John Carter [Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray/DVD]
Format: Pre-Owned Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD
Disney's mega budget foray into a new CGI franchise of epic sci-fi mythology arrives with a massive marketing push and an interesting pulp pedigree that will probably inspire as many fans as it will naysayers. This impressively crafted piece of escapist fantasy is based on a character and series of books by Edgar Rice Burroughs that is runner-up to his primary creation, Tarzan, and the 20-plus volumes he wrote about that iconic ape-raised jungle adventurer. Burroughs churned out books in both series concurrently for roughly his entire adult life in the first half of the 20th century. John Carter is a former Confederate Civil War captain and fortune-hunting ne'er-do-well who through a weird incident of astral projection is plopped down on the red planet, where he becomes a passionate warrior against beasts and humanoids for the security of a home world known to its inhabitants as Barsoom. John Carter presents this origin setup in a clever prologue that finds the cranky Carter on the run from frontier military authorities as well as a band of marauding Indians. Carter is played by Friday Night Lights star Taylor Kitsch with great bravado. His character undergoes radical change when confronted with something he can finally care about. It doesn't hurt that an exotic princess of Mars is part of the prize package that comes from his battle against evil and ultimately doing the right thing. John Carter is a visual feast (especially in well-conceived 3-D) with an array of digital and motion-capture techniques that create an eye-popping world of strange creatures, astounding architectural vistas, aerial panoramas, and luminous landscapes. All the extraordinary detail is not surprising considering that Pixar superstar Andrew Stanton is at the helm (he also directed Finding Nemo and WALL-E). There's a lot going on in the script, and it sometimes feels as though too much work was done in the editing suite to streamline a story that is often overly complicated. Barsoom is ruled by three species, all with their own political and social agendas. There are the humans whose city-state cultures are threatened by civil war and the aggression of Tharks, a race of giant green-skinned, four-armed warriors with horrific tusks and a deeply bellicose intellect. Separate from both are the mythic Therns, a cult like sect of über-beings who seek to manipulate all of Barsoom into their own submission. Added to the mix are a variety of outrageous animal creatures both vicious and sublime that make for an extremely motley ensemble of beasties. The huge cast of characters, species, and names becomes a bit confusing to keep straight in all the rapid-fire exposition. Fortunately the movie doesn't ever stop long enough to allow much time for thinking; there's something new and exciting to look at in virtually every scene. Because of some fantastical leaps of physics and gravity, Carter's Martian body possesses super strength and the ability to make single bounds over huge distances. His powers not only make him a godlike presence to the natives of Barsoom, they also provide for some dizzying feats of movie magic. The most bravura element of the conceptual design is a fleet of massive solar-powered flying machines that recall something out of H.G. Wells or a steampunk fantasy. These colorful, insect like machines soar and float in the gold-hued Martian atmosphere with thrilling precision. Even though the multitude of beings, names, and alliances may sometimes elicit a glassy-eyed response, there's plenty of attention-grabbing exactitude to behold in John Carter. There's also a good chance that the fans will make it worth Disney's while to shell out another hundred million to keep the saga going. --Ted Fry
DVDs & Blu-ray include disc, cover art, and case. Bonus downloadable or promotional content may have already been redeemed. Promotional items (3-D glasses, figurines, t-shirts, posters, jewelry, books or other non-media items) may not be included. Cleaning and repair was done as required.