Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment’s epic science fiction movie John Carter 3D saw Blu-ray 3D release this month on June 5th, 2012.
This first interplanetary adventure for John Carter is based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom series of novels written from 1912 to 1943.
While John Carter performed relatively poorly in the United States, it did much better overseas and even set box office records in Russia.
John Carter 3D the Movie
The movie opens with a quick background on the ‘history’ of Mars, where the oceans are dry and warring races fly in solar powered airships.
The war between the Red Martian cities of Helium and Zodanga has been raging for the last thousand years.
That is about to change, due to a secret weapon obtained from the mysterious Therns by the Zodangan leader Sab Than.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, news of the sudden death of American Civil War Confederate Army captain John Carter reaches his nephew Edgar Rice Burroughs.
As per Carter’s instruction, Ned (as Carter called him) is given Carter’s personal journal, with instructions that it is for his eyes only to read.
The journal tells of Carter’s history back the Arizona Territory, where Carter is pressed into fighting the Apache.
Carter escapes, and with the guards in pursuit, finds himself in the cave full gold that he has been looking for the whole time.
A Thern appears in the cave at that moment, and after Carter kills him, he is instantly and unwittingly transported to Mars.
After having trouble with the planet’s low gravity, Carter finds that he is able to jump high and perform feats of incredible strength.
He is soon captured by the Green Martian Tharks and their leader Tars Tarkas.
Meanwhile the Zodangan leader, on advice from the Therns, proposes an end to the war by marrying the Princess of Helium Dejah Thoris.
While the Helium leader accepts the truce, Dejah is not so keen and makes her escape near the Thark colony.
Carter rescues the Princess when she falls from the airship and the Princess remains a captive of the Tharks along with Carter.
After making their escape from the Trarks, Carter, Dejah, and an exiled Thark named Sola seek their way to the sacred river, each with a different purpose.
Sola aims to find redemption, Dejah wants help to fight the Zodangans and avoid a loveless marriage, and Carter just wants to get back to Earth.
These opposing goals form the conflict in the story as the movie plays out.
John Carter is one of those movies that is perhaps famous for the wrong kind of reasons.
A movie version of the Edgar Rice Burroughs stories has been an on again, off again project for over 30 years, with the rights changing hands and various directors and stars attached.
With the recent green light, Disney spent an estimated $250M bringing the epic science fiction movie to the big screen.
However the Disney marketing failed to get the populace to the cinema to see the movie, and in the USA the movie was considered a failure.
Part of the problem perhaps was the nondescript title John Carter, where the original ‘from Mars’ part was dropped to avoid association with another Disney flop Mars Needs Moms.
Certainly the movie is far from perfect – I felt the opening was slow and while we were given a brief introduction to Mars, the first 20 minutes was back on Earth with no coherent association.
Even once on Mars, the tie in with the introduction was not clear for quite some time.
After the threads were all finally tied together, the movie settled in to a nice pace and was largely enjoyable.
It is certainly an epic production which is technically excellent and features a great deal of action with plenty of battles and explosions.
I thought the movie was pretty decent overall, though I could see why it wouldn’t have gotten great word of mouth.
Certainly once all the pieces were in place, the story made a lot more sense, and perhaps a second viewing would be more worthwhile.
While definitely a great choice for science fiction fans, a wider audience might not appreciate it as much.
The cast includes mostly lesser known actors, with Friday Night Light‘s Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins and Dominic West in the lead humanoid roles.
Mark Strong, Ciaran Hinds and James Purefoy have supporting roles, while Willem Dafoe, Thomas Haden Church and Samantha Morton play the parts of the Tharks.
While these characters were animated, the actors still played out the roles on stilts for the motion capture cameras along with the ‘live’ actors.
The critical response to the film was fairly middle of the road, with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 52%, while the public response to the film was stronger with an IMDb score of 7/10.
I think the IMDb score is a fair assessment and imagine that the film will do better in the sell through and rental market than it did at the cinema.
John Carter 3D took in only $72.9M at the US box office, though did a lot more business internationally with a worldwide tally of $283M so far.
It will be interesting to see if the planned sequels go ahead based on this box office performance – I am sure that the packaged media sales will also play a role in the decision.
John Carter on Blu-ray 3D
The video on the disc is an AVC 1080p encode at 22.5 Mbps, and is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.40:1.
As you can imagine for a recent big budget movie, the image quality is excellent here.
While the movie was shot on regular 2D film cameras, the 3D conversion here is pretty good too.
