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Holy Crap!! Rodriguez Just Can't Stop!! First SIN CITY, And Now... PRINCESS OF MARS!!!

Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...

This has been one of those holy grail/what if/maybe someday when technology catches up sort of projects for as long as people have been trying to make fantasy films, and it feels like the time is finally right.

First of all, am I allowed to say how happy I am that Robert is not writing this film? I enjoy the movies he's been making lately... ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO, the SPY KIDS films... but they're all minor pleasures, simple goofs that fade as soon as you step out of the theater. And I think he's a better filmmaker than that. Like Kevin Smith, he's a talented guy who is plagued by one fatal flaw. In Smith's case, it's the fact that he has about as much visual acumen behind the camera as Ray Charles would. In Robert's case, it's the fact that he sometimes shoots faster than he thinks.

This time out, he's working from a script by Mark Protosevich, and despite my on-the-record hatred for THE CELL, I think this guy's got the goods. His I AM LEGEND script is one of the most highly-regarded unfilmed scripts in recent Hollywood memory for a good reason. It's epic and personal at the same time, and it does a hell of a job of turning a familiar piece of material into something fresh.

And what I'm hearing about this script is that he did the impossible and really brought the Edgar Rice Burroughs original up to modern standards, dramatically. Burroughs was a great pulp writer, but A PRINCESS OF MARS was the first novel he ever published, and even though it's obviously powered by a huge imagination, it's not his best book. It's always been one of those properties that was ripe with potential, and filmmakers have tried desperately to crack the thing and bring it to the screen.

The trades are running the story today about Robert signing his deal to direct this film as soon as he's finished with SIN CITY, but so far, as best as I can tell, they've only got some of the story. For example, VARIETY lists Alphaville partners Jim Jacks and Sean Daniels as co-producers along with Robert and his wife Elizabeth, who should be welcoming their new son into the world sometime today, so congratulations are in order on many fronts for the Rodriguez family today. As I understand it, there's another producing partner on the film that should be announced soon that is apparently in top secret negotiations, someone who has been close to this project for a while now. Hopefully, I'll be able to pin down some of these rumors in the days ahead.

I assume a lot of you don't know the John Carter books, since they're not exactly easy to find these days. All told, I found about eight out of the eleven books online to purchase, and some of those were only available used. If you want to get a handle on what the John Carter books are all about, you could start here, a fansite that gives a nice overview of what it is that draws people to the material. If you go poking around the Internet, though, you'll find all sorts of great material about the tortured development history that this project has suffered through en route to the bigscreen.

For example, Bob Clampett and John Coleman Burroughs attempted to make it 5 years before Disney produced SNOW WHITE. Had they succeeded, it would have been the first feature-length animated film, and it would have been radically different than the type of films Disney ended up producing. Who knows what the animation industry would look like now if they had succeeded. They actually made it to animation tests that Clampett animated, while John and his wife painted the cels, and these can be seen on the BEANY AND CECIL DVD. If you want to read more about this potential version of the film, you can do so right here.

Ray Harryhausen also took a crack at it, but he was frustrated by the scale of the story. He never managed to find a way to break it down to a feasible size, and had to give up on it eventually.

Walt Disney considered the property while he was alive, but it wasn't until much later that the Walt Disney Company spent millions of dollars in development costs trying to get PRINCESS OF MARS made. John McTiernan was attached to it for a while, and Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott wrote a script that attracted a lot of fans over the years, like Tom Hanks. Both Tom Cruise and Julia Roberts were rumored to be involved at various points. It was an incredibly expensive proposition, though, and McTiernan never managed to convince Disney to pull the trigger. I'm hoping these guys detail their development process on their excellent Wordplayer website sometime in the future.

The idea of Rodriguez making a film that will cost well north of $100 million is intriguing since we know he gets a lot of bang for the buck. In his hands, it should look like three times that much money. And with Texas soundstages standing in for Barsoom, I'm curious about the film's look. I know that Rodriguez is a raving Frank Frazetta fan, and just recently had a chance to visit Frazetta at his museum, where they specifically discussed Conan and John Carter, two of the subjects Frazetta brought to such vivid life in his work. One can only hope that he'll follow the lead of Peter Jackson, whose choice to involve Alan Lee and John Howe in LORD OF THE RINGS helped define that trilogy's visual style early on. If Rodriguez was able to convince Frank Miller that he can reproduce SIN CITY's look onscreen, one can only imagine what would happen if he signed Frazetta to help steer the John Carter film's palette. After all, Robert did get Frazetta to do this poster for FROM DUSK TIL DAWN.

Personally, I can't wait to see 14 foot tall creatures with 4 arms, tusks, antennae and eyes on the side of their heads. I can't wait to visit Barsoom. I can't wait to see John Carter fighting with the dexterity and leaping ability of Spider-Man, but with a sword. I can't wait to see this wild Martian landscape brought to vivid life. This is one of those projects that has been a long time coming, and with all of these people in charge, I finally have faith that it might just get done right.

"Moriarty" out.

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