John Carter (Blu-ray) (2012)

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Released 4-Jul-2012

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Sci-Fi Action Featurette-100 Years in the Making
Deleted Scenes-with optional commentary (director Andrew Stanton)
Audio Commentary-Andrew Stanton, Jim Morris & Lindsay Collins (Producers)
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-360 Degrees of John Carter
Outtakes-Barsoom Bloopers
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2012
Running Time 132:01
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Andrew Stanton
Studio
Distributor
Disney
Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Taylor Kitsch
Lynn Collins
Samantha Morton
Willem Dafoe
Thomas Haden Church
Mark Strong
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Michael Giacchino


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 7.1
Spanish DTS HD Master Audio 7.1
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Spanish
Swedish
Danish
Finnish
Icelandic
Norwegian
Portuguese
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     On Barsoom (Mars to you and me) the two cities of Helium and Zodanga have been in a constant state of warfare. Matai Shang (Mark Strong), a god like shape-shifting creature called a Thern, appears to the thuggish leader of Zodanga, Sab Than (Dominic West), and gives him a blue ray weapon of immense power which allows him to defeat the forces of Helium and to propose terms to their ruler, Tardos Mors (Ciaran Hinds); Sab wants to marry Tardos’ daughter Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) and Tardos, to save his city, is forced to agree.

     1868, Arizona territory. Ex-Confederate cavalry officer John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) is shanghaied into the U.S. 7th Cavalry to fight Apaches. When things go wrong he is chased by Indians into a cave, where a mysterious man materialises and attacks Carter, who shoots the man dead. In the dead man’s hand is a blue glowing medallion; when Carter picks it up he is transported to a desert unlike any he has seen before, a place where Carter has the ability to leap great distances, as if in lessened gravity. Before long Carter is captured by the desert dwelling Tharks, a humanoid race 10 feet tall with green skin, four arms and curved horns, led by Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe). Taken to the Thark’s desert city, Carter remains a captive but gradually gets to know Tars and his daughter Sola (Samantha Morton). He is on Mars, of course, although he does not yet realise it.

     Later, the sky above the Thark’s city is full of flighting flying craft. Dejah has fled Helium to avoid marriage to Sab, who has given chase and tries to shoot her craft down. Using his gravity defying leaps, Carter saves Dejah, and fights off her assailants. She convinces Carter that he is on Mars and seems to know how he can get back to Earth, leading Carter and Sola into the desert and down the river to a structure that seems to be a temple of the Therns, holding many secrets. However, they are captured and returned to Helium, where the marriage is to go ahead. Carter discovers from Matai that after the wedding Dejah is to be killed. It is up to Carter to escape and to persuade the Tharks that the war between Helium and Zodanga is their fight too, and that a victory for Sab would mean the death of them all. Can the cavalry save the day?

     John Carter achieved under expectations at the box office and copped a fair bit of criticism, I think unfairly as the film is an old fashioned (despite the CGI) Disney epic adventure family film that is supposed to be entertainment, not high art. It is directed by Andrew Stanton, his first live action film; his previous films had been animated features including Finding Nemo (2003) and WALL E (2008), winning Oscars for both. John Carter has all the elements of a classic fantasy adventure tale: waring cities, a princess in distress, a special weapon of great power, dirty deeds, spectacular fights and a lone hero from another world who can save the day! It is spectacular and entertaining and there have been far worse blockbusters released in the past few years.

     If there is a problem with John Carter it is to do with the casting, as Taylor Kitsch lacks the charisma for an Indiana Jones type action hero while Dominic West is an underperforming villain. That aside, however, Lynn Collins looks great in a range of eye-catching costumes and acts quite well and the cast is rounded out by an excellent assortment of American and British acting talent including Willem Dafoe and Mark Strong, who are both excellent, plus Ciaran Hinds, James Purefoy and Polly Walker, who all appeared together in the fabulous HBO series Rome.

     As might be expected, John Carter is replete with CGI effects, including the creation of cities and unique Martian fauna but mostly it is not too excessive, and the motion capture used to create the Thark animated characters is very well done. The picture, courtesy of cinematographer Dan Mindel, looks stunning, the action scenes clearly detailed. Mindel has some excellent credits with action films, such as Enemy of the State (1998) for Tony Scott, no slough with moving cameras, Mission Impossible 3 (2006) and Star Trek (2009), another CGI extravaganza, He uses his experience to great effect in John Carter. The film also suffers from the huge amount of exposition needed to explain the world of Barsoom, and just who is who, and the filmmakers have tried to break the exposition up into different scenes, but so much information still manages to slow down the action. However, when John Carter gets into its stride it is a spectacular Disney action fantasy adventure that is great fun.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The Blu-ray of John Carter is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1, in 1080p. The IMDb gives the theatrical ratio as 2.35:1.

