head head head
Home Contact RSS Feed
Blu-ray Review: John Carter
Adam Frazier   |  @   |  

John Carter Blu-ray CoverJohn Carter
Blu-ray | Blu-ray 3D | DVD
Directed by Andrew Stanton
Starring Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Willem Dafoe, Mark Strong, Ciarán Hinds, Dominic West, James Purefoy
Walt Disney Pictures Home Entertainment
Release Date: June 5, 2012

Written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Princess of Mars is the first book in the John Carter of Mars series, which tells the story of a Civil War veteran transported to Mars.

For nearly 100 years, Hollywood has failed in its attempts to bring Burroughs’ classic science-fiction fantasy to the silver screen, though the ideas presented were borrowed by countless other works.

Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars series is so old that it actually influenced other influences. From Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian series to the pulpy Flash Gordon serials of the ’30s and ’40s that inspired George Lucas’s Star Wars, the themes and elements of Burroughs’ work have been mined so thoroughly that most moviegoers will find Disney’s live-action film adaptation, John Carter, to be rather irrelevant – but that’s not to say it isn’t entertaining.

John Carter: White Apes

From Academy Award-winning filmmaker Andrew Stanton (Wall-E, Finding Nemo), John Carter is a sweeping epic of action and adventure set on the mysterious world of Barsoom – a planet the inhabitants of Earth know as Mars. The film follows [you guessed it!] John Carter (Taylor Kitsch), who wakes up on Mars and becomes entangled in an age-old conflict amongst the planet’s inhabitants, including Thark warrior Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe) and the absolutely bad-ass Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins).

Dejah Thoris is an extremely influential female character in science-fiction fantasy history – a template for later heroines like Princess Leia, Red Sonja, and Ripley. She’s a brilliant scientist, a fierce warrior, and it doesn’t hurt that she’s drop-dead gorgeous either. When I first saw Return of the Jedi as a boy and laid eyes upon Princess Leia in that metal slave bikini, I knew I liked girls. In that same way, Lynn Collins will no doubt ignite an entire generation’s Bad-Thoughts-Machine as Dejah Thoris, who wears a ceremonial wedding gown like no other.

John Carter: Dejah Thoris

Taylor Kitsch, on the other hand, isn’t terrible as John Carter, but he’s just all wrong for the part. Kitsch is a young, handsome guy – he looks like an underwear model, not a grizzled Civil War veteran haunted by a broken past.

Ultimately, John Carter suffers from a lack of consistency – it’s completely unbalanced. At one moment it’s silly and comic, with a ten-legged dog-monster that speeds around the martian deserts like The Road Runner. Other times the film wants so desperately to be serious and somber – simultaneously assaulting you with action sequences that, while thrilling, have been done before.

Don’t get me wrong, the monsters and the airships and the landscapes are fantastic, but any time John Carter jumps and skips across the surface, it feels wrong – it reminds me of Elektra’s rooftop jumps in Daredevil – it feels fake, even in a world where we can breathe on Mars and there are Great White Apes roaming about.

John Carter and the Tharks

Sadly, John Carter is destined to bear the brunt of comparisons to Star Wars and James Cameron’s Avatar. I’m just as guilty of this – I’m sure you’ve already counted the Star Wars references I’ve made in this review, but I just can’t help it. I grew up with Star Wars – and even though I’ve watched Flash Gordon and The Hidden Fortress and clearly recognize the influences and inspirations that Lucas mined for his space epic, you never forget your first time – and my first time was Star Wars.

Even 8-year-old kids with only a budding knowledge of Star Wars are going to be quick to compare the arena scene in John Carter with Attack of the Clones. The thing is, John Carter is way better than the Prequels. There’s a lot of heart to John Carter, but unfortunately, due to the film’s poor box office performance, it doesn’t look like we’ll be getting a sequel any time soon.

Overall, John Carter is a spirited pulp adventure – a worthy adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ work that comes a hundred years too late. It’s a fun ride, but it’s all-too-familiar territory for celebrants and enthusiasts who watch too many films and read too many books (is there such a thing?).

