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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

John Carter


Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Samantha Morton, Mark Strong and Ciarán Hinds
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
RRP: £24.99
Certificate: 12
Available 02 July 2012

John Carter, like many who lived through the American Civil War, is a scarred man haunted by a lost wife and innocence. Having had his fill of killing, Carter walks into the mountains in search of gold. Legend has it that a great cave of gold exists, waiting to be found. Carter discovers what he believes to be the cave only to be attacked by a stranger. Fighting for his life, Carter prevails but it is not the cave of gold he has discovered, but a interplanetary portal to the dying world of Barsoom, known to men as Mars...

John Carter (2012 - 2 hrs, 12 min, 01 sec) is a science fiction fantasy film, directed by Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, WALL-E); the film was based on the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950), who is equally famous for his creation of Tarzan. He appears as one of the fictional characters in the film.

The film has been much maligned, and I’m not really sure why. Its only obvious fault is that it was made by a collection of people who loved the original material; therefore its length can feel a little over indulgent, all the other elements of the film are excellent. There are subplots about a power struggle within the Tharks, a romantic subplot, the main plot involving Carter in the war as well as another framing the film as a whole. A little less might have felt like a whole lot more.

Taylor Kitsch plays Carter, who takes a journey from a man who no longer wants to fight for anyone to a man who finds himself fighting for the freedom of a whole planet. In an unbelievable film, Kitch succeeds in making Carter a well-rounded, believable character. Obviously, a man who has lost the love of his life to violence is likely only going to respond to falling in love again. His greatest advantage is the low gravity of Mars, which allows him to leap tall buildings at a single bound and affords him greater strength, sounds a little familiar.

Here, Lynn Collins as Dejah Thoris, a princess of Mars, is less successful. I’m not sure whether it was a problem of the script, which effectively moves the cast from one exciting set piece to another, or the general lack of chemistry between Kitsch and Collins which made their union feel like it didn’t really have any foundation. A little more time spent developing their subplot would have made Carter's motivation that bit more realistic. That is not to say her performance isn’t without merit, she is stronger in the scenes in which she is not with Carter, even delivering what appears to be a wink and a nod to Dune, as she is introduced full faced, explaining some things about Barsoom, before she decides that her monologue was rubbish.

When Carter initially reaches Mars he meets Tars Tarkas, a four armed Thark native of the planet and the leader of his people, who at this point prefer to stay out of the fight between the last two surviving cities of Helium and Zodanga. The CGI character is voiced by Willem Dafoe and it is a testament to both the design and how far CGI has come that you believe Tars as a real character.

War is not without creatures that have a part in it propagation and continuation. In John Carter the main mover is a member of an immortal shape shifting race, the Therns, whose leader, Matai Shang, is played with delicious relish by Mark Strong, who always puts in a good gig as the bad guy. As well as the main cast the supporting players all bring good performances, including Samantha Morton (Sola), Dominic West (Sab Than), James Purefoy (Kantos Kan) and Ciarán Hinds (Tardos Mors).

The Blu-ray disc comes with a comprehensive set of extras, including 100 Years in the Making (10 min, 43 sec), which even has some sound bites by the author. The piece has the director explaining how he discovered the tales and his desire to make the film. There are ten deleted scenes, all in differing stages of completion with additional commentary by Stanton. 360 Degrees of John Carter (34 min, 32 sec) has a lot of behind the scenes film of the movie being made. The disc wraps up with a small number of Bloopers (1 min, 56 sec).

The disc has audio options for either Spanish or English 7.1 DTS-HD, as well as an English 2.0 DD Descriptive track; there are eight European subtitle tracks. The film contains a full length commentary from Andrew Stanton and producers Jim Morris and Lindsey Collins. It’s worth listening to get an idea what the film makers were trying to do and the processes the film went through.

There is much to like about the film, indulgences aside, it’s a perfect love note to Edgar Rice Burroughs and an entertaining way to spend two hours.


Charles Packer

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