Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter novels were originally published over a century ago and there have been attempts to bring the tales to the big-screen for almost as long. It finally happened 10 years ago with Andrew Stanton’s live-action adaptation of the first novel, but unfortunately, the movie was a box-office bomb and a critical disappointment, which meant that John Carter 2 wasn’t going to happened.
The Wrap recently released a great article about the birth and death of the John Carter movie that features interviews with cast and crew, including director Andrew Stanton. The project was always envisioned as the first of a trilogy and Stanton revealed his pitch for John Carter 2, which would have been titled Gods of Mars.
I love the idea of you were going to open with the prologue. It was going to be that every movie had a different character saying the prologue. The first one is Willem, as Tars. The second one’s prologue narration was going to be Dejah. And it was going to give anybody that hadn’t seen the first movie a little precursor of the history that got you to this movie. Shorthand, interesting imagery, whether it was artwork or whatever. And then you were going to reveal she was telling it to her baby. And you were going to realize, Oh my God, it’s the child. It’s Carthoris, this child of Dejah Thoris and Carter. And that story she’s telling, she’s telling the story of the father that this child will never know.
“And then her dad, Ciarán Hinds’ character, Tardos Mors, said she’s been up too long, she’s tired, let her grandfather have a moment with the child and I’ll put her to bed,” Andrew Stanton explained. “Then it was going to be revealed to be Matai Shang in shapeshifting mode. And he was going to steal the baby. And then it was going to go onto the opening credits. The next image after the opening credits was going to be Carter lying in his funeral suit in the middle of the desert, just looking like a dead body in a wake and just waking up.” Stanton continued:
Then he’s just going to take off his jacket like it was nothing and just start walking. And then eventually, just like out of ‘Lawrence of Arabia,’ way out in the horizon, is going to come a Thark on a thoat. And he’s going to surprise Carter by saying he knows exactly who he is and there’s been somebody looking for you. He brings him to a camp and it’s Kantos Kan which is James Purefoy, who’d been searching forever off of any river where this guy went. And so shocked that he’s found him. And then he says, ‘You have to get back now to heal him.’ And he gets back and you think it’s going to be a reunion, only to find out that there’s been some time between the prologue and the main credits.
Stanton continued: “Now Dejah’s gone missing. She’s convinced that the Therns took their child and if Carter ever comes back, she went down the River Iss to try and find him. And then, like ‘Beneath the Planet of the Apes,’ it all takes place, everybody going into the earth to find out who’s really been controlling the whole planet. There’s a whole race down there that has been with high tech. Basically, it’s been a third world without anybody knowing it on the top of the surface and the first world’s been inside the whole time operating the air, the water, the everything to keep the world functioning.” It’s clear that Stanton had thought a great deal about building the John Carter universe, so it’s a shame that we never got to see it completed. Disney no longer has the rights to John Carter, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before we see him again.