In less than two months Disney will premiere John Carter, the long-gestating adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs‘ classic 1912 sci-fi adventure A Princess of Mars that introduced readers to Captain John Carter and his spectacular adventures on the planet Barsoom (which we all refer to as Mars). When the Andrew Stanton-directed movie finally opens it will be the culmination of more than eight decades of failed efforts on the part of filmmakers such as John McTiernan (Die Hard, Predator), Robert Rodriguez (Desperado, Sin City), Jon Favreau (Iron Man), and even famed stop motion animation wizard Ray Harryhausen.
Back in 2004, when the project was in development at Paramount Pictures, the responsibility of bringing John Carter of Mars to the big screen was temporarily handed to relative newcomer Kerry Conran. During his time on the film Conran put together a test reel to demonstrate how he would approach such an ambitious and potentially costly production.
You can watch Conran’s original John Carter of Mars presentation video here below.
At the time Conran’s career was fast on the rise thanks to the buzz surrounding his directorial debut Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Sky Captain was created with extensive amounts of blue and green-screen shooting, meaning that Conran shot his actors live-action in full costume with minimal props and created the backgrounds, sets, and special effects completely through CGI. Sky Captain was well-received by critics and audiences (and yours truly was happy to be there opening night) but failed to make much of an impact at the box office and plans for further Sky Captain adventures were permanently shelved. The film’s lackluster performance also seemed to have a negative effect on the career of its writer/director; once Paramount let the John Carter rights lapse Disney swooped in and bought them up and Conran’s involvement with the project was at an end. The director has not made another movie since.
The video utilizes a combination of conceptual art paintings, rough visual effects sequences, and a blending of live actors and digital environments similar to the techniques Conran employed on Sky Captain. In his approach to the look of the film the director sought to emulate the classic John Carter paintings by the late Frank Frazetta, a striking aesthetic that would make for a visually-sumptuous cinematic adventure that the recent trailers and posters for Stanton’s version of the Burroughs novel don’t seem to have captured.
What do you think? Are you excited for the new John Carter, or do you think the filmmakers should have gone in a different direction?