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DVD Review: John Carter

Posted by Patrick Sauriol on Tuesday, June 12, 2012

After first reviewing Disney’s John Carter movie three months ago upon its theatrical release, I wanted to take a second look at the film again once it hit home video. Did I find the movie more appealing to me upon a second viewing? No, I didn’t, but neither did I find it diminished either. I stand by my original review and observations of John Carter: that it’s a serviceable sci-fi pulp escapist film, one that doesn’t draw you into its hero or world the same was as James Cameron’s 3D descendant Avatar. This is the root of John Carter’s problem, and why it couldn’t rise higher than what its bankers and longtime fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars books had hoped for.

On Blu-ray, the visuals of John Carter look majestic, full of rich blues and reds. From the armor of the Helium guards to the red skin tones of the native Martians, John Carter is a pretty movie to look at, and to marvel at how Disney spent $200 million dollars. They didn’t cheap out and the Blu-ray cut shows the costumes, exterior locations and sets off fantastically. The CG for the Tharks, the green-skinned, four-armed Martian race, is also good. Their motion is pretty fluid in regards to their environment, and in the scenes where they interact with the human actors they don't come across like expensive cartoon characters.

The bonus features are what would interest me the most if I were on the fence about owning John Carter outside of its appeal as a film. Thankfully Disney’s home video department didn’t decide to cut out some of this material in light of John Carter’s tepid box office returns ($74 million dollars domestic, on a budget that is reported to be somewhere around $220 million.)

By far the most appealing to someone wanting to see the production side of the story is the half-hour long “360 Degrees of John Carter” featurette which shows what a single day was like making the production. I found this short to be fascinating because I love to see the staggering amount of work that goes into any given day making a Hollywood movie. On this given day John Carter’s workload was probably larger than the average production since it required green screen work as well as weapons training for the cast. I’d recommend watching this segment for anyone that has a casual or greater interest in how an actual movie gets made with all of its moving parts. Ten deleted scenes are also included on the Blu-ray and they feature an introduction from director Andrew Stanton explaining his reasoning for keeping them out of the final cut of the film. Some scenes are rougher than others and feature unfinished animation.

“100 Years in the Making” features interviews from several folk who had a hand in the production. They talk about their appreciation of Burroughs’ work and how they perceived the process of getting John Carter made into a movie (and it was a long journey.) A surprise appearance is made by real-life scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson and his feelings about the source material.

A “Second Screen” feature allows you to use a laptop or iPad to reference production notes, concept artwork, storyboards and other production material while you watch the movie. I didn’t take part with this feature but I like the concept and Disney’s adoption to give a more complete viewing experience for its customers. There is also a short amount of blooper material on the disc, but by now if you’ve seen one gag outtake, you’ve pretty much seen ‘em all.

An audio commentary is provided by director Stanton and producers Jim Morris and Lindsay Collins. In this post-release period of the movie, it's interesting to hear them talk about the ideas they have for sequels and how things would've played out.

John Carter likely won’t find a larger audience in the years to come. As I said, it’s not a bad representative of this kind of mainstream popcorn adventure. Still, my gut tells me that it should've turned out to be grander than it is, and the problems that I had with the movie in my theatrical review of the film are still there. Neither is it a poor movie, and the advantage of watching it on Blu-ray depends on how well your home theater is set up and how well your expectations are managed.

Review Score: 65 / 100

Posts: 7587
Posted: 5 years 19 weeks ago

Did they add "Of Mars" back into the title yet?

Faster and faster, a nightmare we ride. Who'll take the reins when the miracle dies? Faster and faster till everything dies. Killing is our way of keeping alive. - Virgin Steele, Blood and Gasoline
Posts: 5753
Posted: 5 years 19 weeks ago

I'd read some reviews (Harry, probably) calling the movie "this generation's Star Wars" to paraphrase, but I don't get the comparison. Like you said in your original review, it was servicable and enjoyable, but it never really felt "great." It's one of those films that I really wish I'd have liked more.

Still, I might check out the Blu for the 360 feature. That sounds cool.

Richard Gozinya, Harold Snatch and Wilbur Jizz. Together we are the law firm Gozinya, Snatch and Jizz.