Oh, what could have been with John Carter. It certainly had the makings of an epic film that could have had many sequels. It has the action, a likable main character and everything that it needed to bring something special to the screen.
Regretfully, the writing failed it. Let's get right into it.
As a warrior lost on Earth, John Carter is magically transported to Mars, where the fate of the planet and its people ultimately rest in his hands. With surprising new powers, and epic battles, he rises to become the man he is meant to be and the hero he truly is.
Again, this had every element it needed to become an epic release. It had a strong lead character, plenty of 'hero' action and pieces to make a love story happen. I wanted to like John Carter and I wanted this movie to be just as good as everyone was expecting it to be, but it fell quite short.
The problem with this film is that the writing was severely out of balance. While the beginning of the film did create an image of John Carter, we didn't really get to know him that well before he was lifted into Mars. We get that he's gone rogue on the U.S. Cavalry. We get that he's discovered gold in a place that there shouldn't be gold. We get that he's a complete badass and a loner that has lost his family. All of this is understood. What we don't get is why he's still pushing forth with his life. Getting rich is an empty excuse. There has to be something deeper, and we never get that far with the character before he's thrown into Mars, which derails his development. There needed to be a bit more rhyme to his reason, but there wasn't.
From that point on, his arrival at Mars is far too quick. What I mean by that is he gets use to having powers and being on a different planet without much of a 'OH MY GOD!' reaction. He's just like 'eh, whatever' about it. This is especially alarming when he makes contact with alien life for the first time. Don't get me wrong, he's a tough guy, but if you were on a strange planet and a four-arm green alien approached you, wouldn't you freak out a just a bit? The audience is expecting one reaction and Carter is giving another. And, much like his character development at the beginning, it's over way too quick.
After this initiation to Mars, the movie starts to slow a bit, which is a good thing. The crisis on Mars is explained, the action gets going and the movie takes you into some beautiful moments. I can't overstate this enough, the action is where the film really draws its strength from. You should applaud the fun action sequences, especially when Carter understands his role and starts to kick some butt. That's about one-half of the film, though, which can't account for the smaller parts that needed to be bigger. For example, the love story that blooms between Carter and Mars resident Dejah Thoris is empty. These two characters don't like each other and it never really turns the corner to reveal their love. It just happens. There needs to be reason for these two to love each other, but there isn't. In fact, towards the climax of the film, you have each distrusting the other. After that, they're in love? No. That's not how it works. It's very important for the film to establish this love because the end sequence depends on it. Without that solid ground established then the last part really means nothing. Don't get me wrong, the elements to make these two slowly start to love each other were firmly in place. The writing simply couldn't follow the path and bring them to that point. It's just 'hate' and then suddenly 'love'. It's not believable.
Speaking of the last part, it's way too quick. It's insanely too quick. I won't say anymore because I don't want to ruin the ending.
At the end of the day, due to poor characters development the film is a bust. John Carter isn't completely empty, as you get some fantastic action sequences and solid CG, but there's not enough depth to the characters to make this any thing more. Hopefully there is another John Carter film that gives more attention to the characters and story flow, as this story is quite intriguing. It just needs to be done properly.
Speaking of done properly, the Blu-ray is pretty much one of the best I've seen this year. The HD transfer is amazingly vivid, crisp and clean. Disney did a great job with making this movie look good on Blu-ray. You'll get a lot of yellows, reds, greens and blues standing out in your picture quite well. There is no color banding, no graininess and no artifacts. The CG looks amazing, as do the monsters that Carter runs into on the red planet. Again, just a very solid transfer for a film that needed a large upside for its home video release. You won't be disappointed by the looks.
The audio is equally as impressive, as you get 7.1 audio blaring through your speakers. Since the movie is pretty much driven by action, there's no shortage of bass and surround sound fun that the DTS-HD delivers. The film also sports a screen ratio of 2:40.1.
Finally, here's what you're getting for features:
- Disney Second Screen (neat stuff)
- 360 Degrees of John Carter
- Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Andrew Stanton
- Barsoom Bloopers
- 100 Years in the Making
- Audio Commentary
While there isn't a lot of quantity here, there's plenty of quality. The featurette on the DVD is darn solid, as you get the tale of the original story and how it made it onscreen. You also get some solid deleted scenes and a cool featurette in 360 Degrees of John Carter. The bloopers are good, as is the audio commentary. The second screen stuff is interesting, though I'm still a fan of the TRON version. Solid features, though not many.