Friday, January 29, 2010

Michael Chabon on the John Carter of Mars movie

Michael Chabon is one of the script writers on Disney's John Carter of Mars movie. In an interview with ERBzine he gives us our clearest indication yet exactly what Andrew Stanton is going to do with Edgar Rice Burroughs original Mars novels. How the script is going to translate the books into a form suitable for film.

As someone who works in entertainment (video games) I understand why intellectual properties are changed to fit the needs, the strengths and weaknesses, of a different media. As long as it is done with respect to the original property, and isn't changed for the sake of appeasing the director's own ego or some ridiculous marketing demands, it can work. Staying true to the spirit of the original is how you can embrace the fans of the original and bring in a whole new audience.

Spiderman 2 is a good example of this, and to a lesser degree X-Men 1 & 2 did it also. Take the original seriously and with respect, not as some big fat cheesy joke (like Batman & Robin, Starship Troopers, Godzilla...)

Here is the interview:


  1. I just dont' know, Thomas. I have a fear of John Carter surfing down a martian dune on a shield, or being afflicted with contemporary sensibilities.
    Every time Hollywood makes a classic scifi or fantasy book into a movie, they make a big deal of staying true to the spirit of the original, but they never do.
    I don't think they can. Just as WOTC blathers on about 4E's Old School cred without understanding OS gaming attitudes, Hollywood is full of people who are clueless about the source material they draw from.
    Jason Momoa as Conan for example, Gahh.

  2. This is great! Thanks for the news! Michael Chabon is a fantastic writer and now that Disney's film division is headed by John Lasseter (of Pixar) this project has real legs under it. If there's anyone who can pull it off, it's these guys!

  3. E.G.Palmer: of course Hollywood's history is replete with abysmal adaptations, so your fears are well founded. However, I do admire the Pixar method, which is entirely different from Hollywood. Andrew Stanton proved with Wall-E how well he could handle this genre, but it remains to be seen how he'll do with grown up material. I have high (but reserved) hopes.

  4. He talked about the pacing of the novels and that it doesn't 'fit' with a modern movie pace, I beg to differ. What comes to mind is the Flash Gordon film of the 80's. It seemed to be very episodic in it's telling. Similar to how I read the Princess of Mars book. Anyway, I understand the different medium thing (I majored in film/animation years ago) so I'm open and have hope for this one.

  5. Michael Chabon is one of the best living american writers, and has tremendous respect for the source material.
    And for that matter, can nothing be changed? The Jon Carter stories are horrifically racist and sexist, in pretty major, indefensible ways. Revision doesn't sit well with me, but I can certainly understand it.

  6. It's pretty hard to see how an honest to goodness, straight forward, unaltered, translation could be made. I love A Princess of Mars, but having reread it recently the pacing needs work. There are throw away things that have huge ramifications for storytelling (everyone is telepathic!?). I'm most curious how they handle John Carter's transit to Mars, the book is very strange and obfuscates this point.

  7. Thanks for linking this, Thomas. I doubt I would've found it otherwise.

    I must say that, although I was already excited about this project, I became even more excited when I learned Chabon was associated with it. I feel fairly confident that the film will be faithful in spirit, if not in detail (which, to me, is what counts).

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