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John Carter 3D Blu-ray Review



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#1 of 34 Matt Hough

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Posted May 27 2012 - 10:12 AM

The most infamously unsuccessful movie at the box-office thus far in 2012 (though Battleship and Dark Shadows may give it some competition), Andrew Stanton’s John Carter mixes elements of science fiction, fantasy, and western lore into a moderately entertaining but strangely old-fashioned adventure tale. The storytelling is a bit muddled in places, and the film overall lacks enchantment despite tons of special effects and a dazzling array of talented actors doing their all to make the rather prosaic narrative achieve a spark of delight. Alas, despite everyone’s best efforts, the film works only fitfully despite the noblest of intentions from all concerned.


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John Carter 3D (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Andrew Stanton

Studio: Disney
Year: 2012
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1   1080p   AVC codec
Running Time: 132 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish
Subtitles: SDH. French, Spanish


Region: A-B-C
MSRP: $ 49.99



Release Date: June 5, 2012

Review Date: May 27, 2012




The Film

3/5


On the run from the Union army in 1868 out to conscript a former Confederate soldier from the Virginia militia, John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) discovers a medallion in a cave which transports him to Barsoom (which he later learns is Mars) where he finds that another civil war is taking place, this time between rival factions of the dying planet. In order to quell the war, the leader of Helium Tardos Mors (Ciaran Hinds) has offered his warrior daughter Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) in marriage to the powerful leader of the Zodangans Sab Than (Dominic West), not knowing that Sab plans to use his special ray to take complete control of the planet, guided by a group of mysterious god-like shape-shifters called Therns headed by the devious Matai Shang (Mark Strong). Meanwhile the nomadic four-armed creatures the Tharks are the first to discover Carter when he appears on the planet, and he eventually gains the trust of their leader Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe), becoming their ace in the hole of bringing the planet back under peaceful control.


With the über-strange names of all of the Martian characters (including the dog-like pet who early claims Carter as his master and who comes in handy at just the right moments), screenwriters Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews, and Michael Chabon have their work cut out for them in making their viewers comfortable with their alien landscape, this apart from the bookended sequences set in 1881 involving Carter and Edgar Rice Burroughs which cause some confusion in the initial viewing (but are clearer upon a second look, one of the great benefits of home video). With Carter’s Earth-oriented body mass allowing him to leap tall buildings and cliffs at a single bound, one is surprised that these leaping experiences (which happen throughout the movie) aren’t more exhilarating to watch, and the film is burdened by being set on the rather desolate-looking, arid Mars and with these green-skinned creatures that aren’t that appealing or endearing. Andrew Stanton covers the bases with battle scenes and a rip-roaring confrontation in the arena (promised in the early going and finally occurring much later in the somewhat overlong movie) with its echoes of Rocky as the crowd chants Carter’s assumed name (“Virginia” which is one of the movie’s recurring gags that works) after he’s inevitably victorious. But the fun is missing: the effects are fine (if rather standard), the actors are robust and doing their all, but there’s a déjà vu quality to all of it. The cosmetics may be different on the aliens, but the battles and fights are all too familiar, and with the leading characters not having much chemistry together, the movie emerges as rather blankly forgettable despite the hundreds of millions having been spent on attempting to make it unique.


Taylor Kitsch seems a bit young for the leading role and a little lacking in charisma, too, particularly paired with the exquisitely alluring Lynn Collins as his great love. She’s sensational: very Amazonian in her martial tendencies and with gorgeous make-up and costumes that accentuate her physical attributes. And the pity is that the film has an actor who has the necessary presence and age to pair seductively with Collins: James Purefoy who’s been relegated to the secondary role of right-hand man to Ciaran Hinds’ leader Tardos Mors. Dominic West makes a fine snarling villain, and Mark Strong is his obvious foil: the quietly calculating snake who lies in wait ready to strike at the right moment. Willem Dafoe makes effective use of his voice and body movements in his motion-captured performance as Tars Tarkas.





Video Quality

4.5/5

3D implementation – 3/5


The film’s 2.40:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully delivered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Except for a few shots where images aren’t as sharp as the shots surrounding them, image clarity is first-rate with lots of detail to be seen in those Martian landscapes, the alluring costumes, and the facial features (including the hypnotizingly blue eyes of Lynn Collins’ Dejah Thoris). Flesh tones are accurate and appealing. Black levels are deep, and overall color saturation levels are always well controlled but quite rich. The white subtitles used when the Martians are speaking in their own language are very easy to read. The film has been divided into 16 chapters.


The film was converted into 3D after the fact which accounts for the rather unexceptional stereoscopic effects of the imagery. Of course there is no forward projection even if there is one shot of a gate explosion that sends sparks flying forward but which never reach past the front of the frame. There’s fair depth to the image, but nothing about it seems extraordinary. There is some fairly impressive use of people and objects on separate planes which gives the image its only moments of 3D illusion, but overall, the 2D version of the film on Blu-ray is not a compromise but rather the preferred version of the film for home viewing.



