Tags: 3D, Andrew Stanton, Blu-ray 3D, Bryan Cranston, Ciaran Hinds, Daryl Sabara, Digital Copy, Disney, Disney Second Screen, Dominic West, James Purefoy, John Carter of Mars, Lynn Collins, Mark Strong, Polly Walker, Samantha Morton, Taylor Kitsch, Thomas Hayden Church, Willem Dafoe
has an average rating of 6.9 on IMDb
to be converted it sure looks great!
1080p in AVC MPEG-4 on a 50gb disc
DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio
are worthwhile & have Second Screen
– 132 minutes
Blu-ray uses 32.7GB for the movie out of 43.9GB total.
Blu-ray 3D uses 28.6 for the movie out of 43.0GB total.
Street Date: June 5th, 2012
Overall Verdict – Good Film / Amazing Presentation
— Review written by: Justin Sluss —
The Movie Itself is based on the story “A Princess of Mars” by Edgar Rice Burroughs which was originally published in 1912. Even though it was published in 1912 technically it was using a pen name and the title “Under the Moons of Mars” until it was later republished in 1917 using his real name with the title mentioned earlier. Most know Burroughs for writing the story “Tarzan of the Apes” also from 1912 which would be adapted into many motion pictures over the years. Whereas “Tarzan” was a work of fiction / fantasy this story was a Science Fiction (Sci-Fi). The story of “A Princess of Mars” was the first part of his “Barsoom” series which ran all the way up until 1943 and spanned across 10 more stories — one of which was actually written by his son.
The film adaptation was directed by Andrew Stanton who also co-wrote the screenplay. Stanton is best known for his work previously at Pixar where he co-directed/co-wrote “A Bug’s Life” (1998), co-directed/co-wrote “Finding Nemo” (2003) and directed/co-wrote “WALL-E” (2008). Stanton also served as a co-writer on the first two films in the “Toy Story” franchise (1995 & 1999) as well as co-wrote the screenplay for “Monsters, Inc.” (2001). Quite the career in which he managed to win 2 Academy Awards. This (“John Carter“) was his very first live-action film.
The story here is set in 1868 and involves a Civil War vet from Virginia by the name of “John Carter” (played by Taylor Kitsch). Carter has been trying to find gold in this mine where he’s found this strange spider-like symbol. Everyone around thinks he’s crazy and gives him a hard time when he comes into town to get supplies. One day he is in the process of doing just that, trying to get supplies, when he is confronted by the Army asking him to join them. He doesn’t want to co-operate and puts up numerous amounts of fights and makes numerous escape attempts until he finally does get away with the general’s horse. The general “Powell” (played by Bryan Cranston) and his cavalry give Carter chase but soon stop as they see him run into a group of Indians (Native Americans). The Army is very much cautious by the Indians and soon a gunfight ensues as Carter makes an escape but is followed by Powell who gets wounded by a gunshot. Carter dislikes the man but he isn’t about to let him die so he goes back to rescue him and brings him with him to a cave where they seek refuge.
They soon are again confronted by the Indians who they think they are about to have a shootout with until they look up, seem spooked and ride off quickly. Carter goes to see what the Indians were looking at and sees the spider-like symbol he’s been talking about where he claims the gold is hidden. He leaves Powell out front and enters the cave only to find some very, very strange markings throughout. While Carter is investigating the cave and agreeing with Powell that it’s something not of this world a strange bald man appears out of thin air. The man is wielding a strange blue knife-like weapon which he tries to attack Carter with but it stands no match for a gun. The strange man who appeared out of nowhere falls to the ground and begins to slowly die but he manages to speak some strange words as he grasps this silver medallion-like object. Carter grabs the object from the man’s hand as he speaks the final word.
Next thing we know John Carter is laying down on the ground of this weird place where the landscape is yellow and more desert-like than any place he’s ever seen on Earth yet the skies are blue — just perhaps a different shade, more lighter. He gets to his feet, questions where he is and then tries to walk only to find that isn’t as simple as he expects it to be. Left behind is the silver medallion-like object that got him there. He tries and tries to walk in different manners, even crawls, but keeps falling flat on his face until he eventually just gets fed up and throws a rock only to find it goes way, way, way further than any object would on Earth. He realizes something is up here and decides to try jumping instead of walking or crawling. He jumps and ends up going hundreds upon hundreds of feet in one single bound. Obviously the gravity here or his bone structure is causing him to have strange powers. Soon he makes his way to this mountain-like area where he finds a glass enclosed area full of these strange green creatures hatching from eggs. This is the point he’s really, really starting to question where the hell he is. By this time he hears and soon sees a group headed his way and takes cover.
