The Establishing Shot: John Carter Special 2 – We see 5 clips of exclusive John Carter footage and its AWESOME! Read our full analysis here

Monday, January 23, 2012 Craig Grobler 0 Comments

John CarterThis is the second post of a John Carter special from an Exclusive Disney John Carter Preview Event. The first, An introduction to the World of John Carter and our thoughts on Disney’s upcoming adaptation can be found here!

After Producer Kevin Kurtz’s presentation introducing us to the world of John Carter we got to see 5 2D clips from John Carter. Unfortunately Director Andrew Stanton was still in post production at Skywalker Ranch so each clip was introduced by him via recorded video. Apologies in advance if the below reads like I’m gushing but I was surprised at just how good John Carter looked, my thoughts on why further below.

John Carter Clip 1 – Enter John Carter
The cameras POV is from the inside of a dark saloon focused on the saloon’s doors. Through it a shadowy figure walks through wearing a dark wide brimmed hat drooping at the ends. The sun streaming in from behind him.

Initially I assume this a villain of sorts - but it turn out to be a badass John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) and we are on earth. Now he’s at the bar and a couple of armed Yankee soldiers burst in led by Bryan Cranston’s Powell (a reference to John Carter’s prospecting partner in Burroughs’s original tale). Cornered and outnumbered Carter is given a stand down ultimatum. But instead rushes at them. We almost seamlessly cut see him being thrown into a chair handcuffed. Whilst Powell is talking Carter rushes for a window and jumps out of it. Again we almost seamlessly cut to Carter looking rough lying in a stockade cell.

Powell trying to reason with Carter and lets us know via discussion that John Carter is a decorated Confederate soldier and the right man to help out as they are having a problem with Indians killing the homesteaders.

Video: John Carter - Exclusive Ten Minute Scene

John Carter’s not interested and wants no part of it. Powell assumes he’s gone native. Carter tells him the Indians can go to hell too and that as soon as Carter has struck it rich with gold he is going to disappear forever.  Powell tells him that he owes his country. Carter looks at his wedding ring and says something to the effect of any debt he had has been paid in full and then some.

Thoughts: OK! It was tricky to place the scene in context until I had seen all the other clips and by then I loved it. Initially I got a bit worried that it seemed to be a bit similar to Cowboys and Aliens, but that was soon gone. It doesn’t come cross very well in my dry description but the scenes of Carter trying to escape and seamlessly cutting to his next attempt were very entertaining and raised chuckles from the audience –which is difficult straight out the gate. It also gave us an idea of the kind of man John Carter is – Tenacious, resourceful with a haunted past. Which ties into our first look at Carter when he enters the saloon - in any other western film, everything about him screamed would have screamed bad guy. John Carter seems to be a stone cold bad ass with issues. He is an anti hero who steps up to the challenge. This is a strong fun start for John Carter.

John Carter Clip 2 – John Carter on Mars or Barsoom and meeting Tars Tarkas
Andrew Staton set this clip up by saying John Carter finds himself on Mars, discovers his new abilities, an incubator and meets the local inhabitants.

John Carter has just arrived on Mars he is now semi dressed as we see in most of the clips and media, he’s confused and disorientated. Mar looks mostly desert and hot as we see in the trailers and posters.

Carter is clamoring over some rocks and finds some symbols engraved in the sand or rock wiping across them reveals a layer of glass under it. The glass is revealed to be a window seemingly with a view into the rock. Carter looks down into an incubator where he sees 100s of baby Thark hatchlings and I have to say as much as I dislike the cutesy aspects of Disney films these guys were adorable. Drooling and climbing over one another and being generally cute.

A shocked Carter utters: “Where am I?”

