So how do the last two movies about mars look side by side in terms of Mars is presented? Here’s what we did. First, I tried to get the images from the trailers on the official websites on the theory that this would be the best way of being sure it was a true image as intended by the filmmaker. However, the Disney John Carter website uses a player that is plays a huge “Play” button whenever the image is stopped, so that didnt work. as the net best option, I went to the official studio YouTube trailer. I made screen grabs of the “Mars Exterior” shots in each trailer. My computer is a Macbook Pro with Retina display. I took the images into iPhoto where I cropped them but did no adjustment of color values , contrast, or anythign like that. The images are “as-captured.”
Finally, I tried to arrange the split screen by pairing images that have some reason for being paird together. Hopefully what I mean by that will be apparent.
Here they are:
What Do You Think?
What I think is no secret. First, I’ve never demanded that Stanton make the movie just the way I want it. I know that I’ve got my own version rattling around in my head — it’s been there for quite awhile. I respect the film-making process and Stanton’s choices in this area, while they were different than what I would have liked to have seen, didn’t drive me crazy or become a topic that I harped on. But I have written about it, and I’ve acknowledged that I had problems with the color palette and other aspects of the “look” that Stanton chose to go with. But anyway, since we now have a point of comparison to anothe Mars movie, here are my notes. These are the same notes I would have given if I had a chance to weigh in on John Carter when it was still a work-in-progress, only now we have The Martian as a way of illustrating the points I would have tried to make:
Quality of Light
Mars is not earth. It’s much, much farther from the sun. Shouldn’t the quality of light be different than on earth? Farther away, thinner atmosphere? The Stanton light to me just feels like ordinary sunlight on earth.
Qualty of the Sky
Pretty much the same note as above. The sky in JC was uniformly blue, with no clouds, and nothing distinctive about it or different than a sunny day on earth. The sky in The Martian has a rose hue which feels right and is also present inmost of the images sent back from the Mars Rover. (Someone said that NASA tings those images to make things appear more alien. I don’t know if that’s true but if they do — it proves my point. We need somethign to make it feel like we’re somewhere other than Utah.)
The last picture in the sequence illustrates this point. It costs almost nothing except a tiny bit of computer time to make the mountains/rocks in the background look the way they do in The Martian, as opposed to the much less compelling look in John Carter. This is NOT a cost issue. Layering in some background images is not the least bit hard or expensive. It just requires being aware of it and putting some effort into it.
Why did Stanton make the soil so “not-red”? I’ve been puzzled by it. One possible reason can be found in A Princess of Mars: “I found myself lying prone upon a bed of yellowish, mosslike vegetation which stretched around me in all directions for interminable miles. I seemed to be lying in a deep, circular basin, along the outer verge of which I could distinguish the irregularities of low hills.” Elsewhere Burroughs refers to the moss as “ochre.” Is that why Stanton went in the direction he did? Maybe.
Anyway, those are my thoughts. One more thing. When I did the first fan trailer, one of the things that I tried very hard to do was delay the moment when the eye starts getting all these dull drab images. I tried to front load the trailer with images that had richer visual content and emphasized the magnificence of Barsoom, not a barren desert. Obviously I couldn’t make it go away entirely, nor would I want to — Barsoom is definitely desert-like and you can’t run from that. But I felt that the Disney trailers and TV spots, featuring the coliseum scene and the white ape and one scene after another from the desert, were creating were creating an excessively drab overall impression of the movie.
Oh well . . .