I don’t recall seeing any disturbing 3D artifacts, so hopefully the era of shoddy 3D conversions is behind us.
For full resolution PNG screen captures taken directly from the disc, check out the details page for John Carter 3D.
The main audio is lossless DTS-HD Master Audio with 7.1 channels – 24 bits resolution at 48 kHz.
Great so see another excellent native 7.1 channel sound mix here.
The disc is a dual layer BD50, with 46.2 GB used and is coded for All Regions.
John Carter on Blu-ray 3D – The Bonus Features
This Blu-ray 3D release comes with a 3D trailer for Tim Burton’s upcoming Frankenweenie, which is expected in cinemas in October.
Otherwise you will have to look to the regular Blu-ray Disc for supplemental features.
The most comprehensive behind the scenes feature included here has to be the Disney Second Screen.
Reserved for only their best titles, Second Screen allows the viewer to follow the movie on a laptop or iPad with a wide range of behind the scenes multimedia and information.
Items range from drawings and concept art to renderings, trivia, cast and crew bios and even videos of deleted scenes.
A number of the features take advantage of the capabilities of the second screen PC or tablet.
For example some of the character art can be rotated with the mouse or touch screen to get a full 360 view.
All this runs concurrently with the movie that can be synchronized via BD Live or soundtrack.
If the second screen and Blu-ray player are connected on the same network, the sync is pretty much acquired automatically.
If you pause to check out one of the videos or in depth features, you can sync the film to the second screen or catch the second screen up to the film.
There is also the option to explore the second screen features without the movie playing.
This feature contains more content than one can realistically cope with during movie playback, so the option to browse is helpful.
Alternatively, if this is all too much, you can check out the audio commentary with the film makers.
Here director Andrew Stanton and producers Jim Morris and Lindsay Collins discuss the development and production as the film plays out.
Again a lot of insight into the development and production of the film is offered here.
In addition to the Second Screen option, 360 Degrees of John Carter is a behind the scenes featurette that runs half an hour and covers a day in the production of the movie.
The featurette jumps around the sets and staging areas to cover many aspects of the preparations for the shoot in the United Kingdom.
A full day of shooting is covered, with a running clock a little like the television show 24, except it jumps around and isn’t in real time.
It is pretty fascinating to see first hand how much of a logistical problem a big budget movie with a large cast can be.
There is a collection of 8 deleted scenes with optional introduction and commentary by director Andrew Stanton.
There is also a couple of minutes of Barsoom Bloopers thrown in for good measure.
100 Years In The Making focuses on the origin of the story.
This 10 minute segment features interviews Andrew Stanton about his experience discovering John Carter of Mars as a child.
The life and times of author Edgar Rice Burroughs, who wrote both John Carter and Tarzan, is also covered here.
It is interesting to hear how the story had tried but never made it to the screen for so many years.
Along with the Blu-ray 3D and Blu-ray Disc, this release includes a DVD Copy for legacy players and a Digital Copy for both iTunes and Windows Media.
John Carter 3D on Blu-ray 3D – Final Thoughts
John Carter 3D is a pretty fun action science fiction piece that may have mixed appeal depending on the audience.
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment’s Blu-ray 3D release has a strong transfer and great supplements, including a Second Screen feature.
All formats are included, with Blu-ray 3D, regular Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Copy for iTunes and Windows media.
The retail price is $49.99, though it is half off right now at Amazon for only $24.99!
If you don’t want the 3D, the retail price is $39.99, at Amazon for $22.99 – only a $2 saving.
Makes sense to get the 3D even if you don’t have the equipment now at those prices!
- Disney Second Screen
- 360 Degrees of John Carter
- Deleted Scenes With Optional Commentary By Director Andrew Stanton
- Barsoom Bloopers
- 100 Years In The Making
- Audio Commentary With Filmmakers
From Academy Award-winning filmmaker Andrew Stanton (Best Animated Film, Walle-E, 2008) comes John Carter – a sweeping action-adventure set on the mysterious and exotic planet of Barsoom (Mars). Based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’s classic novel, John Carter is a war-weary, former military captain who’s inexplicably transported to Mars and reluctantly becomes embroiled in an epic conflict. It’s a world on the brink of collapse, and Carter rediscovers his humanity when he realizes the survival of Barsoom and its people rests in his hands. Stunning special effects, great characters and villains – and complete with extraordinary bonus features – John Carter is a heroic and inspirational adventure that will thrill you beyond imagination.