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NewsFlash: John Carter of Mars starts shooting

I sort of have to put this one in context.

When I was eleven, my parents were in the middle of an extremely messy divorce, and I saw my father infrequently (before he took off for another state with his next future wife, after which I barely saw him at all). One day when I was at his new apartment, I was fascinated by a stack of lurid-looking paperbacks sitting on his coffee table. The covers featured a guy with a sword, a scantily-clad woman, and exotic, alien creatures. My father said he was done with them and handed them to me. They were six of the ten books in the Mars series by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the first of which was originally published in 1912.

I took them home, started the first one, and could not put it down. I was so enthralled that when I finished it (that same evening -- I've always been a fast reader, even as a child) I turned back to the first page and read it again. I acquired the rest of the series, and read it several times when I was a teenager.

Edgar Rice Burroughs was the author of eighty novels, many of which I've read at some time or another. (Except for the ones that were his true claim to fame, the Tarzan series. Tarzan never did much for me. I liked his novels set on other planets and at the earth's core: Mars, Venus, the moon, Pellucidar.) I don't read Burroughs any more; I outgrew him long ago. But his imaginative vision of Mars was the beginning of my life-long love affair with science fiction. Edgar Rice Burroughs got me in the bookstore and the library perusing the sci-fi shelves. When I was a teenager, science fiction was nearly all I read. It wasn't long afterward when I discovered Star Trek, another hugely important thing in my life.

Anyway. Over the years, there have been rumors about movies, none of which have ever gotten off the ground. Creating fifteen-foot-tall green people with four arms riding immense creatures with eight legs was just too massive an undertaking. An animated movie? Forget it. This is a live-action story; it just is.

Technology has finally caught up with imagination. Today they finally started shooting John Carter of Mars. Here's a piece of the press release that was posted on the Sci-Fi Wire:
Principal photography is underway in London for Walt Disney Pictures' "JOHN CARTER OF MARS." Academy Award-winning filmmaker Andrew Stanton brings this captivating hero to the big screen in a stunning adventure epic set on the wounded planet of Mars, a world inhabited by warrior tribes and exotic desert beings. Based on the first of Edgar Rice Burroughs' "Barsoom Series," the film chronicles the journey of Civil-War veteran John Carter, who finds himself battling a new and mysterious war amidst a host of strange Martian inhabitants.

Produced for Walt Disney Pictures by Jim Morris ("WALL•E," "Ratatouille") and Colin Wilson ("Avatar," "War of the Worlds"), the live action/animation film marks Academy Award-winning director/writer Andrew Stanton's ("Finding Nemo," "WALL•E") first foray into live action. Stanton directed and co-wrote the screenplay for Disney-Pixar's "WALL•E," which earned the Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature (2008); Stanton was nominated for an Oscar for the screenplay. He made his directorial debut with Disney•Pixar's "Finding Nemo," garnering an Academy Award-nomination for Best Original Screenplay and winning the Oscar for Best Animated Feature (2003). He has worked as a screenwriter and/or executive producer on Disney•Pixar's "Toy Story," "A Bug's Life" (which he also co-directed), "Toy Story 2," "Monsters, Inc.," "Ratatouille" and "Up."

"I have been waiting my whole life to see the characters and worlds of 'John Carter of Mars' realized on the big screen," says Stanton. "It is just a wonderful bonus that I have anything to do with it."

The stellar ensemble cast is led by Taylor Kitsch (NBC'S "Friday Night Lights", "X-Men Origins: Wolverine") in the title role, Lynn Collins ("50 First Dates," "X-Men Origins: Wolverine") as the warrior princess Dejah Thoris and Oscar® nominee Willem Dafoe ("Spider-Man 3," "Shadow of a Vampire") as Martian inhabitant Tars Tarkas. The cast also includes Thomas Haden Church ("Sideways," Spider-Man 3), Polly Walker (upcoming "Clash of the Titans," "Patriot Games"), Samantha Morton ("Elizabeth: The Golden Age," "In America"), Mark Strong ("Sherlock Holmes," "Body of Lies"), Ciaran Hinds ("Munich," "There Will Be Blood"), British actor Dominic West ("300," "Chicago"), James Purefoy ("Vanity Fair," "Resident Evil") and Bryan Cranston ("Breaking Bad"). Daryl Sabara ("Disney's A Christmas Carol," "Spy Kids") takes the role of John Carter's teenaged nephew, Edgar Rice Burroughs.

I'm sort of excited, but I feel a bit sick, too. I'm not trying to compare Burroughs to Tolkien, but Burroughs' Mars series was an important part of my childhood. I feel about this movie the way my cousin must have felt when she heard about Peter Jackson taking on LoTR.

If they screw this up and make a mediocre mess, it'll be tremendously disappointing. But if they don't -- I may finally see one of my first favorite fictional worlds on screen. I'm crossing my fingers.


  1. If it is any indication; Wall-E, in my opinion, was one of the best animated films of the last decade. Lets just hope the transition from animation to film goes smoothly for the director.

  2. Oh yes. I've waited so long for someone to make this film. Willem Dafoe as Tars Tarkas, that sounds good. He clearly has been typecast being green.

  3. I just bought the first two books last month, and now I'm even more excited to read them.

    Once I'm done watching Supernatural, of course.

  4. I read all the John Carter of Mars books then the Tarzan books my favorites were and are The John Carter of Mars.

    Truly these books put on film need to be treated with respect and hopefully not made silly.

    This past weekend on 2-26-11 the SyFy channel had a film "Ptincess of Mars" not very well done still in spite of ignoring some of the more fantastic things in the books and being low budjet I did get a minor escape. I hope the newer film is truer to Edgar Rice Burroughs storys.

  5. Lots of Edgar Rice Burroughs based films out there. The Land that Time Forgot 1975 (Doug McClure)
    The Land that Time Forgot 2009 (C. Thomas Howell, Timothy Bottoms)
    The People that Time Forgot 1977 (Patrick Wayne, Doug McClure, Sarah Douglas)

    I counted over 80 Tarzan films, not including animated, TV series, and video games. My fave may be http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWkVjKM5uZI 1918 silent. I got hooked on silents. Wings 1925 won first Oscar - I love aviators, my jet pilot dad crashed young. I flew across Canada to NWT with friend.

    Selznick's Invention of Hugo Cabret & Hugo 2011 DVD has Harold Lloyd climb skyscraper in "Safety Last" 1923, one his own spectacular stunts. I had fun finding clips like that for my reviews on GoodReads and AnEyeSpy blogspot about Georges Méliès films like "Trip to the Moon" 1902.

    I love your reviews, looking forward to catching up now that I've found your site. I first thought Billie Doux was a pun for french "billets doux" = sweet messages = love letters. Of course I only took French, decades ago, in school, for a few years, so I could be mistaken?

    P.S. Preview is unreadable, goes in long string across, no word wrap. So pardon my typos.

    .. An(Anne)

  6. Thanks, Anne. And the billet-doux thing was deliberate. I was looking for a pen name and a professor friend of mine came up with it. We consider this site to be a love letter of sorts. :)


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