As you my have heard, Disney is bringing the book series John Carter of Mars to the big screen. Andrew Stanton (Wall-E) is making his first live action movie and io9 was able to visit the production and get some inside info. Here are some bits that I thought were the most interesting. First we will start off with a synopsis of the film provided by Disney:
The film tells the story of war-weary, former military captain John Carter (Taylor Kitsch), 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 (Willem Dafoe) [a giant green warrior creature] and the captivating Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) [Silverfox in X-Men Origins: Wolverine]. In a world on the brink of collapse, Carter rediscovers his humanity when he realizes that the survival of Barsoom and its people rests in his hands.
The post is long so you can go to io9 for the whole thing. I'll just hit some of the finer points. Here we go!
First the guys asked about the alien race The Tharks. This is what Stanton had to say:
Tharks are 9-foot to 10-foot tall green aliens with four arms and tusks. They're all CG, so I went with my Pixar gut and experience, and got actors because of their eyes, their voice, and their acting ability. That's all that's going to be left when all of this is said and done. Those are three things that can translate directly to the animated characters, once they're portrayed there. I got Willem Dafoe and Samantha Morton, and this is what I asked them to do, which was to be on stilts with gray pajamas on, with face cams in 100-degree heat. That's how I sold it. I didn't know how else to get around this issue. I said, "How would you like to wear gray pajamas and be on stilts and wear face cams and stand in 100 degree heat in the desert for six months or three months?" They said, "Where do I sign?" I think it was being honest with the challenge and it was different than things they had done before, they were really up for seeing where this would go.
The reason I really, really wanted to do this is because at least for me I can tell when somebody's acting to a tennis ball or nothing there versus somebody's really being there. I wanted every possible chance to make this believable, so by having them really there, people acted better, people acted differently, people had actual eye lines. People reacted to things they weren't prepared for, and even down to the cameramen: The cameramen framed it differently because there was somebody there. Cameramen are trained to frame nicely, so if you take somebody out of the background and have nothing there, they're going to use the background — whether they know it or not — to try to frame to make that look balanced and good. When you have somebody actually there, they're willing to be sloppier and do all the stuff they would normally do. I learned a lot of this working on Wall-E. It all added up to hopefully a very visceral, believable sense of being there, that you're talking to an actor. That's exactly what people did, so we were out there with the gray pajamas, standing on stilts with a face cam. The face cams turned out to be great for the actors, because they could treat them like they could use them for the actual distance that they had to be from things. That was a real benefit...
I swear now that I'm seeing the end product, finally getting finished shots on the other side, if I were to shoot again tomorrow, I would do it all over again exactly this way. It was the right call, it was the right way to be.... Even when I would take time of writing the Thoats [the creatures the Tharks ride]. We actually went through the pain of figuring out what it felt, looked like, animating it, figuring out what the lope of it and the gallop of it was, and then programming that data into an electrical cart so the saddle would move exactly at that, so that hopefully when it was all done and you put a Thoat on there and you put a Thark in it, that real saddle would match, and it does. So hopefully if we've done it right, people will go, "How the hell is he sitting on this? How the hell did he ride around on this thing?
I love the enthusiasm that Stanton has for this film. I do like the title of the film, but why did Stanton, a true fan of the book series of the original book series, change the name for the movie. The guys at io9 got to the bottom of this one too:
I know I'm going to get this question all day and probably for the rest of my frickin' life: Why 'John Carter?' This has had quite an evolution of me figuring out what was the best thing to do for this book to preserve what I thought was timeless about it, what I thought was the resonant elements about it, but not be afraid to tweak or alter things for the benefit of it, so that it would translate the best it could to screen. Nobody's a bigger fan of these books than me, or at least I could match myself with a lot of people. I'm also a huge cinephile, and I have witnessed that to honor the book literally word-for-word never makes a good movie. How can I somehow do that and make you feel like how it felt to read the books when you're watching the movie? You have to be willing in private to be able to dismantle it all, break it apart, analyze it, and look at it almost objectively as if you were making it from scratch, and then see what comes back together. It's actually not that different than when you have to rewrite anything that you've done once you've done the first draft.
In doing so, I also found that — this is the wrong crowd to get this — not everybody's into sci-fi. I've tried really hard to capture what I thought was universal and timeless about this book that is above and beyond the genre itself. I don't want to exclude anybody from a wrong first impression assumption about this movie or this property, so I didn't want to lie and say it isn't what it is, so I said, "Let's sell the character that we put all our efforts towards." Believe me, Mars is going to come into this thing, title and everything, before this whole journey's over. You've just got to be patient. There was a grand design to all this thing. That's the most I want to say, because I don't want to spoil it even for you guys. You've got to know that it was not a studio-driven hammer on me, and it was not a decision that came quickly. I put a lot of thought into what's the most promising way to make a good first impression to a majority of the world that does not know anything about this, and invite them in and hopefully make them enjoy it as much as the people that do love it. That's the best way I can put it.
They also ask how this story will differ from movies like Avatar:
I have the comfort of going to sleep knowing where this came from. They can misconstrue all they want. It's not a competition. I love Avatar. Other than the fundamental bones of boy meet girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. It's not that simple. And so I was very confident that we wouldn't be stepping on each others' toes.
I think that Stanton knows what he is doing and will do justice to the book series. Once again if you want to read the full post, click here. Other than that, let us know what you think.