Friday, June 15, 2012

The Gods of Mars Movie: Just Speculating

(First let me get this out of the way: The artwork shown above is NOT an official piece from Disney but a piece I found on a web site using Google. If anyone knows who made it please leave a comment so I can credit the original artist. Thank you. UPDATE: As mentioned below in the comments this was designed by Deviant Artist Paulrom. A big thanks to Andy!)

With this week's news that John Carter topped the Blu-Ray and DVD sales charts, fans are probably hopeful that this will help push the sequel closer to possible green light, even though Disney has yet to release sales numbers for the title. With that in mind I thought it would be an interesting change of pace to pose the question: if the sequel goes forward what might we see and if doesn't what was planned for it. Now at this point there was never an official announcement from Disney about a sequel. That instead came from the filmmakers, with producer Jim Morris telling interviewers that it had a working title-John Carter: The Gods of Mars-and that director Andrew Stanton was working with Michael Chabon (who had rewritten the script for John Carter) on it. But some hints have been revealed in other interviews-most notably Stanton's long interview with Harry Knowles at Aint It Cool News; his commentary on the recent Blu-Ray and some other statements made by the actors-that at least present if not a complete picture, at least one that was being pulled together. So let's jump in. Two warnings though: some of this will be speculation on my part-I don't know if this was the plan or not-to fill in some gaps and second there will be some of my usual sarcasm. In fact let's get that out of the way now:

How close will it be to Edgar Rice Burroughs' book?
SARCASM ALERT: Considering Stanton couldn't bother to remain faithful to A Princess of Mars without giving John Carter a dead wife, making Zodanga a moving city and shoving in the Therns, being faithful was not at the top of his list for the first film, so I doubt it was going to be a high priority for the second one. That said-without sarcasm-Stanton had already made a faithful version of Gods of Mars somewhat impossible anyway thanks to those Therns. Burroughs' original concept for them was they were false prophets-cannibalistic deviants-without any god like abilities-or super powers. And it can be argued that shape shifting, floating in mid air, teleporting and some of the other powers they had in the movie doesn't fit with the novel. Nor would they likely be fearful of Issus or the First Born either. Matai Shang in the film makes it clear they've been around for a long time and have played their games forever. No mention of fearing Issus-except for their claim that they "serve the Goddess" at the beginning-is mentioned. I guess it could be possible that Stanton and Chabon were still planning to have her in the movie-in fact Stanton confirmed this in the Knowles interview: "I can’t wait to see the goddess ISSUS herself..." but in what shape will she be? Or how will she be worked in? Is she going to a puppet master, even pulling the Therns' strings or is she in league with them, eliminating the First Born all together-which could have been a possibility to avoid a potential problem. Even though many I'm sure wouldn't see it this way, The Gods of Mars is about a group of false prophets and a god-or in this case goddess-being revealed as a fraud. That goddess and her followers-all portrayed for the most part as evil, vicious marauders-are described as black, meaning that accusations of racism and anti-religion could have caused protests, something every major film studio, especially the controversy-phobic Disney would like to avoid. So in that respect a faithful rendering would likely not have happened, less for Stanton and more for not wanting to offend anyone.

Is the Atmosphere Plant going to be in the film?
One of Stanton's more interesting comments during his Knowles interview was that "the air plants will be later" when explaining his handling of the material. The Plant-which serves as a plot point in A Princess of Mars-is not connected to the plots of Gods or The Warlord of Mars so it leaves the question of why they will be included and how. One possibility-and this is just me speculating-is that it could be used to fulfill (since if the first film is any indication) Stanton's notion that every film needs a Macguffin. In this case I suspect since so much time was spent setting up the 9th Ray and Dejah Thoris' research into-plus her claims that it could save Barsoom-that during the 10 years that John Carter was gone, Barsoom's atmosphere could have dwindled, possibly due to new wars or more machinations by Matai Shang and that the plant is being constructed using the ray to help keep the planet alive. It would provide the needed story element to cause John Carter to escape the Valley Dor (if he even lands there, all though Stanton did confirm the Plant Men were being planned so more than likely then) and save Dejah and Barsoom. It would also fix another potential problem adapting Gods...