One of the members of the approaching group tells the others to go on and heads for Carter. It’s this giant nine-foot tall green Martian creature with four arms and tusk-like horns called a Thark. This Thark goes by the name of “Tars Tarkas” (voiced by Willem Dafoe). He at first approaches Carter with caution but sees he has strange abilities and seems very different so he tries to be friendly. He introduces himself but the only problem is he speaks a language that Carter cannot understand. However, Carter does realize he’s trying to be friendly and proceeds to introduce himself as “John Carter of Virginia”, which Tars mistakenly interperts as his name being Virginia. He asks numerous times for Carter to jump again like he did until he finally realizes that he can’t understand his language. So, Tars makes hand gestures and repeats his people’s word for jump. Carter eventually realizes what he means and decides to take the creature up on the request. Problem is that Carter jumps toward the weapons that Tars had laid down to show he was coming in peace. He tries to grab the weapons to make an attack on Tars but is quickly shot by a sniper Thark watching from a distance away. Tars takes Carter and throws him on top of one of their horse-like creatures and brings him back to their city.
Eventually after some crazy rituals John Carter soon grasps the ability to understand the language of the Tharks. He tries to make an escape but soon realizes that one of the Tharks has the silver medallion-like object that he left behind so he tries to get it back but is captured in the process. It takes a while before Carter and Tars Tarkas become friendly; despite meeting originally on somewhat friendly conditions.
There are two other groups of intelligent life here on “Barsoom”; both of which are humanoid. One group wears red, the other wears blue. The Zodangans are led by an evil man named “Sab Than” (played by Dominic West), while the other faction the people of Helium are led by “Tardos Mor” (played by Ciaran Hinds). Tardos has a daughter whom is the princess of Helium named “Dejah Thoris” (played by Lynn Collins). Dejah Thoris is well educated in science and is working on a solution that she thinks will bring an end to the conflict between the two humanoid factions. Little does she know this same type of technology she has been working on has been given to the evil Sab Than by these strange three bald men called Therns. The Thern leader “Matai Shang” (played by Mark Strong) gives a weapon to Sab Than that is bright blue and wraps around his arm. It gives him the ability to shoot laser-like beams out and destroy whatever he likes. This is not good news for the people of Helium. Rival faction leader Sab Than with his newfound abilities demands that Tardos Mor let him marry his daughter the princess. He claims that if this happens he will let that bring peace between the two groups. The princess doesn’t like this idea one bit and decides to leave Helium. Meanwhile John Carter is still in custody of the Tharks. Eventually an airship battle between the two main humanoid rival factions happens above the Tharks city. He manages to get free and uses his jumping abilities to help the princess who is aboard one of the airships escape to safety. She will eventually explain to him where in the solar system he is and claim to help him return to his home. Carter is hesitant to trust her but he has no choice. And so that sets up the plot here to the film.
“John Carter” was a very underrated film in my honest opinion. I really feel most all of the critics gave it “a bad rap” so-to-speak and so did a few moviegoers — but it was mostly from the critics. Now that it’s going to be available on home video folks will be able to choose for themselves if they like it and not have to listen to what others found to be so wrong with it. Still, it managed to get all the way up to a 6.9 (out of 10) overall rating over at IMDb yet it only has a 52% (out of 100%) rating on the “tomatometer” over at Rotten Tomatoes. On that very same site (Rotten Tomatoes) it has a slightly higher 67% rating from the audience. This proves that moviegoers actually liked it a lot more than critics who seemed to be overly critical on the film and perhaps either expected too much or something entirely different altogether.
According to Box Office Mojo the film had a budget of 250 million dollars yet only made 72 million here in the United States at the box office and 200 million in foreign ticket sales. That really only makes for a 22 million dollar profit out of that quarter of a billion dollar budget. The studio (Disney) didn’t like this and fired their Chairman Rich Ross. Disney won’t say he was fired though, as they say he “stepped down” after the film was a “flop” at the box office. You can read more about it HERE.
Despite all the critic hatred and box office failure this film proves to be enjoyable to those who don’t get into all the drama surrounding it. The story has lots of similarities between our world during the time of the Civil War with two factions (both the same) fighting each other while another more tribal group (the Tharks) sits back and watches. If you can’t see the similarities here between the North and South and that of the Indians you must surely be blind. It’s obvious that Edgar Rice Burroughs was using this story to make some social observations or satire hidden behind a work of science fiction.
