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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Adventure > Fantasy > Literature > Science Fiction > John Carter (2012/Disney Blu-Ray 3D w/Blu-ray 2D + DVD)

John Carter (2012/Disney Blu-Ray 3D w/Blu-ray 2D + DVD)


3D Picture: A-     2D Picture: A/B-     Sound: B+/B-     Extras: B+     Film: A-



What happens when you faithfully adapt a one hundred year old sci-fi, pulp adventure classic to the big screen?  Well, if you’re director Andrew Stanton you get short-shrifted on advertising and promotion, then dog-piled by snobby critics who haven’t thought to check the source material before attacking what turns out to be a damn fine action movie.  John Carter may never live down the “bomb” label it was unfairly saddled with when it was released earlier this spring, but this package from Disney will mark the beginning of the film’s long and productive second life as a home-video standout.  This amazing 4-disc collection includes the Blu-Ray 3D, standard Blu-Ray, DVD version, and the digital version for easy access on the go. 

The attractive package comes loaded with plenty of extras that include a feature on novelist Edgar Rice Burroughs, author of the original 1912, serialized novel A Princess of Mars.  This film adapts that first novel under the new title of John Carter.  Burroughs’ mind-blowing concepts made him a man ahead of his time, and his fiction included discussions of very real themes and issues, chief among them the dangers of tribalism and the consequences of environmental depredations.  As a side note, Mr. Burroughs went on to write a total of eleven books in the Barsoom (re: Mars) series.  Many deleted scenes hint at a more complete movie that might have been better received with a few different editing choices.  The featurette entitled 360 Degrees of John Carter takes you behind the scenes and reveals what an amazing logistical undertaking making the film turned out to be.


And what a film!  Having seen it in the theater on the night of its U.S. release, it loses none of its luster when viewed on the small screen.  Taylor Kitsch plays the titular role with tremendous force and understanding.  In this adaptation Carter begins a haunted and reluctant warrior, seeking his fortune and some measure of peace in the American southwest after suffering a terrible loss at the end of the American Civil War.  The movie really begins with Carter’s “death” and the principle action plays out as an elaborate flashback, pages from his journal read by his favorite nephew and heir, young Mr. Edgar Rice Burroughs. 


The victim of a strange transposition at the hands of a mysterious alien, Carter quickly finds himself on Mars.  But not the Red Planet of our modern understanding, rather the more fanciful Mars Mr. Burroughs’ and other writers of his era envisioned.  Populated by exotic denizens like the four-armed, towering Tharks and the Red Men of Helium and Zodanga, Mars is a world torn apart by conflict.  A lighter gravity world, Carter’s Earth-born muscles grant him prodigious strength and physical power on Mars, and while he stumbles upon the savage Tharks, he soon wins over their charismatic Jeddak (re: Warlord) Tars Tarkas, wonderfully voiced by Willem Dafoe. 


While happy for his limited acceptance, Carter’s thoughts remain on getting home. Circumstances work against him, however, and the appearance of the luminous Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) only serves to draw him further into the planet’s internecine battles.  Supported by stunning visual effects and a super supporting cast, once the story gets going it moves at a breakneck clip.  HBO Rome veterans Ciarán Hinds (Tardos Mors) and James Purefoy (Kantos Kan) play smaller, but powerful roles as allies of Carter, and Mark Strong ably plays the diabolical manipulator Matai Shang.  Director Stanton smoothly blends CGI effects and live shots on the film’s many amazing action sequences, and the costumes, weapons, and vehicles channel some of the best design work available and really capture Mr. Burroughs’ amazing worlds.


Putting all of these elements together makes John Carter a complete and faithful adaptation, and while some point to Mr. Stanton’s use of “weird” words like Helium, Barsoom, Jasoom (Earth), and Jeddak, these are the sorts of elements that make the film honest and true to its source material.  While Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote eleven novels in the Barsoom series, we may only ever get to see this first one presented with this level of care, precision, and artful style.  If this movie marks Mr. Stanton’s only shot at the Barsoomian legacy, then so be it.  It was a damn fine result, and if there’s any justice in the entertainment world, this one will enjoy the wildly successful second life it so richly deserves.


The 2.35 X 1, 1080p full HD MVC-encoded 3-D – Full Resolution digital High Definition image is a conversion from a 2D shoot, though it was shot on 35mm film in real anamorphic Panavision and that really helps this look good and that is where part of the money went.  The CG Stanton used is as good as it gets with his Pixar experience and the company being owned by Disney, this is not going to look much better for its time.  The 1080p 2.35 X 1 2D digital High Definition image is the best, however, shot by Director of Photography Daniel Mindel (Star Trek (2009), Spy Game, Mission: Impossible III, Enemy Of Teh State) had to also shoot this wqith 70mm IMAX blow-up presentations in mind, so this is a top rate A-level big budget production in the best sense and though the anamorphically enhanced DVD version can hardly compete with the Blu-rays, it looks as good as it can at 480p.


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 7.1 lossless mix on both Blu-ray editions offer an amazing sonic experience anmd the kind you would expect from a film that weas going to play through a 64-speaker IMAX system, well-recorded with exceptional dynamic range and Michael Giacchino’s fine music score never overshadowing dialogue or sound design showing great balance of all the elements.  The combination of this mix and either Blu-ray HD image will challenge the best home theater systems.  The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on the DVD is fine for what it is, but is missing the impact of the DTS-MA.



-   Scott Pyle


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