To say that “John Carter” underperformed at the box office is certainly no secret and is most definitely an understatement. But most of those who did make the journey to the silver screen to see the epic film will quickly note that despite all the bad publicity the sci-fi / adventure film received, it’s still a rather good movie.
Disney’s marketing team failed to draw crowds to see the movie based on text that’s 100 years old, resulting in both the studio’s marketing chief (MT Carney) and overall head (Rich Ross) to be removed in the weeks that followed. Now, hot on the heels of Ross’ replacement (Warner Bros’ Alan Horn) being announced a few days ago, “John Carter” hits home today on Blu-ray and DVD. And as I wrote in my review of the film back in March, it’s absolutely worth seeing, despite what you may have “heard” about it.
“John Carter” contains everything a sci-fi film should. It has a relatable title character, a beautiful love interest (who’s a princess of another planet, naturally), a set of villains with interesting weapons and spacecraft, and plenty of unique alien characters. Moreover, it’s just a fun film that takes the viewer on a journey from earth to Barsoom (a.k.a. Mars) and back.
And much like the film itself is enjoyable, the bonus features included on the new Blu-ray release serve as fantastic ways to dive deeper into the past 10 decades or so since Edgar Rice Burroughs first penned the original “A Princess of Mars” story.
The “100 Years in the Making” extra is a fascinating look at how Burroughs was initially embarrassed to be writing fiction in a time when non-fiction thrived, but ultimately followed his passion to create the “John Carter” series. Narrated by Burroughs’ own words and a variety of filmmakers, this bonus feature emphasizes the historical importance of “John Carter” finally getting made as a film.
Another excellent extra is “360 Degrees of John Carter,” following a single day of production on set as director Andrew Stanton and his team of hundreds of cast and crew prepare for and shoot a few action sequences. It’s clear from watching this “24”-style bonus feature that, like any big-budget Hollywood film, a lot of hard work went into making “John Carter” and all who participated were entirely excited about every aspect of it, from the lead actors to to the extras. Moreover, Stanton’s enthusiasm shines through, particularly when he occasionally mentions the possibility and/or hope of a sequel or two.
Surprisingly, deleted scenes included in this release are more interesting than is generally the case, with Stanton’s commentary adding his own personal attachment to each, having been reluctant to cut any of them.
Other extras include Disney’s Second Screen option, which allows viewers to see more from the “John Carter” universe while watching the film, either via an iPad or computer, fairly standard audio commentary from filmmakers, and an amusing blooper reel (particularly the impromptu dance number).
As was the case in theaters, “John Carter” needn’t be experienced in 3D at home. While Blu-ray 3D technology is fantastic, it’s seldom a necessity and this film is just as enjoyable in 2D. HD picture quality is fantastic, as is the surround audio experience, though nothing short of impressive audio and video should be expected out of any big release nowadays.
Overall, Disney has offered a solid release of “John Carter,” not only bringing a strong sci-fi film to home audiences, but also emphasizing the importance of this film actually getting made and the relationship of its story to just about every sci-fi film that has been created over the last 100 years.
“John Carter” is available on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray, and DVD today on Amazon.com.