John Carter Cheat Sheet: Everything You Need To Know

After being in development limbo for decades, film inspired by Edgar Rice Burroughs 'Mars' stories finally comes to the big screen.
By Kevin P. Sullivan

Taylor Kitsch in "John Carter"
Photo: Disney

"John Carter" may look like other sci-fi and fantasy films that you know, but there's a good reason for that. The original Edgar Rice Burroughs stories that inspired the film and dozens others like it have been stuck in development limbo since the 1930s and are finally getting their big debut on the silver screen.

But before you head out to the theater to see Taylor Kitsch leap tall buildings in a loin cloth, we've rounded up everything you need to know about "John Carter" in a helpful cheat sheet.

Edgar Rice Burroughs may best be remembered for his stories about the man among apes, Tarzan, but roughly around the time of his famous character's first appearance, he began publishing "The Princess of Mars" in serialized installments. Burroughs eventually published 11 Barsoom (Mars, to us Earthlings) books in all.

The series went on to become one of the most influential in the genre, inspiring well-known works like "Star Wars" and James Cameron's "Avatar."

Because of the series' enormous impact on science fiction and fantasy and its other-worldly visuals, the Barsoom series seemed ripe for big-screen adaptation, and indeed, MGM was set to release an animated version as early as 1936. Test footage failed to wow audiences back then, and a production went back on hold until the 1980s when Disney attempted an adaptation with Tom Cruise in the lead. That attempt also fell apart due to the limitations of technology at the time.

In 2004, "Sin City" director Robert Rodriguez signed on to helm "John Carter of Mars," using the same tech from the comic book adaptation. Ironically, it was "Sin City" that made Rodriguez unable to ultimately direct, since that movie caused him to leave the Directors Guild of America. "Iron Man" director Jon Favreau stepped in after yet another director swap, but Paramount did not renew the film rights, eventually sending the film back to Disney.

"John Carter of Mars" was set to be the first live-action film directed by Pixar regular Andrew Stanton, who won over audiences with "Finding Nemo" and "WALL-E." Stanton wrote the screenplay with Pixar-ian Mark Andrews, and Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon took a pass during rewrites. One of the most controversial aspects of the production came when "of Mar" was taken out of the title for the sake of marketing. Disney's previous "Mars" movie, "Mars Needs Moms," failed at the box office, so the fourth planet became a bit taboo.

The screen version of "John Carter" stars Kitsch in the title role. In the film, Carter is a former Confederate cavalry man who finds himself mysteriously transported to the red planet. There, he quickly finds himself captive of the native four-armed, green-skinned Tharks and at odds between two human cities at war for control of Barsoom. Add in the Martian princess Dejah Thoris, played by Lynn Collins, and you have yourself a rousing sci-fi adventure.

Check out everything we've got on "John Carter."

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