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D23: Andrew Stanton presents John Carter footage, including Woola's introduction!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with probably the easiest of today’s reports from D23 to write. Why easy? Well, because I’ve already written it! The John Carter presentation was a shorter version of the “edit bay” I already wrote up, so if you want to get the skinny on the footage shown just click here and read my edit bay description!

There are two exceptions to Andrew Stanton’s presentation. He showed one new scene, introducing John Carter’s monster-dog Woola (He-Man fans unfamiliar with Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter series, think of Woola as an uglier battle cat, but loyal like a good dog) and he also had Taylor Kitsch, Willem Dafoe and Lynn Collins up on stage with him.

The Q&A with the actors was a bust, Dafoe not getting much time and Lynn Collins coming across like a beauty pageant contestant nervously fumbling an easy question in front of judges. Stanton’s passion was enough to keep the JC portion floating though. The man’s passion is infectious.

I still have the same basic problem with footage I’ve already seen (in that Mars isn’t nearly fantastic enough… it doesn’t feel like an artistic choice, but a filmmaker screw-up making Mars look like an American desert. I know Stanton intentionally is going after a certain realism and as a John Carter fan I don’t think that’s the right way to go. This was a pulp adventure first and foremost and I can’t shake the feeling in some of this footage that some fun is being sacrificed to make it feel less pulpy than the original stories.

So, I can’t fault a lot of the technical filmmaking I’ve seen. Stanton, is a master storyteller, but I do disagree with the initial approach.

However Woola’s introduction scene they showed today is the very first thing I’ve seen from Stanton’s John Carter that I love without reservation.

The scene starts with John Carter chained to a wall, unconscious. He wakes up and a couple dozen baby Tharks have snuggled up next to him, with some laying over him like cats. He shimmies them off and the mew a little, sleepily curling up into their own balls. From the darkness comes a massive shape.

Woola is about the size of a big lion, with massive head, gaping mouth with rows of razor-sharp teeth. Woola is furless and has a flat face, almost like a pug.

Carter freezes as Woola slowly makes his way into the room, next to the babies and Carter himself, slumping down and snoring. Carter quietly pulls at his chains, trying to gain his freedom without waking the beast up.

He rips one set from the wall, concerned he woke it up, but Woola doesn’t move. Carter rips the other chain out and he’s free. He sees a staircase far beyond the dog-like creature and smiles as he jumps over Woola, sails a couple dozen feet (Mars’ gravity means Carter can take Superman-like leaps... in fact, it is believed that John Carter was an influence on Jerry Siegel when creating the character) and lands at the top of the stairs… right in front of Woola. Wait, how can that be? That sluggish creature was just down the steps? Carter looks back and sees the remains of a dust trail zigzagging up the stairs.

Carter turns back and Woola’s right in his face, tongue lolling out. Woola thinks this is a game. Carter takes an even great leap and lands just as Woola zips up to the step below Carter, a veritable grin on his face. Carter whispers “Quit it!” and jumps again, Woola a blur as he gives chase, leaving that dust trail in his wake.

The playfulness of Woola and the character animation was perfect and I can tell already that even if I end up not being a fan of Collins as Dejah Thoris or have nitpicks when it comes to certain aesthetic choices Stanton has made along the way I will love Woola.

So, that was the good news to come out of that particular presentation! Next!

-Eric Vespe
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