Tars Tarkas
Image: Tars Tarkas on a thoat

A team of Thark adults comes charging across the plains on their thoats. A startled John Carter flees and jumps, only his bound takes him 30 or 40 meters high into and he lands surprised. Hides behind some rocks. At least one of the Tharks has seen him jump and he shouts to the other charging Tharks not to shoot pushing one of their Martian rifles down.  We assume this is Tars Tarkas (Willem Defoe). He heads straight up to where Carter is hiding the others circle round. He jumps off his Thoat and heads towards Carter. He puts his weapons down and calls out to Carter. Telling him that he wont harm him, his name is Tars Tarkas and can he show him how he “saarks” (jumps) again? By now you can make out Willem Defoe’s distinctive voice.

Carter seemingly tries to converse all the time keeping his eyes on Tars’s weapons. Carter fudges it badly leaving the impression that the Martians are a little more intelligent than us.

Carter makes another superhuman leap and grabs one of Tars’s weapons but can’t figure out how to work it, he grabs for his rifle trying to work out how to activate it. While Tars is bearing down on him.

Image: Thark Sniper

Then we see another green Martian sniper some distance from the two taking aim. Tars rushes Carter and grabs him with all four arms initially appearing to be fighting with him but it is apparent that Tars is trying to protect Carter from the oncoming rifle shot. Fade to black and we hear Tars shout out in pain.

Thoughts: My excitement of big films is usually doused by them being aimed squarely at the biggest market demographic kids, usually ending up with the film severely watered down or so juvenile that I can in no way relate it. Throw in the mix a team that specialise in animated kids films and you can see why John Carter didn’t really appeal to me off the bat. But having seen, what will more than likely be the most cutesy bit of John Carter it holds up I’m been swayed.

The baby green Martians cute and photo realistic and the adult Tharks believable while being very alien. I didn’t really even notice the Tharks extra arms a testament to how seamlessly they fit the world. We also know they are more than happy to shoot first and ask questions after.

In terms of performances Willem Dafoe’s Tars Tarkas out shines Taylor Kitsch - rather than denigrating Taylor Kitsch’s talent this is just how believable his character is. He moves like an ethereal being and comes across as something other than human.

I really like the retro designs of the costume and equipment, particularly the rifle which looks like old but superior technology. Like something someone from 100 years ago would imagine to be futuristic.

John Carter’s jumps are also very cool. They are filmed from an angle that makes them seem old school, like something from those 50s serial strips and they have a weight that makes them feel believable.

John Carter Clip 3 – John Carter in the nursery and meeting Wolla
Andrew Staton tee’d this clip off by saying that they take John Carter to their ruined city of Korad (I think) we find out more about that later. But they are unsure of what to do with John Carter so they put him in the nursery with the other hatchlings.

Video: John Carter - Mars' Best Friend Clip

We start off in what looks like a huge dungeon with John Carter chained to the wall covered in hatchlings which are in piles slumbering around him. He wakes up and starts trying to pull his chain off the wall. His attention is drawn to the darkened passageway behind him. Something ominous is moving towards him in the shadows. A guard of some sort. It steps out into the light and turns out to be Woola a Calcot.

Woola is similar to a 6 legged, rhino with the head of a Cheshire cat and about the size of a large dog. He looks at Carter opens his mouth and yawns. Tension release and more chuckles. With his mouth almost open at 120 degrees he looks like some sort of sea creature.

Carter barely manages to pull his chain free. Letting us know that he can make incredible jumps as well as has above average human strength. Carter leaps up a couple of stories and we get a look at the building he is in it seems way beneath Mars’s surface or in some sort of tower. As he lands on a stone stairwell and gets ready for another leap but looks up to be greeted by another Woola. He looks back towards the lower level confused. He makes another leap this time we see Woola moving at super speed and stop in front of him, like it’s a game. Carter is shocked and makes another leap; Woola again beats Carter to the drop. They seem to be at the top of the structure now.

We now see some sort of tower like structure in the distance with what looks like a party or feast taking place at the top. Carter makes a jump for it.

Thoughts: Another clip featuring a cutesy like character that I should not have liked but turned out to be very engaging and entertaining. This clip was a balance of showing John Carter’s new found powers, introducing an important creature in the Carter mythos whilst being very entertaining. It would seem that the writers have really put care and attention into creating an intelligent script. I’m liking John Carter even more now.

