Disney's D23: 'John Carter' star Taylor Kitsch travels to Mars, abandons shirt


Disney has a lot at stake with its upcoming sci-fi adventure John Carter (out March 9, 2012), so it made sense that the studio spent a considerable amount of time Saturday touting the film at the D23 Expo in Anaheim, Calif. Although the big-budget movie is based on the seminal Barsoom novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the source material isn’t particularly well known beyond geek circles. Also, since Burroughs’ books influenced such pictures as Star Wars and Avatar, Disney’s John Carter ironically runs the risk of feeling derivative.

In person to convince us otherwise were director and Pixar veteran Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, WALL-E) — who’s making his live-action debut with the film — and cast members Taylor Kitsch, Willem Dafoe, and Lynn Collins. The JC team showed us not one, but four clips. Details (and minor SPOILERS) after the jump:

First, a brief intro. The titular character of John Carter is a former Confederate captain (Kitsch) who, shortly after the end of the Civil War, is inexplicably transported to Mars. There, due to the planet’s weaker gravity, he finds that he has superhuman strength and can jump dozens of feet into the air. (He also discovers that he looks pretty darn good with no shirt on.) But John Carter is not alone on Mars…

Clip #1: John wakes up in the Martian desert. While investigating his barren surroundings, he’s spotted by a pack of Tharks — a warrior race of green Martians who are nine feet tall and have four arms. The Tharks open fire on John, causing him to take his first Martian leap. John goes soaring into the sky — a feat so impressive that the Tharks’ alliteratively named leader Tars Tarkas (Dafoe) urges his comrades to stop shooting. Tars walks up to John, and the two engage in an amusing introductory conversation. (Tars’ dialogue is initially subtitled.) John introduces himself as “Captain John Carter of Virginia,” and Tars mistakenly thinks his name is Virginia.


Image Credit: Todd Wawrtchuk/D23 Expo

We were told that the footage was a work in progress, but I came away with two observations. One, I wasn’t really buying John’s gargantuan leaps. Then again, maybe their clumsy appearance was intentional, as John is just discovering his newfound superpowers. Second, while the CG animation of Tars Tarkas was a tad cartoonish, Dafoe’s performance came through beautifully. It’s a motion-capture performance, and Dafoe was required to wear stilts so that he’d appear nine feet tall to his co-stars. Stanton asked the crowd: “How would you like to [shoot] in the desert in 100-degree heat while wearing gray [motion-capture] pajamas on stilts?”

Clip #2: John has been taken captive by Tars and is chained to a wall in the Thark nursery. (He’s surrounded by a bunch of sleeping baby Tharks, which are pretty cute, as far as Tharks go.) Upon noticing a large creature approaching, John manages to break out of his chains. The creature winds up being Woola, a Martian dog that resembles a big lizard with 10 legs. John quickly jumps away from Woola, but no matter how far John leaps, the lightning-fast Woola manages to catch up. This becomes a sort of “fetch” game that Woola enjoys immensely, as Woola chases John from one spot to the next. Behaviorally, Woola could be a cousin of Dug the dog from Pixar’s Up, as he exhibits the same inherent eagerness to please his master. No word yet if Mars is home to any squirrels.

Clip #3: In the least interesting of the four clips, we meet Dejah Thoris (Collins), a humanoid princess from the Martian empire of Helium. Dejah is about to go through with an arranged marriage to Sab Than (Dominic West), a prince from a rival tribe. John urges her to reconsider the marriage. However, Dejah wants John to stay on Mars and help bring peace to her planet. John, on the other hand, intends to return to Earth. Dejah gives John an artifact that she says will transport him back to Earth. Sab Than then barges into the room, and John has disappeared — although it’s unclear if he has actually teleported back home or not.

It’s not really fair for me to judge a scene that clearly occurs well into John Carter, especially since we haven’t seen how the film develops the romantic relationship between John and Dejah. But I wasn’t detecting much in way of chemistry between Kitsch and Collins. Again, though, this is based on just a snippet of footage, so I’m going to give Stanton and Co. the benefit of the doubt for now.

Clip #4: John and Tars have been sentenced to death in a gladiatorial arena. The former is chained to a rock, while the latter appears to be wounded. In a battle reminiscent of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, the Tharks release a massive, furry, six-legged beast called a “white ape.” John initially manages to evade a few of the white ape’s attacks, but an impatient Thark who’s watching the fight soon issues an order: “Release the other one.” The scene ended there, with the audience wondering how John and Tars could possible defeat two white apes.

Read more:
‘John Carter': Taylor Kitsch, shirtless. (Do you need more?)
D23: Pixar announces two bizarre-concept animated films
D23: Disney offers first look of ‘Wreck-It Ralph’

Comments (40 total) Add your comment
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  • Barry

    I saw a coming attraction for this film several weeks ago & wasn’t impressed.

    • MB

      My thoughts exactly.

      • UGH

        I was a bit disappointed with that trailer.
        His armor looks too plastic, too.
        Still, I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

    • Edgar

      J’aime beaucoup aussi, par cnrote je ne trouve pas e7a parfait visuellement.. Genre quand le personnage fait un bond e9norme, je trouve pas e7a tre8s bien fait ainsi que quelques autres petits de9tails (mettez la vide9o e0 26sec par exemple..) mais bon e7a c’est mon de9faut, je suis tre8s exigeant de ce cf4te9 le0^^Apre8s j’avoue que la bestiole est assez impressionnante!

