Samantha Morton, Dominic West and Polly Walker have signed on for roles in Andrew Stanton’s (Finding Nemo, WALL-E) live-action debut, John Carter of Mars. They join Taylor Kitsch (John Carter), Lynn Collins (Dejah Thoris) and Willem Dafoe (Tars Takas). THR reports that Morton will portray the green martian Sola, the daughter of Tars Takas, who has an unusually soft side for her species and must hide it. She becomes an ally of John Carter. Dominic West will play Sab Than, the prince of the Zodangans, which is a tribe of the red martians, a species virtually identical to Earth humans. Polly Walker has the role of Sarkoja, a tyrannical green martian who delights in having Dejah as a prisoner.
John Carter of Mars is an adaptation of A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The novel began its serialization in 1912 and spawned eight other novels and several shorter tales over the following thirty years. A Civil War veteran of the Confederate side, John Carter finds himself taking refuge in a cave after an Indian attack when he is mysteriously transported to Mars. Due to the lower gravity, Carter has superhuman strength on the planet, which helps win him favor when he stumbles across the Green Martians, a race of four-armed warriors twice the height of humans. When these people capture Dejah Thoris, princess of the humanlike Red Martians, Carter plots to save her and her people from their oppressors and winning her love along the way. It’s a classic example of sci-fi/fantasy pulp literature.
Stanton wrote the script with Mark Andrews, one of Pixar’s story guys, and Michael Chabon later made some revisions. The production is set to begin early next year with the movie due out sometime 2011. Along with TRON Legacy, this is one of the big Disney films I’m looking forward to. It’ll be interesting to see Andrew Stanton move into live-action work although there will be no shortage of CGI martians either. If they can properly capture the battles between John Carter and 12-foot tall four-armed green aliens and have it not look ridiculous, this should be pretty cool. A challenge of a different order will surely involve whether or not to modify the very dated racist and sexist undertones that cropped up at times in the novel. Hopefully it all comes together for a crazy, pulpy fantasy flick set on Mars.