John Carter Clip 4 - John Carter’s turning point fight (My favourite clip.)
Andrew Staton tee’d this clip off by saying this clip takes place further in the film after John Carter has rescued the princess and comes across some inhabitants and he has to face his past.

We start off with John Carter, Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins), a female Thark called Sola (Samantha Morton) and Woola are on a raft or boat of sorts. I think it may be the same one we see in the trailer. They land in the wilderness and are off on two stoats. It becomes apparent this is a chase and they are fleeing.

John Carter Sola
Image: John Carter, Sola, Dejah Thoris chase

As they make there way over a plain we see a huge force of creatures gather on cliff behind them, ready to rush down on them. Carter realises that they won’t be able to outrun them, stops and asks Sola to take Dejah and Woola with her and make a run for it.

Video: John Carter - Leap of Faith Clip

Dejah is reluctant and Carter says something to the effect of I was late once before it won’t happen again. I think this is were we get our first glimpse of John Carter’s secret past via a series of flashbacks intercut with the following scene.

Video: John Carter Warhoon TV Spot

Sola and Dejah ride off. Woola stand by Carter’s side while a hoard of creatures bears down on them. I mean 100s and they are pissed off. John Carter wades into them with his sword drawn. I can only describe what follows next as something like a souped up and refined Burly Brawl as John Carter and Woola takes on the hordes.

Thoughts: This scene was my favourite and works very well on two levels; one - as an out and out action scene with Carter flexing his new found powers against a stronger force. But intercut with a flashback of the event that scarred him. The closer to the bone his memories become the more brutally Carter lays into the creatures as they pile onto him. This is a turning point for John Carter as he is releasing his demons. I can’t recall now but I’m pretty sure at the time I made a mental note of how the accompanying music really help merged the dichotomy of the visuals of the disparate events together.

John Carter Clip 5 - John Carter and Tars Tarkas vs white apes in the arena
To kick off this final clip Andrew Staton simply said this was a taste of things to come

We see John Carter and a wounded Tars shackled walking down a tunnel to an arena. The Thark crowds in the stands baying for blood. Before a giant white ape is released into the arena.  John Carter is chained to a huge rock or stake and unable to get go to far but has enough slack to jump circles around the ape. I’m digging those jumps. A lot of care has gone into making them seem real.

Video: JOHN CARTER extended scene - White Apes - Disney

Tha ape unable to catch Carter focuses on the wounded Tars, forcing Carter to draw its attention.  The Thark Jeddak or King lounging on his platform commands that they “release the other one”.

A roar is heard as another ape is unleashed into the arena, we see Carter realise another one’s coming and grimace to the effect of - give me a break.

white ape
Image: John Carter fights white apes

I’m not describing this with full effect as it’s all over the net already but Taylor Kitsch’s response - got us chuckling again.

Earlier in Kevin Kurtz’s presentation he mentioned that Kitsch is bringing a Indiana Jones like quality to the production and I certainly got a sense of that from the footage particularly this scene.

.I’m pretty sure the clips must have been hand-picked for their high entertainment value.But overall I have to say that John Carter looks like a lot of fun and I really enjoyed the well made footage. I was curious about why we were not shown the clips in 3D possibly Disney doesn’t want our views on 3D to be a factor in our opinions or enjoyment of the footage or maybe film has not been fully converted as yet.

A little part of me sad that I know too much about John Carter’s character as although I thought the depth that was conveyed added a lot to the equally engaging visuals and made for compelling viewing but that would have been a nice surprise for my in cinema viewing experience.

 I haven’t seen Friday Night Lights but know that it I well regarded and really didn’t like anything about X-Men Origins: Wolverine (one of my favourite comic characters of all time). And I was a bit worried about the inclusion of both Taylor Kitsch and Lynn Collins as nothing about either of them appealed to me, mainly because of Wolverine. But in the right hands any performance can be made engaging and from what I have seen of Kitsch he owns John Carter and brings a similar cocky swagger that he showed as Remy LeBeau to the fore. Something that won over the fairly dry crowd in the QA with him that followed the screening of the footage.