OK, enough about the film itself – let’s talk about the Blu-ray. First, there’s the 100 Years in the Making featurette, which emphasizes the historical importance of Burroughs’ fiction. The featurette is narrated by Burroughs’ own words and a variety of filmmakers, who discuss the lengthy process of bringing John Carter to the screen.

360 Degrees of John Carter documents a single day of production on set as director Andrew Stanton and his cast and crew prepare for one of the film’s massive action sequences. Stanton’s enthusiasm and vision is palpable, and it’s great to see Lynn Collins and Willem Dafoe preparing for their scenes and getting into character.

There are also several deleted scenes included, accompanied by Andrew Stanton’s commentary on why the scenes were cut. In each scene he adds why he was personally attached to the shot and how reluctant he was in cutting certain material. Other extras include Disney’s Second Screen option, which allows viewers to explore the John Carter universe while watching the film, via iPad or computer. There’s also an audio commentary from Stanton and the cast, as well as somewhat amusing blooper reel.

As for the quality of the film’s visuals, Disney’s 1080p/AVC-encoded video transfer is rather stunning. Regardless of how you feel about the film itself, the high definition presentation is impressive. Disney’s DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track compliments the images by bringing the roaring sounds of spaceships and martian beasts to life.

Overall, if you enjoyed the film, you can’t go wrong with John Carter on Blu-ray. While I was hoping for an extended director’s cut that improved the quality of the film itself, it’s still a great little science-fiction adventure with some staggering imagery and a few thrills.


  1. Buy it and see it. This film is so much better than its press. Maybe a strong disc showing will convince Disney (or someone else) to give the series another chance.

    Comment by The Gent — June 19, 2012 @ 5:18 pm

  2. This movie got short shrift in theaters; it’s really both quite fun and of historical value for the reasons described in this article. The Blu-ray is a second chance to give it the support it deserves.

    Comment by Estara — June 19, 2012 @ 6:14 pm

  3. Listen, FamousMonster,

    I was 13 years old when Star Wars first came out and I thought it was awesome. I was one of those kids who saw it over and over. But the fact is that there is more depth and variety of culture, more depth of character, more flat out awesomeness in 10 minutes on Barsoom in this movie than in 6 bloated episodes by Lucas-the-toy-maker. 

    Don’t even try to compare it to Avatar. A visually impressive and technically ground-breaking movie, but thin and entirely forgettable story.

    What you have failed to understand is that Burroughs was a Father of Fantasy as well as science fiction. This story does not attempt to convince the audience it “could” happen. But, of all the film genre’s “John Carter” most closely belongs on the shelf with Thor, Iron Man, and the X-Men. This is a super-hero film. John Carter is a Martian Superman who has his powers because he is an alien being.

    This movie could have superseded Star Wars if Disney were as desperate for money as Lucas was in the 1970s when he was willing to merchandise his characters into anything–cartoons, cereal boxes, and Christmas TV specials. Alas, since Disney can afford to write the movie off, they probably will.

    Comment by JamesWynn — June 19, 2012 @ 6:36 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Previous Article
Next Article
You may have noticed that we're now AD FREE! Please support Geeks of Doom by using the Amazon Affiliate link above. All of our proceeds from the program go toward maintaining this site.
Geeks of Doom on Twitter Geeks of Doom on Facebook Geeks of Doom on Instagram Follow Geeks of Doom on Tumblr Geeks of Doom on YouTube Geeks of Doom Email Digest Geeks of Doom RSS Feed
The Drill Down Podcast TARDISblend Podcast Westworld Podcast
2023  ·   2022  ·   2021  ·   2020  ·   2019  ·   2018  ·   2017  ·   2016  ·   2015  ·   2014  ·  
2013  ·   2012  ·   2011  ·   2010  ·   2009  ·   2008  ·   2007  ·   2006  ·   2005
Geeks of Doom is proudly powered by WordPress.

Students of the Unusual™ comic cover used with permission of 3BoysProductions
The Mercuri Bros.™ comic cover used with permission of Prodigal Son Press

Geeks of Doom is designed and maintained by our geeky webmaster
All original content copyright ©2005-2023 Geeks of Doom
All external content copyright of its respective owner, except where noted
Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under
a Creative Commons License.
About | Privacy Policy | Contact