Audio Quality

4.5/5


The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound mix does exactly what a big budget special effects extravaganza is expected to do aurally. There are plenty of split effects to keep the front and rear channels continuously occupied, and Michael Giacchino’s score gets superb placement throughout the soundfield. There’s an occasional bit of directionalized dialogue though most of it has been placed in the center channel. There are occasional problems, however, with some of the dialogue being heard over the explosive special effects and music.



Special Features

4/5


The 3D disc in the set contains a 3D trailer for Frankenweenie.


The following are the bonus features on the 2D Blu-ray disc:


The audio commentary is provided by director Andrew Stanton and producers Jim Morris and Lindsey Collins. Clearly the film was a labor of love for the three of them, and they enthusiastically comment with few breaks about the film’s production. Certainly the commentary was laid down before the film’s disappointing box-office reception occurred as they talk now and again of what they’d like to do in the next film in the series.


Disney Second Screen in an interactive app which can be downloaded to a laptop or iPad to offer illustrative material in journal form to accompany the film.


All of the featurettes are presented in 1080p.


“100 Years in the Making” is a brief 10 ¾-minute featurette discussing the original writing of the Burroughs’ stories and the various attempts by filmmakers to bring them to the screen including director Jon Favreau’s comments on his preproduction work at Paramount before giving up on making a movie of the tales.


“360 Degrees of John Carter allows us to spend one day on the set watching director Andrew Stanton and his cast and crew prepare for the number of shots planned for that day. We see everything from make-up, hair styling and costumes to special effects, stunt work, and even craft services. This runs 34 ½ minutes.


There are ten deleted scenes which can be viewed separately or together in one 19-minute grouping. There is also an introduction to this section by director Andrew Stanton, and there is optional director commentary on the scenes as well.


“Barsoom Bloopers” is the 2-minute gag reel for the movie.


The disc contains promo trailers for The Avengers and Frankenweenie.


The third disc in the set is the DVD copy of the movie.


The fourth disc in the set is the digital copy of the movie which can be installed on Mac or PC devices.



In Conclusion

3.5/5 (not an average)


John Carter was not a box-office hit (despite grossing something over $200 million worldwide, Disney is writing off the film’s losses at $200 million), and its somewhat lackluster story and over-familiar action sequences pretty much explain why. The hard work of the mostly excellent cast certainly is up on the screen, but the whole enterprise, whether watched in 2D or uninspiring 3D, never really quite catches fire.




Matt Hough

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#2 of 34 Adam Gregorich

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Posted May 27 2012 - 12:01 PM

Thanks Matt.  I felt the same, despite wanting to really like it.



#3 of 34 Mark Oates

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Posted May 27 2012 - 12:05 PM

Didn't see this at the pictures, but I still have high hopes of enjoying it in spite of the reviews and WOM.
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#4 of 34 Dave Vaughn

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Posted May 27 2012 - 12:14 PM

Did this film have the WORST marketing effort ever? Even my 13-year-old son said that the trailer looked stupid, which is never a good thing.
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#5 of 34 Tino

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Posted May 27 2012 - 01:24 PM

Really enjoyed this film. Much better than you have heard imo. Can't wait to pick it up.
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#6 of 34 TravisR

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Posted May 27 2012 - 02:46 PM

Much better than you have heard imo.

Sadly, I've heard relatively little about the quality of this movie. I read lots about meaningless crap like its budget, gross and marketing though.

#7 of 34 Craig Beam

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Posted May 27 2012 - 03:13 PM

I'm in the middle of reading Burroughs' Mars books, so I'm really looking forward to seeing this.

#8 of 34 David_B_K

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Posted May 28 2012 - 04:00 AM

I read A Princess of Mars years ago, and found it pretty enjoyable. I'll probably check this out when it is on sale (but not likely the 3D version).

#9 of 34 Ejanss

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Posted May 28 2012 - 05:09 AM

Did this film have the WORST marketing effort ever? Even my 13-year-old son said that the trailer looked stupid, which is never a good thing.

Well, I wouldn't say worst EVER (RKO and Disney's "Fantasia" would have to be up there somewhere...), but given the amount of money thrown at every conceivable anti-intuitive mistake, it's considered as having a healthy shot at the All-Time Ten. When you have fans actually going on YouTube and making Phantom Edit cuts of "The Trailer They SHOULD Have Released" (which, in fact, looked pretty spiffy, put the scenes in refreshing chronological order, and actually told us what the darn thing was about), even the fans felt the studio suits tragically came between the movie and the public. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BxeHQY1NuM Rich Ross was not fired in vain. Good question, though--What were the Worst Movie Marketing Efforts Ever, up to this point?

#10 of 34 JoHud

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Posted May 28 2012 - 05:20 AM

I've generally heard more good than bad about the movie as it is, at least as a fantasy/adventure entertainment. Certainly more positive about the movie after all the press on what a bomb it was suppose to be within a week of its release. Look forward to seeing it eventually.

