Disney released John Carter on Blu-ray and DVD, and it is loaded with some cool special features. Andrew Stanton directs the adaptation based on Edgar Rice Burroughs novel " A Princess of Mars". Friday Night Lights' Taylor Kitsch stars in the lead and Lynn Collins (X-Men Origins: Wolverine,The Number 23) as Dejah Thoris, Willem Dafoe (Spider Man, Boondock Saints) as Tars Tarkas, and Dominic West (300, The Wire) as Sab Than.
The story starts off after the Civil War with John Carter trying to make a living mining gold while pushing thoughts of his deceased wife out of his head. While searching a mysterious cavern for treasure he is inexplicably transported to Mars, which is on the brink of collapse. Carter soon realizes that he has special powers on Mars, powers that are pretty damn cool. As a result the warrior on Earth becomes a reluctant hero and becomes a part of an epic battle. As a result, Carter realizes that the survival of Barsoom is in his hands, and that he can make a difference in the lives of many.
I am not going to discuss the box office and marketing disaster of this film in depth, that is like beating a dead horse. What I am going to say is that a short sentence could have made all the difference in more people going to this film. Andrew Jones (@EthanRunt) pointed out to me that the use of the following would have made all the difference for this film - "A Warrior on Earth Becomes a Hero on Mars". That sentence is nicely displayed on the lower corner of the box art for the Blu-ray. That mantra should have been shouted from the rooftops when promoting John Carter.
If you did not see this film in theaters, I highly recommend you check it out on Blu-ray. I do not care if my credibility is shot by me saying that, I thoroughly enjoyed many parts of this movie. Yes it has its problems, but has so many elements that I look for in a sci-fi action adventure. The visual effects were truly sweeping, the action scenes were epic and the character development was decent. John Carter is very easy to relate to as a character. I have always liked the idea of a human being given special powers and then deciding to make a difference. Reluctant heroes have more heart I think than a regular hero who was born that way.
When Woola, Carter's alien dog sidekick was first introduced, I was worried we had another Jar Jar Binks on our hands. As time wore on I actually found this character a mixture of fun and lovable. Stanton and the visual effects team did a wonderful job of bringing Barsoom to life. The CG is magnificent and the colors are rich, so the Blu-ray looks majestic on my home theater.
My major gripes for the film is its length and the performances. For the length, the blame has to fall on the screenplay which was penned by Stanton, Mark Andrews and Michael Chabon. I am not sure what could have been cut though. The opening sequence with John Carter was necessary, but the scenes in London were not in my mind. They could have been trimmed down in length so we could have seen more of Carter out West. This would have meant we would have likely seen more of Bryan Cranston, which was nice for me as a fan of Breaking Bad.
In terms of the performances, I was underwhelmed with the majority. Kitsch did a solid job in this role, but seems to be a few steps behind leading man material. I have never seen an episode of Friday Night Lights, but I am interested in seeing him in a supporting role in Savages. Imagine if Disney had hired an A-list star for the lead, the box office would have been a lot higher. Lynn Collins and Dominic West are great actors, but they do not have the name recognition with American audiences. I would be willing to bet that many audience members did not even know that Dafoe was part of the cast? I have yet to decide if it is an issue of poor performances alone or poor marketing.
The magic does not end with the movie for this Disney disc. There are so many value packed special features that, make this a worthwhile investment. It is important to note that each of the special features are in HD, which is highly unlikely for many Blu-rays. I was happy to see an audio commentary track from Stanton and producers Jim Morris and Lindsey Collins. Commentary tracks can either be really good or down right boring. This track gives a lot of insight the development of the film, the computer generated and live-action performances and the overall process. There is also ten deleted scenes that feature optional directors commentary. I felt as if these had been rushed to get the disc out because some of the footage was not finalized with incomplete visual effects.
My two favorite special features are the 100 Years of Making and the 360 Degrees of John Carter. I wish the 100 Years of Making segment was a lot longer than its 10 minutes. The video delves into the life of Edgar Rice Burroughs and the history behind the John Carter series. I am a fan of history and the movie industry so it was cool to see how this project has developed over the years. The 360 Degrees segment is much longer, clocking in at 35 minutes. It brings you as close of a behind the scenes look as being on the set during a day of shooting. The production diary format goes behind the scenes to the makeup and costuming departments and gives us a glimpse into Stanton's daily routine. This is a must-watch segment for movie buffs.
The least favorites for me are the Barsoom Bloopers, which is basically two minutes I can not get back. I also love the interactive ability of the Second Screen, but do not like to do it during the movie. Disney does a great job with their Second Screen experiences, which give audiences the chance to follow along with the film on their iPad or laptop to gain a ton of additional content. It is a fun thing to do on an iPad actually while you are watching the film second time, but is distracting on a first viewing.
John Carter is a lot better than you may think. Stanton did a good job of creating a larger-than-life world full of marvelous CG effects and heart pounding action sequences. If you have seen this movie, the Blu-ray is a solid purchase with some great extras. This is a fun movie that has all the elements of a fun movie for the entire family.
Be sure to enter our John Carter Blu-ray contest HERE.