Directed by: Andrew Stanton
Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Willam Dafoe
John Carter has become universally known as the biggest f@*k up of the 2012 movie season. It cost $250 million to make and market and it barely made an impression at the box office. At first blush it appeared that this film good or bad should have made a killing at the box office because for much of its run there was no similar competition but it just never found the audience. At the end of the day the problems stem from Disney more than the movie directly. The marketing was just messy. The ads and trailers never did a good job of selling the film in the way it needed to be sold. I’m sure there are a number of other problems that played a part in the film’s demise also. After seeing the film it’s hard to argue that the creators didn’t put every bit of their budget on screen though. The question remains, is the movie any good?
John Carter is based on a classic series of novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs. John Carter appeared as a lead character in the first Burroughs novel, later retitled, A Princess of Mars. He then appeared in subsequent volumes of the series, most prominently in The Gods of Mars (2nd in series), The Warlord of Mars ( 3rd in series), Swords of Mars (8th in series), Llana of Gathol (10th in series) and the final installment John Carter of Mars (11th in the series) . The movie has apparently been in the works for at least the last 20 years and for various reasons, mostly technology related, just never got made. It took a team that included the director of Iron Man producing and the director of Wall-E and Finding Nemo directing to get studio confidence in the project. When Disney finally did take on the project they gave the film a wide birth to grow with plenty of talent and money too.
The film tells the story of a John Carter, a Civil war vet devastated by loss and lacking a cause in his life that accidentally finds himself transported to Mars, a dying planet but not a lifeless one. On Mars he’s incredibly powerful and inadvertently falls into a war between factions; one bent on taking over what is left of the planet and the other bent on saving it. This film utilizes state of the art technology to craft and epic science fiction opera that feels so very classic. John carter is a true evolution of those black and white shorts that showed before features in the early days of film. There have been other similar and better films such as Star Wars, and Raiders of the Lost Arc. While John Carter doesn’t compare with those films in quality of story it does fit in the same space as those films. John Carter is more of a cross between Dune and Flash Gordon, minus all of the spoofing and campiness of Flash Gordon.
The story of John Carter at its most base is a simple and well-worn fish out of water story with many typical themes and elements including romance and a man that doesn’t want to fight anymore but his heart makes him constantly do the right thing. There are some clever twists here and there and these twists are also where the problems begin. The twists in the story muddy the waters and make the film a little tough to follow in a few places. One more pass on the script would probably have solved these issues. Another problem is that the entire film sits on the shoulders of its lead, Tyler Kitsch. As much as the director wants to sell Kitsch it just doesn’t work. While Kitsch isn’t bad he’s just not charismatic enough to carry a film of this scope. Hopefully Andrew Stanton has learned his lesson with Kitsch because John carter flopped and now it appears that his follow up film Battleship, in which he again cast Kitsch, is flopping like a fish out of water at the box office. Lynn Collins on the other hand owns the screen for what little she has to do. Willam Dafoe is also quite good although he’s heard and not seen.
John Carter’s story is messy for sure and the middle feels like the whole thing might just collapse under the weight of it all but once that hump is crossed the film is back to being fun again. The visuals are a true spectacle to behold on a big TV too. It’s definitely no classic but it’s no Ishtar either. See it; you might be surprised that you’ll have a good time.
The widescreen images literally pop on screen from this blu-ray. Colors are dynamic and gorgeous and black levels are mostly nice and inky with little loss of detail. Some of the special fx look just a little edgy in some shots but overall everything is a true spectacle as it was meant to be.
The audio presentation is immersive throughout the film with the massive fight scenes in particular offering lots of surround use. There are some instances where the dialogue was just a little buried and tough to hear but overall everything is loud and clear.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The two disc set comes packaged in a standard slim blu-ray case with good but not amazing cover art. Wouldn’t it have been great if the art resembled some of those classic book covers from which these stories sprung? Just an idea….
There’s actually a nice set of supplements here. The feature best being an extensive featurette covering a day of shooting with behind the scenes footage, interviews, and even catering. This documentary truly offers up a feeling of what it was like making this film, good stuff. There is other cast and crew interviews and even a look at the long process of finally getting the film made after so many failed attempts. There are also deleted scenes and a gag reel that actually isn’t all that funny. Some of the most entertaining parts of the bonus footage are the quotes from the writer of the original novel discussing his career and books.
The blu-ray also includes Disney’s iPad app syncing so that you can look at information on your I device as the movie plays. It’s kind of neat stuff but not something worth doing more than once. I was looking for a digital copy and a 3-D copy from this set too but none are included. There may be a deluxe set that includes those items but we weren’t sent that one for review.
John Carter isn’t as good as it should be but it’s much better than you are probably expecting. Give it a go. You’ll probably have a great time.
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10
The Movie 6/10
The Video 9/10
The Audio 8/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 7.5/10
Overall (not an average) 7.5/10