We didn’t get to see much of Lynn Collins but she seems to embody the sultry and exotic physical aspects of Dejah Thoris as seen in the iconic imagery from John Carter including Frank Frazetta’s interpretation.

The standout for me was William Defoe who seems to be bringing a lot to Tars and in the little bits we did see he shines as a CG character bringing both intelligence and personality to the character.

I can’t really say much about the landscapes or general feel of Barsoom but it looks great! I’m still not entirely liking the feather/wing like elements of the flying ships yet. But I’m coming around to them. Everything else feels really good and seemed to fit seamlessly into the immersive alien experience of John Carter. I’m looking forward to travelling to Barsoom and exploring more.

Disney seem to have gone back to  Edgar Rice Burroughs's books and are focusing on bringing them to life in a way that makes sense in a contemporary world and from what I have seen so far - it’s working. I tried to explore this further during the QA session. Key bits from the QA session with John Carter’s Special Effects Supervisors Sue Rowe & Eamonn Butler and John Carter himself Taylor Kitsch will be up soon.

As Disney pointed out in their presentation I think a real challenge for John Carter will be presenting the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs in a way that they seem fresh an original bearing in mind that his works have plundered over the last 100 years to feed the Sci-Fi mainstream to such an extent that we will immediately draw similarities to certain bits to other films; man transported to another planet becomes embroiled in the locals politics – Avatar. Warriors have an incredible fight against huge beasts in an arena – Star Wars, Hero with super strength that can leap over buildings in a single bound – Superman. Hero rallying warriors for a final battle against an overwhelmingly powerful foe – Lord of the Rings, Star Wars. All of these and many more themes and elements inspired by John Carter. In my next post the John Carter team addresses this in the QA but we will have to wait till March to see how John Carter overcomes this.

I have to say the footage from John Carter was great I loved every bit of it. I can fully appreciate not only the amount of work that has gone into making John Carter look so good but how difficult it must be to introduce such a fantastical world, characters and creatures and keep the audience engaged without losing them along the way.

I was genuinely hanging to find out what was going to happen in the arena and fortunately we went straight into the John Carter trailer in 3D which showed a little more.

Video: John Carter Trailer

Slivers from the footage can be seen in the trailer. I’m liking Disney’s approach to the trailer and I applaud studios taking this approach - we see tiny bits, enough to keep us interested but not enough to be able to put the entire story together, unless you pore over every freeze-frame. It means people like me can actually enjoy the trailer without fear of having the film spoilt.

Besides any trailer that has a Led Zeppelin inspired song in it- is going to get my and a lot of other people’s attention.

My third and final post in my John Carter Special the Q&A session with visual effects supervisors Sue Rowe & Eamonn Butler and Taylor Kitsch himself. Will be up soon.

The Establishing Shot: John Carter Review JOHN CARTER IS A LOT OF FUN!

The Establishing Shot: John Carter UK Premiere, Pics & video Exclusive cast introductions & Andrew Stanton in a must see talk about John Carter

The Establishing Shot: John Carter Special 1 – An introduction to the World of John Carter and our thoughts on Disney’s upcoming adaptation

The Establishing Shot: John Carter Special 2 – We see 5 clips of exclusive John Carter footage and its AWESOME! Read our full analysis here

John Carter
Transplanted to Mars, a Civil War vet discovers a lush planet inhabited by 12-foot tall barbarians. Finding himself a prisoner of these creatures, he escapes, only to encounter a princess who is in desperate need of a savior.

Director: Andrew Stanton
Writers: Edgar Rice Burroughs, Mark Andrews, Michael Chabon, Andrew Stanton
Stars: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins and Willem Dafoe

John Carter hits theaters in 3D, 2D and IMAX 3D on March 9th.

The Establishing Shot: John Carter Special 2 – We see 5 clips of exclusive John Carter footage and its AWESOME! Read our full analysis here