Sunday saw Disney bring their showcase to London’s Empire BIG SCREEN convention. With D23 barely a week away, no one was really expecting to see anything new or particularly thrilling, just a rehash of the footage screened at Comic-Con last month. So when a video of Andrew Stanton popped up on the screen, introducing footage from John Carter (formerly “of Mars”), an air of surprise and excitement filled the room.
In the first clip, John Carter is on what looks to be a Martian beach, with a sand flat, flanked by a rock structure with stairs cut into it on one side, and what seems to be water on the other. The setting is reminiscent of old fashioned sci-fi movies like Forbidden Planet. Our hero climbs the stairs, and looks through the glass floor at the top, down into an incubation chamber for the eggs of one of the Martian species, the Tharks. There is a brief cut to a shot of a green arm, holding a spear, from the shaft of which dangles a thin metal chain – then we’re back with John Carter, as a group of adult Tharks arrive, riding Thoats – large, animals that look like a cross between a horse and a rhino. They seem as surprised by Carter as he is by them – as Carter starts saying ‘what the’ and his line is finished off as a subtitled statement by one of the Tharks. The scene then plays out very much like the standard cliche of two cultures meeting, weapons are put aside, a tentative approach is made, and there is confusion over language. In this case, however, it’s the aliens taking the lead, and approaching our protagonist. It’s a simple switch around, but it really does make the scene feel like something new and interesting.
The second clip sees John Carter, along with the alien who introduced himself in the previous clip, Thars Tharkas, in an arena, about to be attacked by a wild beast. It’s very brief, but gives a nice contrast to the dusty, desert feel of the previous clip, showing us a huge coliseum-style building, filled with hundreds of spectators.
The uniting factor for both clips is that, at no point do they feel like any of the countless films that John Carter inspired–particularly not Avatar–hopefully the rest of the movie will also seem that original.
John Carter opens in 3D, 2D and IMAX 3D theaters on March 9.