Taylor Kitsch Talks ‘John Carter’ Storyline, Action, & Alien Creatures

Published 3 years ago by , Updated September 13th, 2012 at 2:36 pm,

taylor kitsch john carter Taylor Kitsch Talks John Carter Storyline, Action, & Alien Creatures

There’s a big question mark looming over the head of Disney’s costly John Carter. It is, after all, an adaptation of a classic and highly-influential sci-fi literary series, with Andrew Stanton (of Finding Nemo and WALL·E fame) directing a pretty admirable cast. However, early trailers and TV spots for the film have been big on visual spectacle, but not-so-promising when it comes to dialogue and acting.

Perhaps the biggest potential hit-or-miss aspect of John Carter will be that of the titular character himself, as brought to life by Friday Night Lights hunk Taylor Kitsch. That’s why a new interview with the actor  should be of great interest to die-hard John Carter fans (and casual sci-fi lovers alike).

Kitsch participated in an interview for Comics Continuum recently and talked about how John Carter (despite what the action-heavy promos might have you think) is very much a character-heavy piece that touches on the troubled past of its eponymous hero – and also one that is perhaps all the more relevant today, because of the social themes and issues it addresses.

For those unfamiliar with the John Carter character and novel series, here is how Kitsch sums it all up:

“[John Carter] comes from Edgar Rice Burroughs, who created the character of John Carter. 2012 is the 100th anniversary of the creation of the character. Burroughs wrote a whole series of books based on him.

“… Carter is a man who has lost everything he ever cared about. He comes back from the Civil War to find his wife and child dead. He basically goes into this recluse mode of living and is driven to mine for gold. It’s like a Band-Aid solution — he’s covering up what he hasn’t dealt with, the guilt and the loss of his family, whom he went to war to protect. He has a fear of taking responsibility again and that’s what he’s fighting through the whole movie.

“He lands in the Civil War [on Mars] between Helium and Zodanga. He’s on Mars but their conflict is incredibly relatable for him, so he just wants nothing to do with it…”

john carter 3 570x237 Taylor Kitsch Talks John Carter Storyline, Action, & Alien Creatures

Martian Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe) and John Carter (Taylor Kitsch)

With regards to why John Carter’s tale remains a worthwhile story to tell in an age where moviegoers are quite familiar with many of the original book series’ imitators and artistic descendants (ex. Star Wars, Avatar, Dune, etc.) Kitsch had the following to offer:

“I think Edgar Rice Burroughs was way ahead of his time, especially for his first science- fiction novel. It relates to what we’re living and doing right now — the lack of natural resources, the energy problems, the wars going on from racism to religion. He was hitting it all almost 100 years ago. And even in the film we address all those things. What [director Andrew] Stanton has done is taken the base of John Carter from Burroughs and definitely gone into more depth of who John Carter really is and where he comes from. Stanton has given me so much more to dive into with the character that wasn’t realized in the books. It’s been really great, script-wise, to draw from that.”

Lastly, with regards to what newcomers should find quite appealing about John Carter, Kitsch says:

“There’s a lot. I keep saying that the great white ape scene is worth the price of admission alone. Visually it’s going to be incredible. I think they’ll like the characters; they’re going to be able to relate. It’s not just a special effects movie with things blowing up and basically one guy that you don’t care about. You care about John Carter and you care about his journey. You see an incredible arc of who he is, his new beginning and rebirth, and although you have special effects, you’ve also got the brilliant actors whom I’ve had the fortune of working opposite as well.

