The latest trailer for John Carter, the big-budget adaptation of the classic 1912 sci-fi novel A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, has been released and you can watch it here below.
When the first teaser trailer for the film was released back in July it was greeted with a decidedly mixed reception. The casting of Taylor Kitsch (Friday Night Lights) in the coveted lead role of a Confederate soldier who finds himself on Mars (called Barsoom by its inhabitants) caught between two warring Martian groups didn’t seem justified. The filmmakers’ visualization of Mars resembled those same desert vistas we’ve seen in hundreds of movies since the invention of the moving image and lacked imagination. Most of the fantastic elements of the book were missing, either due to the fact that the effects weren’t completed in time or were left out.
That first trailer reeked of the sad realization that the anxiously-awaited film of one of the most influential science-fiction novels of all time, which also marks the live-action directorial debut of longtime Pixar animator and director Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, Wall-E), had been made irrelevant by the very movies it had inspired, such as Star Wars and Avatar.
The second trailer, while a handsome assembly of clips that give us a better look at the film’s CGI creations and action beats, does nothing to dispel that feeling. But it will definitely inspire lots of back-and-forth online fan sniping that goes like this:
“This trailer sucks! It looks like a Star Wars/Avatar rip-off.”
“Screw you! Those movies wouldn’t even exist if not for the Burroughs book!”
And so on….
The movie represents a huge financial risk for Disney, even greater than last year’s Tron: Legacy; the budget is a reported $250 million, maybe higher, but the movie hardly looks it. The source material is a novel published the same year the Titanic sank and has never infiltrated popular media except as an inspiration for future generations of genre storytellers. The studio has already demonstrated a lack of faith in the film’s ability to reach a wide audience by changing the title, which was originally John Carter of Mars, allegedly because their motion-capture animated feature Mars Needs Moms was a gigantic flop.
Granted, none of this has any bearing on the quality of the actual film, but it doesn’t help either. The movie looks like it could be a good pulpy space opera if done right. It just seems to be missing the “space” part. The recent Green Lantern also downplayed the wild intergalactic aspects of the story in favor of a boring, half-realized love triangle subplot.
The movie also stars Lynn Collins (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) as Dejah Thoris, Willem Dafoe (Platoon) as Tars Tarkas, Dominic West (The Wire) as Sab Than, James Purefoy (Solomon Kane) as Kantos Kahn, Mark Strong (Kick-Ass) as Matai Shang, Ciaran Hinds (There Will Be Blood) as Tardos Mors, Thomas Haden Church (Sideways) as Tal Hajus, and Samantha Morton (Minority Report) as Sola. Novelist Michael Chabon (Wonder Boys, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay) contributed to the screenplay. Michael Giacchino (Star Trek, The Incredibles) is composing the film’s score.
John Carter [of Mars?] opens on March 9, 2012. That still gives me time to read the book.