People Tell Me I Look Like Han Solo.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
  I am getting my ass to Mars in 2012
I've mentioned here before the admiration I have for Pixar, even if many of their movies are a little too kiddie-friendly for my tastes (I love The Incredibles with a passion, but stuff like Cars and Finding Nemo aren't really my cup of tea). They're rightly considered the cream of the animation crop. The cast for their latest project is coming together, and I'm incredibly excited about it for a number of reasons. It's also a pretty significant change of pace for the animation house.

The film is John Carter of Mars, due in 2012, an adapation of the first in a series of novels by TarzaThe legendary Frank Frazetta's iconic take on Cartern creator Edgar Rice Burroughs, and the thing that sets it apart from previous Pixar projects is it will star live actors alongside animated characters (not unlike James Cameron's Avatar). The story follows a Civil War veteran mysteriously warped to a Mars populated by all sorts of bizzare creatures, from red-skinned men and women to four-armed, green-skinned monsters called Tharks. Carter finds that in Mars' thinner atmosphere and lower gravity he has superhuman strength, speed and leaping ability (not unlike the original Superman comics which would debut a few decades after Burroughs' stories), and quickly becomes embroiled in the centuries-long conflict between the red men of Barsoom (the Martians' name for their planet) and the green Tharks, eventually wooing the beautiful red-skinned princess of Mars, Deja Thoris.

One reason I'm so excited about John Carter of Mars is that I've read the first three books in Burroghs' Barsoom series, and they're a blast. Pure, pulpy fun, with swashbuckling adventure, romance, crazy monsters and airship battles. They're quite similiar to Star Wars in the way Burroughs fuses fantasy adventure with science fiction. The story is decidely more grown-up than Pixar's previous movies – the books get quite violent, though I suspect the movie will be toned down at least a bit – but I can't think of a better group of creators to bring the 15-foot-tall Tharks to life than Pixar.

The other, bigger reason I'm so excited about this project is the cast of actors they're lining up, specifically in supporting roles. Taylor Kitsch (still can't get over that name) will star as Carter, and Lynn Collins will play the princess, Dejah Thoris. Both were co-stars in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Kitsch as Gambit and Collins as Logan's love interest. Neither blew me away in that movie – the only time I've seen either of them in anything – but they weren't bad, so I'm keeping an open mind.

But here's where things get awesome. Previously announced as playing (or, I guess, voicing) some of the Tharks are Willem Dafoe as a green warrior who eventually becomes Carter's closest ally, Dominic West (who was delightful as Jigsaw in Punisher: War Zone and was the lead in The Wire, for my money the best TV show in the history of the medium) as an evil Thark leader, and Samantha Morton as a kind-hearted female Thark.
Just announced are Thomas Hayden Church as another evil Thark leader, Mark Strong (who's excellent in Guy Ritchie's RockNRolla and is the villain in Ritchie's upcoming Sherlock Holmes) as the benevolent leader of the red men, and James Purefoy (TV's Rome and The Philanthropist) as another noble red warrior who helps Carter.

2012 is a long ways off, but I'm a hundred times more excited about John Carter of Mars than I am about Avatar, and that's not a knock on Cameron's movie. Between the solid source material, the top-notch talent behind the camera and what's shaping up to be a crackerjack cast, I'm starting to get angry that I'm going to have to wait two-plus years to see this thing.

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