“… [Also] I’m telling you, [the Martian dog] Woola will steal this movie… He’s loud and awkward, like a puppy in a sense. If anyone has an animal or has had an animal growing up, they know that there are so many things that you do with an animal that you don’t do in a relationship with another human. Eventually, John lets his guard down quite a bit and I love that because it makes those moments with Woola quite great.”

john carter 2 570x238 Taylor Kitsch Talks John Carter Storyline, Action, & Alien Creatures

Woola in 'John Carter'

Longtime Carter fans have expressed mixed feelings about some of the changes Stanton and Co. have implemented so far, especially with regards to the physical alterations and deviations from Burroughs’ original descriptions of the Martian inhabitants; for the large part, those changes have resulted in “friendlier” (re: less frighteningly exotic) versions of the story’s alien creatures that are still pretty evocative in design, but more along the lines of what you’d expect from a Disney-backed production.

However, John Carter will have to appeal to the moviegoing masses for Disney to have any hope of recouping its $250 million spent on the live-action/CGI project. Even so, whether or not the film will be as thematically-rich a character study as Kitsch is indicating (or manage to satisfy hardcore Carter fans, newcomers, both groups, or neither) is definitely an issue that’s up in the air right now.

For more about John Carter (including, additional information about the film’s brand-new narrative material) check out the full interview with Kitsch over at Comics Continuum (via Comic Book Movie)


John Carter will be released in 2D, 3D, and IMAX 3D theaters around the U.S. on March 9th, 2012.

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  1. Haaa this movie looks horrible

    • I disagree. But I don’t see anyway it makes back the budget costs.

      • Agreed

      • Agreed.

      • Ink, you got some yes men following you, but I disagree. I think it’ll get back its budget costs. Just barely though. It comes out in March…it really doesn’t have much competition other than 21 Jump Street, Mirror Mirror, and the Lorax. After a few weeks, John Carter will go up against the Hunger Games and Wrath of the Titans…but hopefully it will get a good box office profit before those films come.

        • I have to agree w/ B-list, It’s definetly going to make it’s money back not if not all or more then close to it, not only bcuz it’s a Disney production but also bcuz of the other movies sharing its release and shear interest. An interest that people who know and love the original literature will want to see bcuz deep inside they want to know how the interpretation is going to come along in these times on film and for those new to the story and saw the preview and wanna give it a look bcuz their looking for something new(in a manner of speaking)to watch

        • Well I don’t consider myself a yes man for agreeing with someone. I am super hyped for this movie after reading the books. I do however know that even though the books are very popular, most people will not know about them and will have to be drawn to this movie somehow. And if they are, they may well think it is aping movies like Avatar, Dances with wolves, Star Wars etc…

          It’s always a shame when so much effort goes into something only for it to fail to bring in a crowd to meet expectations. Despite all Disney’s immense success this has happened to them lots of times. ( both Tron films for example.) It all comes down to numbers in the end. But hopefully dvd sales will make sure it makes a sizable return.

          I hope it does really well.

        • @B-list
          I think you are confused on what a “yes” man actually is. As far as I know the people who agree with me have nothing to gain by doing so, which is the very definition of a “yes man.”
          But don’t get me wrong I hope it makes tons of money, but so far, the marketing for the movie has been abysmal. They need to make a trailer to hook the audience. Sadly, just showing great CGI and action aren’t enough anymore.

          • A yes man is a person who blindly agrees with everything their boss says. While I’m not renarded and think those ranters actually work for you or would gain anything by agreeing with you, they both did agree by simply writing “agreed” and added nothing more to your opinion. It was a silly joke because I disagreed with what your opinion. I never thought I’d have to explain this. Also, before it causes an uproar, I meant renarded…look it up on Urban Dictionary if you want a definition.

            As for the marketing, I wouldn’t worry. Disney will most likely start a heavier advertising campaign as the movie nears its March premiere.

            • Wow! A yes man, then a ranter!?

              I disagree :

              • :) ^-^

      • i am not anticipated for this. but,i think it will break the box-office,a surprize-hit,that many won´t thought!

  2. The movie looks great. Great action sequences. Hopefully it will be worth the price of admission. I will go for the uniqueness alone. Its not a reboot, or a prequel, or a preboot, or any of that nonsense.

