Back in 2012, Walt Disney Pictures released John Carter. And recently we had a chance to rewatch it. Is it a great movie? Eh. But it does have some fantastic action set pieces, and the director – Andrew Stanton – does a great job of capturing the landscape of “Mars.”
In case you missed it, or in case you need a refresher, John Carter follows the story of a former civil war soldier, John Carter, who is mysteriously transported to Mars. Once there, he gets involved in the war between the Green Martians and the Red Martians. There’s also a princess and a love story element. But it’s the scenes on Mars that are the most compelling aspect of the movie. This is because Disney chose to shoot the principle photography for Mars right here in Southern Utah.
So in case you saw a place in this movie that you thought was incredible, we at the Red River Ranch have created this list of filming locations for you to check out. We’ve included a bunch of links to Google Maps. This is John Carter of Southern Utah:
Opening Mars Sequence
The scene when John Carter first discovers he is on Mars (and tries to figure out the change in gravity) was shot in our very own backyard – Wayne County. Filmed near the town of Hanksville in the West Desert, this scene invites the audience to view the bleak, stark beauty of the Southern Utah, uh, we mean the Martian, desert. Hanksville is located an hour east of Capitol Reef National Park. Most people pass through it on their way to Lake Powell. If you want to explore this area thoroughly, we recommend that you use off-road vehicles to explore the desert. Also check out our blog post about the general area.
The entire John Carter river sequence was shot in Lake Powell and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Lake Powell is a massive reservoir over 180 miles long. It is full of winding, twisting, side canyons that made it perfect for the movie. In fact, it might be our favorite sequence in the film. We just wrote a blog post about Lake Powell if you want some tips about visiting – but we definitely recommend getting a personal watercraft and exploring those side canyons. You can have your own river journey!
Various Traveling Scenes and Background Compilations
Many of the shots that were used as backdrops for the traveling sequences (on the way to the River Isiss, etc.) came from Kane County. There is A LOT of great stuff for you to check out here: The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Zion National Park, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, and even the Grand Canyon. Start by setting up base in the town of Kanab, then work your way to all those attractions.
Mount Carmel Junction
Disney filmed extensively near the Mount Carmel Junction. Mount Carmel is about 17 miles east of Zion National Park. (You might recognize the name from the Zion-Mount Carmel tunnel in the national park.) The John Carter production team actually got permission from the national park to build a road out to a very remote location, previously only accessible on foot. An extensive amount of the principle photography was shot in the Zion/Mount Carmel area. The road was removed after production wrapped, so you’ll need to explore on foot. Be sure to get a backcountry camping permit if you’re spending time in the Zion backcountry.
Another filming location for John Carter was in Millard County, near the city of Delta. It’s very sparse and gray near Delta, which is great for atmospheric shots of Mars. When visiting, check out the various trilobite dig sites nearby.
According to our research, there was additional background scenery shot out near Moab too. We hardly need to promote Moab, since people come from all over the world to visit. But in case you need some ideas of what to do when visiting there, check out our suggested itinerary.
Utah is Mars
While Utah is no stranger to the film industry – providing location shooting for over 100 major films – we at the Lodge at Red River Ranch have never seen a film that so prominently featured Utah. It’s not just background in John Carter either, the location is a vital part of the story. So is John Carter a great movie? No. But we really loved it anyway.