Long before characters like Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter or even Superman were dominant in the minds of action-adventure sci-fi and fantasy, there was John Carter, the Warlord of Mars. Created by Edgar Rice Burroughs (the same guy who created Tarzan), the character made his debut in 1912 in the serialized novel “Under the Moons of Mars” (later re-titled as “A Princess of Mars” in 1917). Burroughs wrote a total of eleven novels featuring the character, who has also appeared a number of times in comics, novels and on television, and was even a major inspiration for the hit movie, “Avatar”. Now he has his own feature film from Disney, based on that historic debut novel and released a century after his initial debut.
Played by Taylor Kitsch (best known for his role as Gambit in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”), John Carter is a Virginia-born Civil War veteran, a former captain in the Confederate Army. While running from Union soldiers, Carter stumbles into a cave where a strange medallion transports him to the planet Mars. He then finds himself caught up in a massive civil war between the various (and very mixed) races of the planet (who call it “Barsoom”), and has to fight not for his own life but to also help rescue Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins), Princess of the city of Helium. Good thing Carter’s unique physiology, combined with Mars’ lighter gravity, allow him to perform superhuman feats to help him fight and survive.
The “John Carter” movie is quite impressive. Just as you’d expect from a sci-fi action movie, there are plenty of fight scenes, usually of the hand-to-hand type with characters fighting with swords and whatnot. You’d usually see just about everyone, in particular the natives of Mars/Barsoom, being armed to the teeth laser guns and powered armor, some of the usual staples of sci-fi. The only samples of advanced technology are the medallion that transports Carter to Mars from Earth (which seems to work like magic, another classic staple that shows just HOW advanced the tech is), some flying machines and the weapon known as the ninth ray. Otherwise, things are pretty much on a primitive scale, a sign of the times when the original novel was written. It’s nice to see the film makers stay true to the novel and not try to update things for the sake of today’s audiences.
The characters are all the classic archetypes you’d find for this kind of story. The title character, John Carter, is your usual reluctant hero, stuck in a situation beyond his control and is mainly interested in just getting back home at first. The fact he’s an ex-Confederate soldier, the side that was FOR slavery during the Civil War, is caught in another civil war and is now aligned with a VERY racially diverse group of people is somewhat ironic. Red Martian Princess Dejah Thoris is the story’s resident damsel in distress. She first appears being made as a bargaining tool, nearly forced to marry Sab Than (Dominic West) of Helium’s rival city, Zodanga, as a means of a cease fire, but then becomes one of Carter’s allies. Other characters include Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe), king of the Green Martian Tharks and another of Carter’s allies, and Matai Shang (Mark Strong), another the film’s antagonists. Carter’s creator Edgar Rice Burroughs even makes an appearance, played by Daryl Sabara and portrayed here as Carter’s nephew, giving an interesting idea of how the author got the idea for the novels. This is a twist from the original novel and probably wasn’t necessary, but it is a unique idea.
John Carter hits blu-ray in spectacular picture form. The colors are vibrant when needed and deep with depth at other times. Depicting Mars as a desolate area (almost a wasteland) can provide for such tones and hues that one would first think couldn’t provide blu-ray eye candy. Think again, as it show cases the beauty of desert like land in all of its glory. And of course with all the cgi created creatures and ships it only adds to it’s picture charm. Top notch video quality.
John Carter smashes its way on blu-ray with a DTS HD Master 7.1 audio track. Whether you are capable of 7.1 or 5.1 you will find this audio track meets all the normal criteria you would want from a blu-ray audio track. The bass gets great play and the vocal clarity is exceptional. The fronts and center carry the bulk of the load but you will find some immersive moments that utilize the rears quite nicely.
John Carter comes to blu-ray with a nice portion of extras and everything that it’s 3d brother disc has to offer. (besides the 3d)
Blu-ray Feature Film + Bonus
DVD Feature Film+ Bonus
Disney Second Screen
360 Degrees of John Carter
Deleted Scene with Option Commentary by Director Andrew Stanton
100 Years in the Making
Audio Commentary with Film Makers
No surprise, the film sports some special effects, most of it centered on the various races of Mars. The majority, of course, is done via motion capture-CGI, really the only way to make an alien look that much inhuman. The designs are very impressive, in particular the four-armed Tharks with their unique faces, and the variety of alien beasts that pop up. Given the lack of the usual sci-fi staples, the rest of the effects are limited to the Martian flying machines (which look very different than what you’d usually see), the ninth ray and Carter’s transport to Mars. It all looks very impressive and makes the film look that much unique.
“John Carter” is a great movie, definitely worth watching if you’re a fan of sci-fi and classic literature. And if you’re a serious fan, the blu-ray will be one to add to your collection.