#11 of 34 Bryan Tuck

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Posted May 28 2012 - 08:00 AM

Thanks for the review, Matt. I enjoyed the movie (saw it in 2D), but I have a soft spot for retro sci-fi, and I do think that was the biggest fault of the marketing: trying to hide the fact that it was "retro." Why not reveal the fact that he's a Civil War veteran who goes to Mars? That already sounds more interesting. There are some flaws, to be sure, and it probably could have used some more judicious editing, but I don't think it deserves the reputation as a gigantic mess that it seems to have acquired. I certainly thought it was better than half of the "blockbusters" that came out last summer (Cowboys & Aliens and Green Lantern spring to mind).
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#12 of 34 CrashGordon

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Posted May 28 2012 - 08:05 AM

The only reason I never saw it in the theater is the nearest one it was playing in was Disney's, El Capitan in Hollywood, which is the worst theater I've ever been to. I did order it from Amazon and will have it tomorrow. I saw enough reviews from people who enjoyed it, so I figured why not (after all, I hated 2012 when I first saw it on TV, but after a few times, it "grew on me") If the 3D isn't all it could be, I can always watch it in 2D, but somehow, I think I'll enjoy the 3D. The few scenes I saw in the trailer, reminded me enough of the book, that I'll have a good time.

#13 of 34 Aaron Silverman

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Posted May 29 2012 - 06:03 AM

I'm not sure what's strange about a 100-year-old story being "old-fashioned." :) At any rate, my 6-year-old and I both enjoyed this movie very much. (IMO the PG-13 rating is very mild. The action is violent but not at all gory, and there's no sex or swearing. For those who've read the books, the sex and violence have been toned way down.) As for the marketing campaign, "worst since Fantasia" probably covers it, because I can't think of any competition in that department. How Disney (of all companies) managed to release a family-friendly movie with so much toy potential and do ZERO product tie-ins is beyond me. Unless for some strange reason they wanted it to fail. (Hm, are any former Fox TV execs working at Disney these days?)
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#14 of 34 Edwin-S

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Posted May 29 2012 - 06:26 PM

(Hm, are any former Fox TV execs working at Disney these days?)

Probably the same ones who cancelled FUTURAMA or maybe the ones who cancelled FIREFLY or maybe the ones who cancelled HARSH REALM. Take your pick. ;)
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#15 of 34 Mark Oates

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Posted May 30 2012 - 03:35 AM

I'm not sure what's strange about a 100-year-old story being "old-fashioned." :)

Why couldn't they have used that as a marketing campaign? "Before there were Star Wars. Before there was an Avatar. Before there was a Star Trek. Forbidden Planet. Flash Gordon. A Hero Appeared On Mars..."
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#16 of 34 Chuck Anstey

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Posted May 30 2012 - 04:21 AM

Why couldn't they have used that as a marketing campaign? "Before there were Star Wars. Before there was an Avatar. Before there was a Star Trek. Forbidden Planet. Flash Gordon. A Hero Appeared On Mars..."

Exactly. I am reasonably well read in science fiction and I hadn't heard of John Carter. I thought he probably a graphic novel character. If they had referenced his origins I would have been interested in the movie.

#17 of 34 Mark Oates

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Posted May 30 2012 - 05:30 AM

I'd first encountered ERB's Planetary Romances back in the 1970s when At The Earth's Core with Peter Cushing, Doug McClure and Caroline Munro came out. Before that, I'd only known that ERB wrote Tarzan and his Incorporation which handled his rights were a right royal pain in the neck when it came to adaptations of his works. (A few years later, they forced John Derek to use the title Tarzan The Ape Man for his movie rather than the original Me, Jane) I only read a handful of the books at the time - A Princess of Mars, Carson of Venus and of course At The Earth's Core. They were fascinating reading, if dated, but could any red-blooded thirteen-year old ignore Burrough's description of Dejah Thoris?

She was as destitute of clothes as the green Martians who accompanied her; indeed, save for her highly wrought ornaments she was entirely naked, nor could any apparel have enhanced the beauty of her perfect and symmetrical figure.

EDIT: I've just noticed on the advanced art for the UK edition - all versions - the tag line Star Wars For A New Generation Gimme ******* strength!!!
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#18 of 34 Russell G

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Posted May 30 2012 - 08:03 AM

I loved it. I've enjoyed the first three "Mars" books as well and thought it a decent adaptation. Looking forward to the Blu-ray, my dad should get a kick out of it. Shame there wont be any more, and sad it was written off even before the first trailer. Maybe it will become a "Classic" after a few years.


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#19 of 34 Ejanss

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Posted May 30 2012 - 08:20 AM

EDIT: I've just noticed on the advanced art for the UK edition - all versions - the tag line Star Wars For A New Generation Gimme ******* strength!!!

I'm pretty sure that was a critic blurb. Unless the critic wasn't identified, in which case a desperate Disney wanted us to THINK it was.

#20 of 34 Mark Oates

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Posted May 30 2012 - 10:58 AM

I'm pretty sure that was a critic blurb. Unless the critic wasn't identified, in which case a desperate Disney wanted us to THINK it was.

Fairly certain it was. I'm not 100% sure of the pedigree, but UK discs tend to quote either Jonathan Ross or his brother Paul (critics both). However, a quick Google of the phrase throws up this article at Den of Geek.
J Mark Oates
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