Author Edgar Rice Burroughs is probably best known for creating Tarzan, though in 1912 he began a science fiction series under a pseudonym which has finally made its way to film 100 years later. There were many attempts prior to this to adapt “A Princess of Mars,” including an animated film and several live action in various studios over the years. The film’s plot seems very obviously to have inspired James Cameron’s Avatar and many other science fiction films, but John Carter marks the first actual adaptation of the first installment in the Barsoom series.
The storyline is not nearly as complicated as it seem in the fist confusing fifteen minutes. We jump back and forth in time as a young man is willed his uncle’s journal after death. The journal tells the story of John Carter (Taylor Kitsch), a former military captain of the Civil War who accidentally transports himself to Mars and into the middle of another Civil War. Mars is a living planet, but one which is dying thanks to the pillaging of one group. Others fight to stop the devastation, looking to the Earth visitor for help because of his rare ability to defy gravity in ways that are impossible to natives of the planet.
As one of the few PG-13 live-action films that Disney has attempted, there is very little unexpected within this blockbuster. It is mostly a safe bet from start to finish, though an enjoyable and entertaining one for the most part. Director Andrew Stanton is best known for his animated work, and perhaps that helped in creating such a special effects and visually dominant film. There are plenty of unique creatures and I imagine the 3D effects would have been impressive as well. There may be some logic skipped in the telling of this story, for which I blame the mainstream Disney’s need to simplify everything for base audiences. All in all, however, there have been far worse live action films under the Disney logo.
The Blu-ray 2-disc combo pack also comes with a DVD copy of the film. The DVD special features include an audio commentary with the filmmakers and a featurette about the 100-year journey getting to the point of this film’s production. The Blu-ray disc includes these as well as a second-screen option, an extensive making-of featurette, bloopers and deleted scenes, also with an optional commentary by Stanton.