Andrew Stanton Talks 'John Carter' Title Change and Reshoots

Monday, 05 December 2011 10:30 Written by  Jordan DeSaulnier
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Andrew Stanton Talks 'John Carter' Title Change and Reshoots

After months of keeping surprisingly quiet, Disney has opened up the nascent marketing campaign for John Carter, the studio's hugely-budgeted science fiction epic that is being positioned as the start to a franchise adapting the massively influential Barsoom novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs.  Last week, we saw a full theatrical trailer and a series of banner posters.  Now that Disney is beginning to sell the film in earnest, its co-writer and director Andrew Stanton is talking a bit about two potentially sore subjects.  The first is the film's title, which is being widely criticized as bland enough that it will fail to intrigue general audiences.  The second is the production's extensive reshoot period, which Stanton explains as part of an intuitive and healthy process.

The film adapts the first novel in Burroughs' Barsoom series, A Princess of Mars, first published almost a century ago.  The long-in-development project was referred to for quite some time as John Carter of Mars, until the title was formally shortened to John Carter earlier this year.  Speaking to Bleeding Cool, Stanton explained the rationale behind both title changes, saying,

"Here’s the real truth of it. I’d already changed it from A Princess Of Mars to John Carter Of Mars. I don’t like to get fixated on it, but I changed Princess Of Mars… because not a single boy would go.

And then the other truth is, no girl would go to see John Carter Of Mars. So I said, 'I don’t won’t to do anything out of fear, I hate doing things out of fear, but I can’t ignore that truth.'

All the time we were making this big character story which just so happens to be in this big, spectacular new environment. But it’s not about the spectacle, it’s about the investment. I thought, I’ve really worked hard to make all of this an origin story. It’s about a guy becoming John Carter. So I’m not misrepresenting what this movie is, it’s John Carter.

Mars is going to stick on any other film in the series. But by then, it won’t have a stigma to it."

I can definitely see the rationale there, but as a title, John Carter simply isn't evocative.  John Carter of Mars positions the mundanity of the name against a potentially spectacular setting; without of Mars, it's just a dude's name.  Based on both trailers and most of the marketing thus far, in fact, you wouldn't really be able to guess that the film takes place on Mars.  The idea that subsequent films in the series would attach the of Mars seems a case of a cart rolling way ahead of a horse, to use a terrible cliche.

As for the reshoots, Stanton explained that they were simply part of his entire filmmaking philosophy, cultivated at Pixar Animation Studios, where he co-wrote and directed Finding Nemo and Wall-E and contributed to the scripts for Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc., and A Bug's Life.  Reshooting helped make John Carter crazy-expensive, enough so that it was said to have been a contributor to Disney's much-publicized trepidation on The Lone Ranger.  But Stanton, making his live action directorial debut, believes it simply makes sense to plan on additional photography, as he explained,

"You know, I planned reshoots for after I got an assembly, so I had real objectivity about what it needed. That’s all we do at Pixar. The truth is, we rip down and put up our movies a minimum of four times over four years. How I learned to make a movie by shooting it four times. That’s how me make them.

People wonder what the magic elixir of Pixar is. It’s this: we shoot the movie four times!

There’s no rocket science to it. It’s like saying, you’re a musician. You get to go and write a song, but you only get to touch the strings once on your guitar. Once. And then we take it away from you. As opposed to just going into your office and just strum until you get a great tune.

To me, that’s just how art is formed. So, again, no huge epiphany.

It’s definitely more cumbersome with live action, so I couldn’t set up four reshoots, but damn, I’ll always ask for as many as I can get, because I don’t find any embarrassment in that."

The director has a lot more to say on the additional shooting and the thinking behind it over at Bleeding Cool, so check out his thoughts on changing the way live action movies are made.  Interesting, ambitious stuff.

Stanton wrote John Carter with fellow Pixarian Mark Andrews, who is currently busy directing Brave, and Michael Chabon, the novelist and essayist responsible for Wonder Boys, Manhood for Amateurs, and the Pulitzer Prize winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and ClayTaylor Kitsch stars as the title character, with Lynn Collins as the formerly eponymous Princess of Mars.  The supporting cast includes Willem Dafoe, Dominic West, Polly Walker, Mark Strong, Ciaran Hinds, Thomas Haden Church, Samantha Morton, Bryan Cranston, and Daryl Sabara.

John Carter attempts to kick start a huge franchise in theaters on March 9, 2012.

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