What is Dejah and company's parts in it?
Dejah herself only appears at the end very of Gods of Mars, due to Burroughs' first person narrative. Obviously it won't work to maintain that-and no I'm not complaining about it being dumped since I know it wouldn't work-so using the Plant and her involvement would give her a bigger role. And Lynn Collins admitted in several interviews she was excited about the sequels. For the rest of the cast, Stanton told Knowles that James Purefoy will have an extended role as Kantos Kan and that there will be more air battles involving the Xavarian, which his character is captain of. Willem Dafoe also confirmed that Tars Tarkas was set to return in a recent interview and that "I know something of where the story goes and the character of Tars Tarkas. He’s big, and the relationship with John gets more intense." Stanton also mentioned on his commentary on the Blu-Ray that he had plans to bring back John Carter's nephew Ned, even though in what capacity is unclear. And I'm sure Shape Shifter Shang would have been back. So we know who was going to return. How about...

New characters?
Except for Issus, there has been no word of other characters from Gods will appear. Honestly it's a pretty crowded list: Thuvia, Phaidor, Xodar, Thurid, Zat Arras...not to mention Carthoris. The last one though could prove somewhat problematic. First we don't even know if Dejah had a child during his absence-it appears that the oviparous Red Women were eliminated since we saw no egg-and Stanton again talking to Knowles said he decided to not have Carthoris born before John returned to Earth. Granted we saw Dejah in bed so we can assume they "did the deed," which leaves it open for his arrival. But at what age? When he was hatched he was already 5 years old in Earth years and in the books, it's 10 years before Carter returns to Barsoom. Stanton kept the 10 year gap but with the elimination of the egg or Carthrois' birth, it would be doubtful Carthoris would be a young man. Some of that was possibly done due to the elimination of certain story elements-Carter's immortality and the long 1000 year life spans of the Barsoomians-but also it might have been hard for an audience to buy Taylor Kitsch and Collins as the parents of a 15 year old. Then again if Carthoris was going to be used, do we want a 10 year old in the film? As The Phantom Menace proved, sci-fi and kids don't mix unless it's Steven Spielberg directing. Again this is just open speculation so who knows. As for any potential actors, none have been floated around to play any of these parts so I'm sure that will provide new debate fodder for fans.

What was the tone going to be for the film?
It sounds like Stanton was going for the standard "darker middle act" setup based on his comparison to another classic trilogy: "Well I think it’s going to get a lot darker before it gets a lot brighter. (Laughs) It really does have a chart that works like EMPIRE to RETURN, but it’s fitting and my whole goal was that by the end of this whole thing he would earn the title “Warlord of Mars” and that’s where we are headed with it. " Now there's a lot to work with to make it The Empire Strikes Back of the John Carter of Mars series and considering Empire's status among many as the best one this could have bode well.

When was it going to be released-or still could be?
There was no official-or unofficial-start date for a sequel or release date. That was all dependent on John Carter's box office. The only guess would have to take in account Disney's usual record with sequels which in this case might have meant 2015 since there was a three year gap between the first and second entries in both the Pirates of the Caribbean and Chronicles of Narnia franchises. Then again Disney might have rushed a sequel out to strike while it was hot but at best that still probably would have been 2014.

So there's my best guesses based on the evidence we have. We'll have to wait and see-and look at how many Blu-Rays are being sold and for the devoted keep praying to Issus-whether or not John Carter returns to the big screen. Or start saving money for a fan sequel. Anyone got 250 million to spare?


Andy Barbieri said...

Logo is by Deviant Artist Paulrom -

MCR said...

Thank you Andy for identify it. I'll update the article to include this.

Anonymous said...

The artist is Michael Whelan he did all the covers for the books from that issue .

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pascalahad said...

That sure is an old post so I'm not sure you will even read this answer! But still, here are the things as I imagine them for an eventual sequel:

- The Therns are false gods already, Carter caught Matai Shang in a blatant lie when the latter said the Therns were not "burdened by mortality", so it's likely he lied during his whole PR speech. I think the Therns are slaves too, of Issus and the First Born. I think Matai Shang's plan was to used the combined fleet of Helium and Zodanga to fight the First Born, and free the Therns from slavery.

- Carthoris would probably be 20 when Carter returns, it's established in the first movie that time passes faster on Earth than on Barsoom, if Powell's body is any indication. Not showing that the red matians are oviparian avoids unnecessary, potentially awkward explanations for the audience

- The plant would probably be an issue, possibly the climax of the series, with Dejah trying to start the plant when the main bad guy (probably Issus) will want to suck the air out of Barsoom.

Possible we will never know, unfortunately, but I can see things unfolding that way.

Anonymous said...

Stanton must feel pretty bad having made changes he must wonder "If I had been faithful to the material might it have succeeded?" He took out Princess because boys wouldn't like it and Mars because girls wouldn't like Mars. But Boys would like Mars and girls would Like Princess. Girls Love anything princess.

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