Let me first start off by saying that this film was NOT shot on 3D cameras — read more about that HERE. It was shot in 2D and then converted to 3D in post-production, however it unlike other films does not suffer from this as much as you’d expect. In fact, it actually has some pretty impressive 3D effects with lots of depth throughout as well as “pop” on certain props or CG animated material. Speaking of which, the first real highlight of the 3D effects here comes from the CG animated airships. Around 1 minute 45 seconds in you’ll see a nice airship battle with some explosions that have some definite pop, the ships themselves as well and even the swords during a short hand-to-hand battle. You’ll already start to notice that characters in the foreground stand out such as “Sab Than” as he watches the strange 3 men floating toward him. Once someone has their back turned to the camera you’ll notice they stand out in the foreground as well with a bit of depth or pop to them to give you emphasis on their short distance from the camera versus the person they’re speaking to. It’s not just the scenes on Mars (“Barsoom“) that have the 3D to them. Scenes on Earth such as around 4 minutes 30 seconds in New York City during the rain have some depth and 3D pop to them; namely the umbrellas being held by the extras in the street passing by the camera (as seen HERE). Once “John Carter” is on “Barsoom” you’ll notice that he totally stands out from the yellow landscape (backdrop) with some emphasis on objects like rocks and whatnot getting some depth to them as well. There’s lots of 3D pop on “Tars Tarkas” when we’re first introduced to him. Tars’s horns and four arms really seem to have some pop to them, especially in close-ups. This is just the beginning of things and not only but roughly 20 minutes in a film that runs slightly over 2 hours in length.
There’s no huge problems here to speak of in the 3D presentation. However I did spot a very tiny bit of crosstalk (or “ghosting” as it’s often referred to) during a short darker scene at the 53 minutes 40 seconds mark inside the Tharks’s temple. This scene doesn’t last but for just a few minutes and again the amount of crosstalk is minimal; just noticeable on a few occasions as some background objects seem just barely out of focus. Aside from that very, very small bit of crosstalk the rest of the imagery here seems very sharp and well-defined — totally in focus. The fact that it was shot on 2D and converted to 3D as I mentioned earlier does not make it suffer as much as you’d think. Unlike other recent films that received this type of treatment like “Captain America: The First Avenger“, “The Green Hornet” and “Thor” which prove to be some of the least impressive (worst) Blu-ray 3D titles out there. This is honestly more impressive at times than “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” which was partially shot in 3D. The fact both these films are roughly as much a blend of live-action and CG animation makes for good comparison. I’d have to say this is nowhere as impressive as it would have been if it had actually been shot on 3D cameras. The CG especially seems to have been rendered pretty well in 3D. This proves to be one of the most impressive 2D to 3D post-conversions I have seen to-date. The link I put up earlier discussing how this was shot on 2D and converted offers some great interviews with a producer on the film and two of the folks responsible for the conversion who seem very proud of their efforts, which I think they should be. This type of work gives converted 3D a better reputation in my humble opinion. I, like most folks, don’t particularly like conversions but this is one definite exception.
All and all I’d say this earns an impressive “4.5 Star Rating” for overall 3D quality. I’m glad to make this my first Blu-ray 3D review. It didn’t set the bar as high as it could get but made for a great example of a live-action / CG animated presentation in 3D that I’ll be expecting other films to be as impressive as; especially of those actually shot in 3D.
Video Quality on this release is in full 1080p using the AVC MPEG-4 codec on a BD-50 (50 gigabyte dual-layered Blu-ray Disc) in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. According to the technical specifications on IMDb this was shot in 2D on 35MM film using the Panavision Panaflex Millennium XL2 camera. It holds a very solid black level, with a vibrant color palette and accurate fleshtones on the main character and others on Earth and as much as the make-up will allow for those on “Barsoom” (Mars). There’s a very impressive amount of detail here in every shot, especially in close-ups of live-action material and on the CG animated material like the airships, “Tars Tarkas“, the other “Tharks” and other creatures. There’s very little sign of film grain here, which is to be expected for something from a 35MM film source. This does complete and utter justice to the excellent cinematography by DP (director of photography) Daniel Mindel, the CG special effects, costumes, make-up, set design and such. No complaints here at all about the video quality in 3D or 2D. It looks wonderful either way. The visual presentation on standard Blu-ray Disc is crisp and really impressive in 2D. It looks equally as impressive just perhaps a bit more dim (depending on your 3D HDTV and 3D glasses) on the Blu-ray 3D presentation. Either way it’s well worthy of a “5 Star Rating” for overall video quality.
Audio Quality on this release is presented in DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio. Things start up with the opening narration by Willem Dafoe (as “Tars Tarkas“) being delivered through primarily the center channel speaker and the original Score (music) by Michael Giacchino being delivered through the front left & right as well as four rear channel speakers with a slight amount of LFE (bass) presence. Once things get past the view of “Barsoom” (Mars) spinning in outer space and down to a land view you’ll hear the sound effects of the moving city have some nice “oomph” to them via the subwoofer. This is subtle though in comparison of that to come. Speaking of which, the original score here can go from being very subtle to absolutely intense to set the mood of the film; which it does perfectly. For instance it only takes until around 1 minute 45 seconds in during an airship battle for you to get to hear the first real highlight of the lossless 7.1 mix. This is one intense little action sequence with explosions and other sound effects as well as intense music. Back though to being subtle (yet effective) around 4 minutes 30 seconds in during the scene on Earth in New York City you’ll hear the rain getting nice rear channel presence and coming across very realistic. Dialogue here is delivered very distinctly through the center channel and is never once “drowned out” by any of the action that comes from sound effects or by the music that makes up the original score. Even the dialogue in the language of the “Tharks” comes across distinct — if you can speak it — but you’ll be relying on subtitles to understand it. Safe to say that no volume adjustments will have to be made here. This really holds and impressive audio presentation that definitely has its moments to it — some of which might even be worth deeming “demo material.” This earns a “5 Star Rating” for overall audio quality.