  • Diane

    I read Barsoom 20 years ago and it felt dated then. I can’t see this ending well

  • kate

    I’ve seen the trailer a couple of times…it wasn’t WOW, just okay. Never heard of the character but I have high hopes for Taylor K.

  • Drigh

    Wow… Taylor Kitsch is shirtless… I care about as much as I do about the ridiculous True Blood recaps that the writer slobbers all over Skarsgaard and Manganiello. Is this site strictly catering to women and gay men?

    • Tessa

      Aren’t gay men and straight women EW’s largest fan base?

      • Tony

        罗杰.彭罗斯 谈唯物主义:“ what I am partly sanyig is that those words (materialist) are a bit out of date, because the contemporary understanding of material is very different now from the way it used to be. If we consider what matter really is, we now understand it as much more of a mathematical thing. When these categories materialist’, idealist’ etc. were first coined, people thought of matter as a much more defined thing, something which is there’, and then you combine that with mysterious mind stuff which is floating around, which would be separate from it. But I think that matter itself is now much more of a mental substance; So before we have a deeper understanding of what is really going on, to talk about things in these terms is almost certainly limiting and inappropriate.”我所部份谈到的是,这些语汇(唯物主义的)有些过时了,因为当今对物质的理解已经与过去大不一样了。 如果来考虑物质到底是什么,我们现在知道,这不过是个数学玩意。如“唯物主义的、“唯心主义的”这类词语当初被造出时,人们把物质想成是一个确定的东西,一件在那里明摆着的东西,再把它与神奇飘忽的精神连接起来。但我现在认为,物质的本质是心灵的。 所以,在我们对真相有更深的了解之前,奢谈那些语汇几乎必然是局限的、不合适的。

    • Sith Lord J

      If they were Catering to them they would have followed the book more b/c in it he is naked and so the red skinned princess.

      • Ady

        I really cant say much about eihetr candidate!Bummer. I really have no clue who I am voting for as both have more negative than postives in my book.Not going to be an easy decision!Havent posted on here in a while. Hope you guys are well!

  • M

    Taylor is beautiful

  • franka

    i saw an interview yesterday of andrew stanton talking about how he wanted to do something completely different with this. he didn’t want to do a futuristic “fanboy” film. it’s supposed to be a period piece that just happens to have a portal to another world, perceived through the lens of someone from the 19th century. cowboys and aliens tried to pull that off and missed the mark by a wide berth, but i have more confidence in stanton’s vision for such an ambitious undertaking.

    taylor kitsch has proven himself to be an excellent, nuanced actor and he should do well flanked by the talents of people like samantha morton, willem dafoe and lynn collins.

    sure, the movie has the potential to be a huge bomb, but i’m giving it the benefit of the doubt and really intrigued by its potential.

    • Sam

      You should, after all Stanton did direct the masterpiece Wall-E.

      • franka

        finding nemo, too, another masterful film. john carter will be a success if it’s a sweeping, wonder-filled character-driven epic, and stanton has proven he can do that, so i have high hopes.

        the cast is promising, too. in particular, taylor kitsch is an extremely charismatic actor. it’s possibly hard to tell that from the minute or two of the trailer because his real talent is in weaving together a long series of subtle nuances into a complicated, compelling whole, but it may add a lot to john carter. he did this in “the bang bang club” (in which he upstaged the rest of the cast with a very fragile, broken performance) and he certainly did this on “friday night lights,” where he turned a football-movie cliche into an iconic portrayal.

        … i’m a woman, and i’m excited about this movie, and it’s not because the leads are pretty and scantily clad. so there you go.

  • Eric


    • T

      Geez, that’s funny !

  • tipsy

    Interesting thing with these clips is that they are keeping Dejah Thoris more or less low key, although she is the most iconic character in John Carter series. Perhaps they know that they screwed the pooch here (overdressed, zero chemistry,etc) and are focusing more on Tarks?

    • chad

      they do not have the free reign on censor like HBO or showtime does. so of course they are not going to be authentic in the barsoomian style of clothing (wearing nothing but jewels and ornaments)

  • Nakia

    Is this from the Comic book John Carter War lord of Mars?

    • jcarla

      No this is from the BOOK series about John Carter of Mars “based on the seminal Barsoom novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs” – in tje articale

  • Johno

    @Nakia – yes and no. There were originally 11 novels in the John Carter of Mars books, which, before that, were a pulp series, somewhat like a comic series, a chapter at a time, or something like that. The John Carter Warlord of Mars came after the books.

    And @ John Young, these books, written 99 years ago (the first title, A Princess of Mars anyway) have sold millions and millions of copies world wide, so their are millions and millions of geeks for this book series.

  • Johno

    error * read: so there are millions…

    • Imam

      made a lot of sense. But, think about this, what if you added a little cetnont? I mean, I dont want to tell you how to run your blog, but what if you added something to maybe get peoples attention? Just like a video or a picture or two to get people excited about what youve got to say. In my opinion, it would make your blog come to life a little bit.

  • redvector

    This will be Disney’s Green Lantern.

    • UGH

      I would say Disney’s The Last Airbender. That’s the feeling I got from the trailer.

  • Mikey M

    I agree. He looks pretty damn good without a shirt on.

  • Seriously

    Another Conan-like failure.

  • JRockMovie

    Texas Forever!

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