Thursday, August 11, 2011

John Carter of Mars - Script Review

Post based upon the script by Ehren Kruger, previous draft by Mark Protosevich, dated September 7th, 2005. This version will not be used for the final film!

The Verdict: A mediocre Science-Fiction Action movie, that can't deny it's pulpy origins, but it is entertaining nonetheless.

What's it about?
John Carter, a special force soldier, is magically transported to Mars and finds himself in the middle of a planetary war. Now he has to chose his side and fight his way back home.

Plot Summary (Spoilers!):
Present Time, deep in the african jungle: Captain John Carter and his Sergeant, Powell, are on a mission to free a village from rebel fighters and find strange glowing gems in one of the huts. A little boy leads them to the cave, where these gems were found and Powell falls down into the deep cavern. John Carter follows him, but only finds more of these strange gems, which suddenly begin to glow. Carter now sees the time turned back and is transported to the red deserts of Mars.
He is captured by the Tharks, 4-armed, green-skinned warriors. Soon, John Carter proves to be a viable warrior himself, largely due to the low gravity, which gives him the ability to jump very high.
When suddenly a damaged airship of the Helium arrives in the city! The vile King of the Tharks opens fire, although on board of this ship is the Princess of Helium offering an alliance against the Zodanga, who threaten to destroy them both. John Carter can save Thoris, the princess, and she tells him about the 'Atmosphere Plant', a huge complex that controls the weather and water on Mars. Sab Than, the leader of the Zordanga, wants control over this facility, but this would mean the end of the Tharks and the Helium. Together the flee from the Tharks, before Sab Than can reach the city.
On the way through the desert John Carter finds out, that Powell reached Mars hundred years before him and is dead for a long time now. But when Sab Than catches up with them in the territory of the Warhoons, a primitive species of Tharks, it is revealed that Sab Than is in fact Powell. John Carter refuses his offer to join him and conquer Helium and the Atmosphere Plant and is left behind to be killed by the savages, while the princess is abducted by Powell.
In a totally absurd set-piece John Carter has to fight Gladiator-style in a Warhoon Arena againt gigantic ape monsters. He can escape and returns to the city of the Tharks, where the King is challenged killed in a duel. Now the Tharks form an alliance with the Helium and together they can fight back the Zordanga.
But Powell already has the key to the Atmosphere Plant (which was the Princess' naval ring all along!) and Carter follows to stop his old friend from seizing control over Mars. Inside the facility they fight, Powell is killed and John Carter is send back to Earth. But not to his time! He finds himself in the middle of the Civil War. 
Being granted near immortality, Carter waits until he can return to that cave and then transports back to Mars, to be with his love, the Princess of Mars.

Pulp Origin: Shining heroes and scantily clad women, savage warriors, mysterious gems and time travel. That's pulp for you! Like the Conan the Barbarian series John Carter of Mars doesn't want to be something else than an entertaining blockbuster flick, but still feels out-dated and cheesy sometimes.

Too similiar to Avatar? While reading the script I had to think of Avatar all the time. An innocent man learns they way of some native people, learns their language and traditions and then has to fight with them against a superior enemy lead by an old military friend. There are giant birds/dragons tamed by Carter and used to attack the enemy. I know, the Barsoom Series was published long before Avatar was written and if anything, Avatar took some things from the Edgar Rice Burrough novels. But still, it could be a though sell now, that almost everybody has seen Avatar and will inevitably see the similarities.

The Project:
John Carter of Mars has a very long histoy: Already in 1931 MGM started shooting an animation movie based on the novels. The script was written by the author himself, Edgar Rice Burrough, but the project came to a halt, because the test footage received negative reviews.
The next try took place in the 1980s, but the technology wasn't advanced enough to bring the world of Barsoon to live.
In 2005 Paramount started production with Robert Rodriguez, who soon had to be replaced by Jon Favreau, who made most of the changes to the reviewed script. When Favreau left to make 'Iron Man' instead, the project stopped once again.
The latest and successfull effort to bring the novels onto the silver screen, was started by Disney in 2007. Mark Andrews and Michael Chabon wrote the most recent draft of the script for the director Andrew Stanton (known for 'Wall-E' & 'Finding Nemo'). This will be his first non-animation project. The movie will be released on the 9th of March 2012.

Official Trailer:

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References: A Princess of Mars - Novel (Wiki); IMdB; Wiki of the 2012 film;

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