     The print is beautiful, but not without faults. The fine detail is excellent and nicely rendered, blacks deep and shadow detail excellent. The colours have been treated in post-production which seems to have dampened the vibrancy, giving a brownish look to the desert scenes on Mars, which looks good. The skin tones of the Martians have a deeper brown – this is intentional, as the contrast to the much lighter skin tone of Carter shows. The green skin of the Tharks was fine too! Contrast is excellent, but it seemed to me that the brightness varied in the scenes when Carter was on the balcony near the end of the film.

     Marks were absent as you would expect in a recent film, but it was a bit disappointing to see a little ghosting like distortion in a couple of places, such as at 8:12, 33:01 and 65:01.

     Subtitles are available in a range of European languages, including French, German, Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian, Portuguese and Spanish, plus English and English for the Hearing Impaired. The English subtitles I sampled were in a clear white font and seemed accurate.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
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Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The audio options are English and Spanish DTS MA HD 7.1, English Dolby Digital 2.0 Audio Description, and English commentary.

     This is an excellent audio track, bombastic when it needed to be in the action sequences but with more subtle effects in other moments. Dialogue is mostly clear enough, but is indistinct in some action sequences, such as the opening air battle. This is probably to be expected, although at other times some of the dialogue is also a little hard to hear – but there are always the subtitles. The surrounds have a frequent enveloping feel with weather effects, such as rain and wind, music and ambient sounds. They burst into life especially in the flying sequences, with engines and explosions. The sub-woofer gave bass support to the action, the boom of the moving killer city Zodanga and explosions, but never unbalanced the sound stage.

     The score by Michael Giacchino (who won an Oscar for Up) is fairly predictable. It was loud in the action scenes and supported the widescreen vistas on Mars with swelling themes; it got the job done but was nothing memorable.

     Lip synchronisation seemed fine throughout.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

100 Years in the Making (10:43)

     A brief look at Edgar Rice Burroughs and the world he created, as well as mentions of previous attempts to bring the John Carter stories to the screen. Uses black and white stills, film footage and interviews from a wide range of people including authors, astrophysicists, academics, director Jon Favreau (Iron Man) (who himself had tried to get the project off the ground), and the cast and crew of John Carter, including director Andrew Stanton. Short and interesting enough.

Deleted Scenes (19:02)

     Ten deleted scenes with a director’s introduction, playable with or without the director’s comments and with a play all option. The scenes are at various stages of production, giving a good look at what went into the filming process. Most were cut for pacing reasons, and Stanton is an honest and engaging speaker.

360 Degrees of John Carter (34:32)

     An excellent featurette, a behind the scenes look at one day, day 52, of filming in London starting at just after 5 am and concluding at 6.42 pm. It shows make-up, costuming, food and snacks, stunts and filming a major green-screen sequence. Comments from a various range of cast and crew keep things moving along nicely. Fascinating and definitely worth a look.

Bloopers (1:56)

     Short but amusing.

Audio Commentary

     Andrew Stanton (director), Jim Morris and Lindsay Collins (producers) were recorded together and obviously have a good rapport. The commentary mentions the source material, initial ideas, the fact that John Carter was intended to be the first film of a trilogy, casting, scripting, costumes, locations, and the CGI effects. This is fairly light weight, with a lot of chatter and laughter, and is intermittently interesting.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Blu-ray versions are identical worldwide except for some language options. Buy local.

Summary

     John Carter is a classic Disney adventure tale: waring cities, a princess in distress, a special weapon of great power, dirty deeds, spectacular fights and a lone hero from another world who can save the day! When John Carter gets into its stride it is a spectacular action adventure.

     The Blu-ray looks good and sounds magnificent. Extras are interesting and worthwhile. . If you like this type of film don’t let the critics put you off taking a look.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Friday, July 27, 2012
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Why Mars? - Tom (read my bio)
Why Mars? -
Why mars?? - wolfgirv
Bad movie -