  3. Less phallic creatures ? What in the name of the gods of Mars are you talking about ?

    • You’ve obviously forgotten about the green nine legged Barsoomian c*ck monster gorilla slugs from the first novel.


    • Heh, well, that wasn’t actually my meaning. I’ve changed that bit so it makes more sense.

  4. I don’t think the movie looks bad but I do still feel the chances they made to all of the creatures were frivolous and completely unnecessary. I’m tired of Hollywood directors making decisions for me that I don’t want. Just because THEY think another way is cooler or the audience won’t relate as well or any of the other stupid reasons they come up with for not faithfully adapting a movie, is not good enough anymore. STOP screwing with the original material dammit.

    • Uh, what? They’re the ones making the film, not you. So they can make whatever decisions they want to and you can either accept them or not. Not a lot of people are familiar with the source material, so I doubt it’s going to cause much of an uproar.

      • Yes but who exactly are they making the film for again? Oh that’s right, people like you and me so they can make money off of us.

        I disagree that they can make whatever changes they want. Sure they “can” but completely changing the source material kind of destroys the story they are attempting to adapt in the first place. Would you have been happy if Jackson had turned the Balrog into an Ice creature? or what about if Hobbit’s were tall like humans (to save on all those pesky CGI costs) those “little” things wouldn’t have mattered, right?

        I also disagree that, “Not a lot of people are familiar with the source material”. Millions of people grew up reading the adventures of Tarzan and John Carter when there was little more out there in the way of fantasy literature (even before the almighty Tolkien). Just because you have never heard of it, don’t make the mistake of assuming others are equally ignorant.

        • The thing about film studios, they are first and foremost a business. Especially ones like Disney and Fox. They are always going to be more interested in profit over artistic integrity. If they feel a choice is going to appeal to a broader audience, John Carter fans be damned. It sucks, I hate it too. Every Harry Potter film had moments where I couldn’t understand why they would change a scene, location or even a line of dialogue from the original novels. Movie makers are always going to do what they think will make the most money.

            • Yes and no.

              They are not just making it for the people that know the source material.

              So while ‘purist’ would love to see it exactly like the book they have to take into consideration how non readers and unknowers of the source material may be enticed to see it.

              My question would be how much does this take away from the overall story/history of the subject? If it brings more people into seats at the expense of a few things which may lead into a 2nd and or 3rd story/movie of a favorite character is it ultimately worth it?

              • I can answer that Aknot, in several of the books the White Apes provide not only prominant roles and sources for John Carter to succeed in his endeavors. In one book a man has his brain implanted into the body of a White Ape and he helps the main character to escape. That is now impossible since this rendition of them makes that physically impossible.

                My mantra is if it isnt broke dont fix it, but only Hollywood and Directors feel they have the power to make something “Better” and 9 times out of 10 they fail.

      • Yeah Nate, because changing the look and feel of a novels main characters is how so many great novels have become successful movies?? The facts outweigh that fallacy. Hollywood has ruined more book to movie conversions than they have succeeded with.

  5. I think we just found our next HE-MAN!

    • Extract that last comment,this guy is not the next he-man i really don’t know anything about john carter and from the way it looks i’ll wait for it on cable or netflix but anyway can we a gambit movie in the next three years? probably not!

  6. Actially looking forward to this movie looks pretty good

  7. “… Carter is a man who has lost everything he ever cared about. He comes back from the Civil War to find his wife and child dead. He basically goes into this recluse mode of living and is driven to mine for gold. It’s like a Band-Aid solution — he’s covering up what he hasn’t dealt with, the guilt and the loss of his family, whom he went to war to protect. He has a fear of taking responsibility again and that’s what he’s fighting through the whole movie.

