John Carter 3D, Blu-ray+Blu-ray 3D+DVD+Digital Copy (2012)
Cast: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Wm. Dafoe, cgi creatures
Director: Andrew Stanton
Studio: Disney Buena Vista 108383 (4-disc set) [6/5/12]
Video: 1.85:1 for 16:0 1080p HD color
Audio: English & Martian DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, DD 2.0, French & Spanish tracks
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Extras: 3 additional discs, Disney Second Screen, “360 Degrees of John Carter,” Deleted scene, Barsoom bloopers, Audio commentary track with filmmakers, “100 Years in the Making” – follows the Edgar Rich Burroughs’ story from start to finish, other bonus features
Length: 132 minutes
This Disney 3D cgi extravaganza was based on the first book of a series by Edgar Rice Burroughs of an imagined Mars, and titled A Princess of Mars. It was a total flop on the big screens, partly due to horrible marketing and negative critics, but actually—especially in 3D—it’s great fun and captures the nonsensical Burroughs world perfectly with very impressive images and not embarrassing acting. Look at the last name of the actor playing Confederate cavalry officer John Carter, and you’ll see what the critics jumped on in their reviews. Disney originally had titled the movie John Carter of Mars, but deleted the of Mars part because they felt it would have limited female attendance, since most women don’t care for sci-fi.
Carter is transported to Mars (Barsoom, they call it) by a strange amulet he finds in a cave on earth. After his arrival he quickly discovers he can leap to great heights, probably due to the lower gravity, but it is never explained why nobody else can do that. Makes him a sort of low-budget Superman. He finds himself in the midst of a Martian civil war between the primitive four-armed Tharks—led by thoroughly cgi-ed William Dafoe, the leaders of Helium—especially Princess Dejah Thoris and her father, and the real villians—a bunch of fascist warrior types whose name I didn’t catch, who dress up in what looks like Roman soldier outfits left over from another movie. Oh, and there’s also some villainous shape-shifter overseers who try to muck things up both on Barsoom and Earth.
Carter proves his heroism in manny different ways, and eventually realizes that though he doesn’t want to fight for anybody, the whole survival of Barsoom lies with himself. The whole thing is pure pulp and it’s a kick if you just get into it and don’t try to be logical. Don’t mistake it for a documentary on Mars, please! Fans of the Burroughs books say the film departs from them considerably, but it does retain the hugely entertaining fantasy feeling. Lots of great flying contraptions—almost thought I was back watching one of Studio Ghibli’s animations—and I loved Carter’s (the Tharks called him Virginia, because that’s where he said he was from) very loyal Martian dog.
This was my first 3D Blu-ray be viewed on my new Panasonic plasma display. The brief instructions with the so-called universal Xpand 3D glasses failed to mention that you have to sync up the glasses with the brand of 3D display you have by pressing the on/off button a certain number of times. It took some effort to get them to work, but when they did the 3D effect was superb. I had to skip the low-brightness Custom setting I had set up with the various Blu-ray test discs and switch to Vivid to brighten up the image, to make up for the loss of brightness caused by the 3D glasses. (No matter what that survey supposedly said, shutter glasses are better 3D than passive ones.) Such scenes as the boat gliding down the deep canyons and the lavish wedding procession were spectacular in 3D. The battle scenes were also amazingly detailed and complex; somebody certainly created a lot of multi-armed Tharks for them. I noticed for the big finale battle both sides suddenly whipped out pistols and rifles for the first time for a grand finish.
John Carter is not without humor too, and the Princess is quite sexy. It’s a good yarn. Due to the poor reception of the movie in theaters, it’s said the idea of a sequel was dropped; too bad.
This limited edition Record Store Day vinyl release transcends movie scores.