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..."
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."
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.