    This lets me know that Taylor either didnt read the book or he has no concept of who and what John Carter is. JC never admitted defeat, nor did he ever go into a recluse role, he went out west with a friend to recover his fortune by searching for gold. If JC was what Taylor wrote he would never have ridden single handedly into an Apache camp filled with warriors to save his friends body from being further mutilated. Nor when cornered does he ever give up, he fights on no matter the odds. That is what made him a hero and someone an entire planet rallied around.

    Now after saying all of that I will be seeing this movie when it comes out and encouraging and even taking my friends to see it simply to keep the book and memory of ERB alive.

    • Wow, if true that is a HORRIBLE way to do things. If you aren’t going to follow the books then don’t leech off it, make UP your own damn story instead. Also screams of arrogance that he felt he could do this and that he thinks what he did is equal to ERBs vision.

      This is the BS that directors need so stop doing.

  8. I found the Stanton interview I was thinking of. It was an LA Times interview in June. Here’s some things Stanton says explaining his thinking process on making the film:

    “I became infected with it (John Carter) as a kid and then sort of put it aside and then didn’t read it again until I was in my 20s — at which point I had become more serious about following a career in film – I was able to recognize the fact that [the book] was not as solid in the material as I had remembered. At the same time I put a lot of value on the fact that I had remembered it and that I couldn’t ever stop thinking about it. The bones of it were strong, the sediment, the soil of it, was really fertile and ready to have built from it. I felt like the more history I delved into, too, informed my view of the material; that first book was really episodic chapters he did for a magazine and then put together in book form, so it really was like a serial with a cliffhanger on each chapter. It was more like putting train cars together instead of something with a grand design. I feel like looking for that grand design was the next logical step, the thing that maybe never got done by the original author. So then the question became: How do you find the one big conceit that has a beginning, middle and end instead of these little individual train cars of episodes.”

    “If it had been a perfect piece of literature I would have been a little too intimidated to tweak it. I had every desire to make it feel on the screen like how it made me feel reading the book, and to me that’s the most important thing. And I thought the only way to get there honestly was to read the book, come up with a bunch of ideas and never look at the book again. And from there just to look at what organically came together. What was really fascinating: I finally let myself read the book after the script was green-lit and all of these things that, in my mind, I was starting to give myself credit for coming up with were in there. [Laughs] But it made me feel very confident that we took it apart and put it back together and it held.”

    “There were so many personal fantasies that were fulfilled or cathartically found by fans through those books — in other words, they used the books as a conduit to their own fantasies and the things in their own head. I’ve never had to answer this before so I’m stumbling around a bit, but the thing is that because I know this book was so much the source material, directly or indirectly, for so many things, I got intrigued by the idea of treating it as if it really was the source material in the historical sense of the term. What if this really happened? That kind of opened my eyes. I suddenly had a fresh way to see it. And it goes back, in a way, to the way we take things in when [we were young readers]. When I was a kid I really wanted to imagine it as if it was a real sequence of events that took place on the surface of Mars in another century.”

    “Yeah, I looked at things like “Apocaplyto” and “Rome” and even things like “Shogun” and “Lawrence of Arabia,” things that as a viewer I could accept as having a level of historical research. They give me a sense of what it would be like in that land and in that age. So then you ask, “Well, what if we just did our Martian research really, really well and treated it as a period film. There are so many times and places in history in our world that I just don’t know anything about, and when I learn about them they’re always fascinating. I don’t need a predisposed interest in them if they are presented well. So we said, “We’ll treat it this way, we won’t treat it like some fantasy being fulfilled by a fan.” We tried to make it feel like we’re going with the story of what really happened. This is how it was, this is how those cultures really existed. That was one of the many levels, for instance, that I enjoyed “The Lord of the Rings” on. One of the similarities between Tolkien and Burroughs is that they came across to the reader as if they had done so much travel research; they seemed like they had gone to these places and documented the flora and the fauna and the architecture and the culture and the rules. They did it in ways that someone who visited those places would have done it. That made it much easier to treat the film as history in a weird way because I had this encyclopedia of all the aspects of Mars.”