Thursday, October 06, 2005


Barsoom, baby! Barsoom!

"You are so kaor and you don't even know it."

From Sci Fi Wire: "Jon Favreau (Zathura) will direct the upcoming film adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' story John Carter of Mars for Paramount, Variety reported. "

I thought Favreau's Elf was absolutely charming, and I'm holding out hope for Zathura. His screenplay for Swingers is, of course, a personal favorite. But I'm not sure if his is the first name I would have associated with John Carter of Mars. Hell, I'm not sure his name would even have been on the list. But he's definitely surprised me before.

I haven't had much confidence in this production since the beginning, based on some insider stuff I've overheard. When Kerry Conran was attached, I thought it would at least have an interesting visual component. It's impossible to second guess why Conran is out and Favreau (reportedly) is in--and it seems a bit late in the day for the box office receipts of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow to have been a deciding factor--but I have my suspicions, none of which inspire confidence in the finished product. Franchise films, historically, have done well, both commericially and critically, when a director with a singular vision was allowed to make the film they had in mind without a lot of interference from studios and producers. Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings. Sam Raimi's Spider-Man. Bryan Singer's X-Men. Any film with revolving directors indicated a creative environment in which the director is a hired hand, and someone else is in the driver's seat.

It's too soon to guess what sort of sf adventure film Favreau would direct. Perhaps Zathura will provide a few clues. But, honestly, at this point, I wouldn't bank any amount of money on a John Carter of Mars film actually being made. Counting Robert Rodriguez, who was reportedly involved with John Carter early on, the project has already gone through three directors in development, and the film hasn't even moved out of pre-production yet. I can't help but remember the Jon Peters-produced Superman project of the late nineties. How many screenwriters and directors did that go through, before eventually dying on the vine? (Superman Returns is a real dark horse long shot, as far as quality goes, isn't it? Bryan Singer at the helm, as a director and producer, but with Peters still attached as a producer, who from all reports single-handedly sunk all prior attempts to return the character to the screen with his creative "direction"--No flying; no traditional Superman costume, since that would be too "gay"; and a fight with a giant spider a must. I'm hoping that Singer, and quality, wins out, but I'm not holding my breath.)

As much as I'm looking forward to Zathura, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed Conran was off John Carter. I know a lot of folks bounced off of Sky Captain, but apart from the visuals, his unabashed embracing of pulp serial tradition is what I was most looking forward to in John Carter.

And you speak of previous failed attempts at bringing John Carter to screen. You know, of course, of the oh-so-close Bob Clampett animated project:
I really enjoyed Sky Captain, myself. I'll admit that I was a little worried about Conran's take on Barsoom, though, since Sky Captain depended so heavily on that level of irreality that Conran got from aping the look of the old serials. For a Barsoom flick to work, I think, you need to believe in the reality of what you're seeing. It should start out, in its first scenes, as a historical piece with absolutley verisimilitude, following the Civil War vet Carter and his prospecting buddy, facing off against hostile Indians, and then kick into high gear as Carter is translocated to the ochre-tinted surface of Barsoom.

I hadn't heard that about Clampett's attempt to bring an animated version to the screen, though! Another one for the What Might Have Been file, isn't it?
What might've been, indeed. I've always wanted to do a Waldropian style story using it, but I've yet to figure out the heart of the piece. Maybe someday.
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