John Carter is a stunning film. That is really all there is to say. If you haven’t managed to see it (and most of you probably haven’t). do yourself a favor and check it out. It is a beautiful piece of cinematic poetry in the guise of a summer action/sci-fi film. Having watched this in the theater, and now again on blu-ray, I find that I actually liked it better the second time around. This is a fairly rare occurrence as most films don’t hold up as well on second viewings. John Carter did for me.
An ex-confederate soldier, John Carter heads west to seek his fortune after his wife and child are killed during the American Civil War. His heartbreak leads him to do the only thing he can, and that is search for treasure; to seek the solitude of the American frontier and pursue an unrealistic quest for gold. Captured by Union officers in an attempt to conscript him, Carter escapes and finds himself and the Union officers beset by Indians. Escaping from the Indians, Carter finds himself in his cave of gold, and then mysteriously transported from Earth (Jarsoom) to Mars (Barsoom).
Once on Barsoom, he finds that he has almost super-human strength and agility due to gravity and his bone density. He is stronger and can jump farther, and it has been stated that the character of John Carter may have been an inspiration for our iconic superhero ‘Superman‘.
Taylor Kitsch (X-men Origins: Wolverine, Battleship) plays John Carter. He plays the character fairly stoic, as a damaged, heartbroken shell of a man. A man in need of a cause but unwilling to commit to another hopeless war that will eventually cause him more heartache. It is here that Kitsch really shines. He doesn’t need to stretch his acting chops. He is just broken and hasn’t been fixed from the loss of his family. He continues on and finds Barsoom interesting, but he is never awed by what he is seeing or his circumstances. He is just carrying on with no goals or hope. He is an empty shell of a man that eventually finds a cause and love.
Lynn Collins plays a stunningly beautiful Dejah Thoris, the princess of Mars. She is a spontaneous, emotional character, the exact opposite of Carter. She does a phenomenal job of conveying the stresses of war and is unable to accept that there is nothing she can do about it. Of course, when her and Carter connect, then there is something she can do by using Carter to her own ends. While she is not a manipulative character, she is desperate to save her people and will do anything to accomplish this. Willem Dafoe, Thomas Hayden Church, and Samatha Morton also star as CGI characters the Tharks.
As is typical of Disney blu-ray discs, this is a great release. The picture quality is amazing as is the sound. If you are using a 5.1 surround sound system (or better) you will find an aural assault. It was a simply amazing mix in the theater, and I feel that the 5.1 mix actually immersed me in the story better in more confined spaces.
The special features are also well done. There is a documentary on the legacy and attempts to make a John Carter film for almost 100 years. The documentary contains an interview with Andrew Stanton, the director, as well as Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Iron Man 2) who spent some time trying to get a John Carter film off the ground. While it is not a long documentary, it is fascinating. There are also a plethora of deleted scenes with the choice of watching with or without commentary. There are also trailers and commentary tracks as well as picture in picture mode. Overall, a nice selection of features.
John Carter is one of those film that brings magic back. As I watched this originally in the theater I had the magical feeling that I haven’t had in the theater in quite a while. Hellboy 2: The Golden Army, The Dark Knight and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (that one was a bit of a letdown) are the only three other than John Carter that have given me that feeling in recent memory. As I re-watched this on blu-ray, I found that that feeling was still there. This is the sign of a truly amazing film, when I can re-watch it and still have that feeling. This is the feeling that movies should convey at all times. A sense of magic and wonder and living something extraordinary. Do yourself a favor and see this. It is truly an amazing film. I hope we will eventually see a sequel. I want to visit Barsoom again, much like John Carter.
Film: ***1/2 out of ****
Blu-Ray: *** out of ****