In my initial review of Disney’s “John Carter,” I said it suffered from the “‘Dune’ Syndrome,” in that it’s a film that may have a tough time penetrating an audience outside the one built-in, which was quite small for this film.
The film turned out to be a box-office bomb, not due to the quality of this fine film, but as a result of the bumbling by the certified dunces in Disney’s marketing department.
Despite the terrible disservice they did toward their own product, the quality of “John Carter” speaks for itself outside of the hollow snark of the barking-seal cynical critic chorus, and industry trolls like Nikki Finke.
Having seen “John Carter” three times now, it only improves on subsequent viewings as the lush mythology sinks in. Coming from a rich sci-fi world created by the great Edgar Rice Burroughs, “John Carter” is of a tradition that has been plundered by other genre efforts for a century. The film is not without flaws, the superfluous opening narration and the action scene that follows it gets the movie off to shaky start until we meet our hero on Earth.
The cinematic world-building we come to behold once we get to Mars is the sort of breathtaking spectacle that makes for a film feast. Taylor Kitsch may be a touch young for a swashbuckling hero, however his status as a relative unknown to those who aren’t “Friday Night Lights” devotees helps him to inhabit the role more fully than an established name would have.
The Blu-ray is packed with nifty features, the most interesting being the Disney Second Screen feature, which allows you to go through various details of the “John Carter” mythos. The only problem is that if you need to download an iPad app to use it, and it was unavailable as I write this.
I got a taste of the Second Screen feature with the “Real Steel” Blu-ray, and it is a worthwhile and innovative feature that enriches the experience for any fan of the movie.
The first of two featurettes on the disc is called “360 Degrees of John Carter,” which takes you through an entire day of production on the film. This gives you a frightening idea of how daunting the task of making a film of this size truly is. The other extra is “100 Years in the Making,” which quickly charts the literary history of Burroughs’ creation, as well as the various attempts to bring it to the cinema over the years.
Of course, it comes with the other standard garnishes: deleted scenes, bloopers and a commentary track. The deleted scenes, which mostly have unfinished effects, include an alternate opening which is even weaker than the one chosen to kick off the film. The commentary track features Stanton, as well as producers Jim Morris and Lindsey Collins, and it’s an informative listen. It’ll be interesting to see what Stanton and company would have to say about it 10 years from now. I can only hope it gathers the loyal following it deserves.
Other Noteworthy Releases
Act of Valor: The independent action film featuring actual Navy SEALs. I missed in the theaters, but I won’t miss it on video.
Safe House: Another anti-hero role for Denzel Washington, teaming him up with Ryan Reynolds, who doesn’t seem too sure of himself when placed alongside Denzel’s movie star bona-fides. But even his magnetic presence can’t elevate a turd. “Safe House” is just like every other jiggly-cam international action affair you’ve seen lately: cold, washed-out, and predictable, both in terms of cynical politics and microwave-thriller plotting. You’ll quickly forget it to make room for what may seem like more important things to occupy your brain with shortly after seeing it, like whether or not you left the lights on at home.
Journey 2 – The Mysterious Island: The Rock’s latest family outing, this sans-Brendan Fraser sequel trading one actor who looks like a B-movie idol for another. That, and Michael Caine has a mortgage to pay.
Machine Gun Preacher: Aside from his turn in “300,” Gerard Butler doesn’t have the makings of a leading man. He always looks hungover, as though he’s sweating booze out of every pore for the duration of most of the movies he’s in. I say that as though it’s a bad thing, it certainly works for some salty actors, just not for him.
Hondo: A well-regarded outing from The Duke directed by John Farrow, father of Mia Farrow. It was originally in 3D, but we won’t hold that against it.
Available on Blu-ray
The Color of Money: Paul Newman returns as Fast Eddie Felson in this sequel to “The Hustler,” which put an Oscar on his shelf. Martin Scorsese directed Fast Eddie’s comeback story, but in many ways it was a comeback for Scorsese as well. Tom Cruise co-stars as Fast Eddie’s protege.
Available on Blu-ray
Cocktail: It’s, like, the “Top Gun” of bar movies.
Available on Blu-ray