I know clouds are not common on Barsoom, and I have praised John Carter teases before (like the TV spots and the long trailer), but my nervous disposition makes me think I now see some dark cumulonimbus on the distant horizon, thanks to the just-released Japanese trailer for the Disney adaptation. The teaser contains some scenes not yet seen in the USA, and they hint at mechanisms and motivation — but mechanisms and motivation that are not in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ original texts!
SPOILER WARNING: If you want to avoid all information about the story beforehand, you should skip watching this trailer. For the rest of you, take a look:
Did you see what I saw? It appears that Carter has lost his wife and child in a house fire — a fire that was no doubt caused by a bad man. After seeing flashes of Carter kissing a woman and patting a child on the head, he is seen pounding a cross into a fresh grave. Carter’s voice-over can be heard to lament, “I was too late once. I won’t be again.” So, to all appearances, director Andrew Stanton and his co-conspirators have grafted a standard revenge plot onto ERB’s story, giving Carter a reason to get invested in Dejah Thoris’ fate — since it already has been hinted that Dejah Thoris is not portrayed as the damsel-in-distress that ERB envisioned. (Also, it appears that the conflict between Helium and the Tharks is being honed and set up to mirror the American Civil War. Tars Tarkas vs. Dejah Thoris? Seriously?)
I cannot say that I’m happy about setting the Heliumites against Tars Tarkas’ Tharks in open war — especially when the Warhoon are said to be in movie (They are the green tribe that casts Carter into an arena to fight the great white ape in another newly manufactured sequence.) The warlike Warhoon would make much better antagonists. But I am most upset about giving Carter the cheap, melodramatic and clichéd background of having his family murdered. I guess, in 2012, the-powers-that-be need to give Carter (Taylor Kitsch) a reason to care about Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) beyond her otherworldly captivating beauty — but this sort of poverty of imagination does not fill me with confidence!
The other new piece of info is the snippet that appears to show Carter being…uh, “beamed” to
Mars Barsoom by some kind of mechanical device. Carter is still in a cave where he sees strange carvings on the walls and floors, but does he find a device? It would appear he is hit by a beam of light from a machine, but perhaps that is only a result of the editing of the trailer. The original text of A Princess of Mars, upon which this movie is based, completely glossed over exactly how Carter found himself upon Barsoom — preferring to give an evocative description of the sensation of traveling through the void to the red planet. If you’ve read the novel, you know the ending sort of hints at what may have “really happened” to Carter, but when the first sequel story came along, that explanation/excuse was unequivocally superseded.
Anyway, there’s no denying the trailer makes the film look like action-packed fun, but we’ll just have to wait and see (with fingers crossed)…
Here’s the official synopsis, so those who have no idea what I’m blathering about…
From Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Andrew Stanton, John Carter is a sweeping action adventure set on the mysterious and exotic planet of Barsoom (Mars). Based on the classic sci-fi novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the film tells the story of John Carter, who is inexplicably transported to Mars where he becomes embroiled in a conflict of epic proportions amongst the inhabitants of the planet, including Tars Tarkas and the captivating Princess Dejah Thoris. In a world on the brink of collapse, Carter discovers that the survival of Barsoom and its people rests in his hands.
John Carter will be in theaters March 9, 2012, in your choice of 3D or regular ol’ 2D.