits. For starters, many of the Martians are roughly 12 feet tall. Also, he's naked. And he seems to have been imprisoned by frightening green Martian brutes. It's tough being an intrepid space explorer.

In time, Carter is able to use his wits to survive and escape his capturers, eventually encountering an even more interesting creature. Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium, finds herself under duress, so the smitten earthling boldly decides that his otherworldly strength and agility make him the perfect choice to perform a daring, heroic rescue.

While the movie might sound cheesy and wildly cliché, there is causality. The source material was the basis for so many of the cheap knockoff storylines that followed over the 90+ years since its publication. The John Carter of Mars series is considered the Lord of the Rings of sci-fi, so while risky, this undertaking could prove to be one of the most rewarding in the history of cinema. The fact there are 11 novels and thereby ten potential sequels has to have the kind folks at Paramount salivating. (David Mumpower)

April 8, 2004
An unexpected snafu has cropped up with this production. Robert Rodriguez's decision to quit the Director's Guild of America in order to film Sin City has put the entire production of Princess of Mars in jeopardy. Paramount Pictures is a signatory of the DGA, meaning that the studio may only employ guild members to direct their features. With Rodriguez no longer in the DGA, an agreement must be reached between the guild, the studio and the auteur before production moves forward any further. (David Mumpower/BOP)

April 18, 2004
Robert Rodriguez himself dismissed the DGA concern in April 23, 2004 edition of Entertainment Weekly. When asked about whether he will be able to direct the film, his response is, "I can still do [A Princess of Mars], because I was assigned to it before I left the DGA." Barring any comments to the contrary by the guild itself, it's safe to assume this is a non-issue. (David Mumpower/BOP)

May 24, 2004
Robert Rodriguez's departure as director of this ambitious project has been confirmed by his agency. As we had speculated before, because he resigned from the Director's Guild in order to work with other directors (Frank Miller and potentially Quentin Tarantino) on Sin City, Paramount was no longer able to work with Rodriguez. The studio had asked Guillermo Del Toro to step in, but he has turned down the project as he hopes to focus on smaller-scale films outside of the Hellboy series. (Kim Hollis/BOP)

January 4, 2012

In arguably the most shocking movie development in recent memory, John Carter of Mars is actually being made. BOP has had a listing for this title since the week we debuted our first release schedule in 2001. Rumors about the creation of such a movie pre-date the internet. That’s how big a longshot this production.

Since a lot of our outdated information was updated in 2004 and again in 2006, another five years have passed. In this timeframe, Disney has acquired the rights to the Edgar Rice Burroughs story. They have moved forward with plans to create a Tentpole title with a massive $250 million budget. Yes, after a quarter century of jokes about how John Carter of Mars will never be made, Disney has gone all in by not only producing the film but also giving it one of the largest budgets of all time.

With a quarter billion dollar budget, expectations are of course lofty for this flick. After a contentious casting process, the studio eventually settled upon Taylor Kitsch of Friday Night Lights as the titular lead. 2012 is poised to be a huge year for the handsome, always brooding actor as he also frontlines an equally big budget production, Battleship, as well as the next Oliver Stone film, Savages. If these films perform as expected, Kitsch will be an A-list actor by the end of the summer. If not, much of the blame will fall on the muscular shoulders of the artist formerly known as Tim Riggins.

In an odd quirk of casting, John Carter will be a reunion of sorts for Kitsch as Lynn Collins will portray the female lead, Dejah Thoris. Collins, you may recall, was the love interest of Wolverine in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a movie which featured Kitsch in the role of Gambit. They will be joined by The Wire’s Dominic West and Sherlock Holmes’ Mark Strong as the villains of the piece. Meanwhile, Samantha Morton, Willem Dafoe and Thomas Haden Church have been cast to provide the voices of three key alien characters whose CGI representations will feature long legs, bug-like heads and four arms. Yes, we are talking about those kinds of Martians.

John Edgar Burroughs crafted a series of 11 novels based upon the fictional adventures of John Carter. The first of these will explain how a Virginian attempting to avoid further military service with the Confederacy winds up setting foot on the fourth planet in the solar system. Along the way, he also seduces a princess, overthrows the Martian answer to Sparta and jumps really, really high. A lot of this stuff is weird, which is why studio bosses have been on the fence about the project for so many years now. John Carter does not seem like a movie that has a lot of in-between room. It will either be a spectacular blockbuster or a monumental failure. (David Mumpower/BOP)

Vital statistics for John Carter
Director Jon Favreau
Screenwriter Ehren Kruger
Distributor Paramount
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture



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