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Considering that JOHN CARTER ($40) is based upon the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, I was expecting the film to deliver good old fashioned, pulpy sci-fi thrills and that's exactly what I got when I sat down to view the movie. Add in the top of the line production values, terrific CGI effects and plenty of action- the result is that JOHN CARTER is a pulpy science fiction epic that will appeal to fans of old school sci-fi. Sure some aspects of the film are hokey and dated by the source material, but I really admire the chutzpah Disney showed in bringing the Edgar Rice Burroughs' story to the screen in such grand fashion. Growing up, I watched a whole lot of TARZAN movies, but saw far less of Burroughs' science fiction being adapted to the big screen, with THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT, THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT and AT THE EARTH'S CORE being notable cinematic exceptions. And while JOHN CARTER may not have been the commercial success Disney had hoped for, it's nice to see that the non-Tarzan works of Edgar Rice Burroughs haven't been relegated to cinematic obscurity.

Adapted from A Princess Of Mars, the first Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom Series, JOHN CARTER tells the story of the title character, an American Civil War veteran and Confederate Army captain, who had amassed great wealth, discovering gold in Arizona after the war. The sudden and unexpected death of John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) results in his sole heir and nephew Ned, aka Edgar Rice Burroughs (Daryl Sabara), receiving his uncle's vast estate, in addition to his personal journal. Looking for clues to his uncle's unexplained death, Ned reads the journal and discovers that in the cave where he discovered gold, he had an encounter with an alien, and a piece of alien technology resulted in his being transported to the planet Mars, which is called Barsoom by the inhabitants.

Being from Earth, John Carter discovers that his different bone density and Barsoom's lower gravity, he is able to accomplish feats of enormous strength and to leap incredible distances. With his abilities, John Carter is soon caught up in thousand-year war between Helium and Zodanga (two Barsoom cities), not to mention getting caught up with the lovely Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins), the Princess of Helium, who is trying to escape an arranged marriage that will supposedly end the war. Along the way, John Carter also has encounters with a four-armed, green skinned Barsoom race known as the Tharks, who are more war like and savage, but remain largely uninvolved in the affairs of the humanoid Barsoom inhabitants. The cast of JOHN CARTER also features Samantha Morton, Willem Dafoe, Thomas Haden Church, Mark Strong, Ciarán Hinds, Dominic West, James Purefoy, Bryan Cranston and Polly Walker.

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has made JOHN CARTER available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. JOHN CARTER has been provided with a relatively gorgeous looking 1080p presentation. Image sharpness and detail is generally excellent, although sometimes the quality of the presentation reveals compromises to some of the digital elements in various shots. Fine details in the texture of fabrics and other objects, not to mention the lines, freckles and imperfections in the actor’s skin, plus individual hairs are clearly visible. Colors are fully saturated, exuding the heat of the Martian desert terrain, and are reproduced without flaws. Additionally, flesh tones come across in an attractive manner. Blacks are pure, as are the whites, plus the contrast is very smooth. Shadow detail is pretty terrific. The elements from which JOHN CARTER has been mastered demonstrate virtually no imperfections. A fine sheen of grain/noise is noticeable on occasion during the presentation.

JOHN CARTER is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 7.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. No question here, this is a demo quality soundtrack that maximizes all the best qualities of a science-fiction/action movie sound design. Everything remains aggressively mixed during the numerous action sequences on Mars, whether it is the battles between airships, fighting in the arena, or armies charging into battle. The sound design is big and epic and perfectly suited to the story. Sound effects are aggressively deployed throughout the entire soundstage, so the outlying channels are fully engaged, with sounds whiz around and come at the listener from all directions. Thanks to the lossless encode, fidelity is terrific for both the musical component and sound effects. The bass channel is deep, percussive and shakes the ground when required. Dialogue is cleanly reproduced and is always easy to understand. French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc, as is an English descriptive track. Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the disc's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as few extras. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with director Andrew Stanton and producers Jim Morris and Lindsey Collins. Featurettes and other programs include: 360 Degrees Of John Carter (thirty five minutes), 100 Years In The Making (ten minutes) and Deleted Scenes With Optional Director's Commentary. Two minutes of Barsoom Bloopers close out the standard extras. The Disney Second Screen feature that integrates laptops or iPads for additional supplemental content is also included on this release. Disc two offers a DVD copy of the movie for those who are on the fence about making the upgrade to Blu-ray.

I found JOHN CARTER to be an old fashion, pulpy sci-fi delight brought to the big screen in highly impressive Disney fashion. The Blu-ray presentation is excellent. If you are like me, and enjoy old school science fiction (with fully modern production values), you'll enjoy JOHN CARTER. Recommended to the like minded.


John Carter (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo) (2012)


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright © 2012 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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