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From Academy Award(R)-winning filmmaker Andrew Stanton (Best Animated Film, Wall-E, 2008) comes John Carter -- a sweeping action-adventure set on the mysterious and exotic planet of Barsoom (Mars). Based on Edgar Rice Burroughs's classic novel, John Carter is a war-weary, former military captain who's inexplicably transported to Mars and reluctantly becomes embroiled in an epic conflict. It's a world on the brink of collapse, and Carter rediscovers his humanity when he realizes the survival of Barsoom and its people rests in his hands. Stunning special effects, great characters and villains -- and complete with extraordinary bonus features -- John Carter is a heroic and inspirational adventure that will thrill you beyond imagination.
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I decided to rent it from Amazon because I found out some of my favorite designers were involved with this project, including Iain McCaig, and I also learned of the IP's history, of the original novel The Princess of Mars and thought it sounded incredibly interesting. It amazed me that someone could come up with a story like this in 1912.
This movie was no disappointment. I have no idea why when this movie originally released in theaters, it 'bombed' relative to its production budget. This is one of the best action sci-fi's I have ever seen. The story is very good, the character, creature, vehicle designs are amazing, the setting and atmosphere is fantastic, the VFX is top-notch.... I really don't understand why it didn't do well in the box office... Bad marketing? I'll be buying this on Blu-Ray and re-watching it from time to time for years to come.
I first read (part) of the Mars series about 45 years ago. I tried it again about 20 years ago, and just recently read the first five books again. Edgar Rice Burroughs did not write with the intention of creating great literature. In fact he started writing after some other business ventures had fallen apart. Reading some pulp novels of the day, he literally thought "I can write better trash than this trash"! LOL It turned out he was correct. His books were exciting. His ideas were fresh. He was possibly the first very successful author to use a lot of "world building", although his writing came just after the publication of the early Oz books, which were also quite successful in that regard.
However, Burroughs books were also very formulaic. Original readers who got them a year or two apart probably didn't notice it as much, but if you sit down today and try to read the Mars books one after another, you'll quickly notice that you are essentially reading the same story over and over again, just with changes in characters and other window dressing. It can be important to remember that Burroughs wrote to earn a living, not to create art. So would he have approved of this movie? If it entertained customers and put some bucks in his pocket, he absolutely would have!
The "John Carter of Mars" movie does not closely follow the plot of any of the Mars books. However, what movie does? Even the very well received "Lord of the Rings" movie trilogy at times took incredible liberties with the plot of Tolkein's books. Did that make them less spectacular or enjoyable? No. The same is true with this movie. What it gave me as a 45 year fan of the series were substantial dollops of the creatures, races, landscapes, technologies, and familiar plot elements. The hordes of Tharks were particularly spectacular. They came across as "real people", just as the aliens in Avatar did. The CGI is detailed and seamless. We had familiar plot elements such as Carter and Dejah Thoris being captured by Tharks, and Carter defeating a Thark and taking his place in their society. The airships of the red race were present, and were as impressive as they were beautiful. Burroughs had an arena scene in the books, and so did the movie. Burroughs had wars ... so did the movie. There were enough similarities that I could feel the sense of Burroughs' plots, if not the details. Since that is about the best you can hope for with a screenplay adapted from novels, I give them good marks in this area. Plot elements from the all of the first three Mars books are included in this movie.
Now, what about the plot we actually got in the movie? I liked it. We had two reprehensible sets of bad guys. Carter is given greater depth of character in that he is a reluctant hero. He really just wants to be left alone to pursue his own goals, and over the course of the movie has to be dragged and cajoled into becoming the hero. (This is a departure from Burroughs' character). I like what was done with the Therns. They play a similar role in society to that depicted by Burroughs, but are made into that plus something more in the movie.
The movie nails the Thark society. The hordes of barbaric, four armed giants are depicted stunningly as individuals, and as a society in a manner extremely true to the Burroughs vision in his novels. The action sequence where Carter fights a rival horde virtually single handed is right out of the books and is spectacularly rendered in the film. I give the movie an A+ in its depiction of this critical element of transition from book to film.
Overall, the filmmakers did a truly impressive job of depicting Martian landscapes, cities, ruins, creatures, and races. In the books, Martian races went around naked, wearing only harnesses needed to hold weapons and other mobile possessions. Not wanting an R rating, Disney DID have to put some clothes on these folks, and they did. LOL
I enjoyed this movie in the theater, and I was not disappointed by this Blu ray presentation. I'd been wanting to upgrade to a 3D TV for some time, and had been watching the prices on a certain model for many weeks. The TV finally hit a price I liked, so I used the excuse of the release of this film in 3D, along with the Avengers and the new Avatar 3D, to pull the trigger on that purchase.
This movie is a stunning visual achievement in home theater 3D Blu ray. Every element of the film is crisp and detailed. The 3D effects are not "in your face", but they certainly add to the viewing experience. Virtually this entire film is CGI, but every object is so detailed that you are completely immersed in the fantasy of this film's environment. The large flying ships are simply gorgeous. The landscapes are detailed and do nothing to break the illusion that you are seeing action on another planet.
It seems to me that all of these major Blu ray releases get the sound right ... I have yet to find complaint with one ... and this is no exception. The dialogue is well balanced. It is not overwhelmed at any time by the volume level of the music or the effects. I do have a quibble with the score, but not one that is unique to this film. It seems that a LOT of action spectaculars in recent years have rather pedestrian scores. There are no major themes in this score to latch on to so that when you hear it again, you'd say, "That's John Carter!". The same was true, I thought, of the X-Men films. Think back to the days of the big John Williams scores for Star Wars or Superman or Indiana Jones. When those play, they are identifiable. Earlier films like "The Magnificent Seven" or "The Big Country" ... identifiable. Later films like the 1989 Batman ... identifiable. This score sounds great, but there is no stand out strain to make it uniquely memorable.
Obviously I'm a fan of this movie. I just regret that it didn't get the box office pull needed to turn this into a series. The creators did a remarkable job with it. Visually, it is easily in the top few CGI efforts ever, to this date. The story is captivating. The acting is solid.
Which brings us to the realist--the one who, having read the book(s), nevertheless appreciates the limitations of the motion picture medium, and makes the best of it.
To enjoy John Carter's adventures on Mars to their fullest--along with his heart's desire, Dejah Thoris--you will cetainly need to read the books. Don't deny yourself the pleasure. After that, though, watch the movie. It is well done, and there is much you will recognize. I think this was a very good effort. I liked it.
I have a few qualms about Taylor Kitsch as John Carter, and would've preferred a Jim Caviezel sort. And also not demeaning John Carter quite so much in the early part of the film. It was part of a typical formula on how characters change with events, but Burroughs would have shown more of the man's nobility, even at the outset. A man, for example, not simply "willing to give his life for others," but for others of deserving worth. But these things are more or less trifles. Kitsch delivers a fine performance and the demeaning early snippets are brief.
And "The Incomparable Dejah Thoris" is truly Incomparable! The writing and directing make her a fabulous woman in myriad ways, rather than just a clinging vine as with Burroughs's early depictions of his heroines. Lynn Collins brings intelligence, breathtaking beauty, courage, martial arts mastery, scientific acumen, morality, soulful feminine vulnerability and tenderness, and POWERFUL ROMANTIC PASSION to her role. I get misty-eyed when watching her willing to give up the man she loves BECAUSE she loves him so.
Apparently Europe has so far caught on to the power of this movie far more than America. Let's hope the Western Hemisphere eventually catches up as the film much deserves.