Bonus Materials on this release are presented in full 1080p Hi-Def (HD) video quality with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo @320kbps — unless otherwise noted below.
- “Disney Second Screen” feature lets those on either a tablet (iPad or Android) or laptop experience the film with even more content along the way as the movie plays simutaniously. This feature has not yet been made active since the title has not yet been released but according to the description it promises to allow the viewer to explore through John Carter’s journal.
- “100 Years in the Making” (10:43 – HD) features Dolby Digital 5.1 @640kbps sound. This featurette looks back on the author Edgar Rice Burroughs who wrote the original story “A Princess of Mars” that this is based on. This features quotes from the author discussing his work as well as interviews from the director Andrew Stanton, Jon Favreau (actor, director, writer), Michael Chabon (novelist, screenwriter), Steven Barnes (screenwriter, author of “The Barsoom Project“), Dr. Neil Degrasse Tyson (astrophysicist, director of The Hayden Planetarium), actor/co-star Willem Dafoe, Dr. Robert Zeuschner (professor of philosophy), production designer William Stout, producer Jim Morris and actor/star Taylor Kitsch. This discusses the other things the stories involving the planet of Mars (“Barsoom“) that Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote such as comic books in the 1970s. You’ll learn that the story this film was based on was originally published under another title (“Under the Moons of Mars“) with a pen name of Norman Bean since the author didn’t want to be associated with such far-fetched fiction. He later would publish it under his real name and change the title. There’s also discussion of the illustrator J. Allen St. John who worked on bringing such memorable imagery to the characters and settings in the stories. Lots of really interesting facts here such as how “Looney Tunes” director Bob Clampett had originally tried to adapt the story into a full-length animated film back in the 1930s and how director/writer Jon Favreau had tried to adapt it into a live-action film himself before he ended up doing “Iron Man” but decided to abandon the project. It’s all these attempts that came to never be that make us realize that this film really has been 100 years in the making. This proves to be a very enjoyable and informative featurette to only be just roughly 11 minutes in length.
- Deleted Scenes (19:02 – HD) feature optional audio commentary by director Andrew Stanton as well as a video introduction. There’s a total of 10 deleted scenes here and some of them are very unfinished with illustrations to represent what would have been CG animation and such. They may seem a bit “rough” but prove to be worth the watch if you enjoyed the film.
- “360 Degrees of John Carter” (34:32 – HD) chronicles a whole day (March 26th, 2011) of filming from all aspects — hence the “360 degrees” part of the featurette title. This serves as a “making of” that will give you tours of the sets, wardrobe department, dressing rooms as well as on set footage during the filming, pre-visualization sequences and more. There’s lots of interviews here with everyone from the director/co-writer Andrew Stanton, make-up artists, costume designer, extras, visual effects supervisor, stunt coordinators, craft services & catering, set production assistant, second unit director and co-star Willem Dafoe with footage of him on set in his mo-cap suit wearing stilts.
- “Barsoom Bloopers” (1:56 – HD) is a short “gag reel” of sorts and proves to be pretty funny, ending with some dancing.
- Audio Commentary by Director Andrew Stanton and Producers Jim Morris & Lindsey Collins
- A DVD of the film in Standard Definition with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound is also included in this “combo pack” style Blu-ray Disc release. Bonus materials-wise this includes two things listed above: the “100 Years in the Making” featurette as well as the Audio Commentary.
- A Digital Copy of the film is included via a DVD-ROM and redemption code included a paper insert — this is compatible with both iTunes and Windows Media portable devices, both Mac and PC.
Overall the bonus materials prove to be very enjoyable and pretty informative yet sadly only total up to just a little bit over an hour in length. There’s some nice stuff though that aren’t featurettes like the Disney Second Screen feature and the audio commentary. Topping things to the supplemental material off you get a 2D version of the film on standard Blu-ray Disc, a DVD of the film in standard definition and a traditional Digital Copy, compatible with both Windows Media and iTunes, which you can transfer to your portable devices (phones and tablets) or play it on your computer (both PC and Mac).
Blu-ray Disc packaging:
NOTE: The full-sized 1920×1080 files are in a .PNG file format and uncompressed. Please be patient with the slow loading times, keep in mind these files are at least 1MB (1 megabyte) in size each.