Saturday, June 9, 2012

John Carter Blu-Ray Extras Review

I'm sorry for the lateness of my thoughts on rewatching the film. Other things popped up so I thought I would split this into two reviews: today I'll cover the technical aspects and extras and then offer my revised opinions about the movie.

I purchased the two-disc Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack so I'll be working off that. Picture and sound wise I'll sum it up on one word: WOW! Even on my Playstation 3 Blu-Ray player the film was crisp and vibrant, even looking better than the abysmal 3D version I sat through back in March. While I still have problems with his take on the film, there is no faulting Andrew Stanton for his visual eye and the Blu-Ray's high def images make it crystal clear: From John Carter's stubble to the skin texture on the Tharks it comes across brilliantly and the people who handled the transfer should pat themselves on the back. Audio wise it also rocked the house but at the same time every quiet sound came across well. The action sequences exploded with ease while maintaining a nice balance between the sound effects, dialogue and Michael Giacchino's excellent score. So while I may not be able to give the specifics-if you want that check out the professional reviews I linked to below, it definitely will please fans on the audio/visual side.

With the extras, I felt this was a little bit like the movie itself: some brilliance but also some missed opportunities. Some of this I guess was to be expected since the film wasn't a big hit, it probably didn't make sense to Disney to provide a huge amount of bonus material. But what is here is a mixed bag. A note I haven't went through two of the extras and I'll post my thoughts after I do so here's how they pan out:

-Audio Commentary with Andrew Stanton and the producers. I haven't given a listen yet so I'll have to come back here. UPDATE 1: I've given the track a listen and well it's OK. Clearly recorded before the movie came out, Stanton and producers Jim Morris and Lindsey Collins offer mostly information about the filming, casting of the film and the effects problems. There isn't much diving into the story telling or why Stanton made certain decisions-no reason is offered for why he went with shape shifting for the Therns or any rationale for Moving Zodanga; in fact his only explanation is that it was the Pixar Braintrust who suggested adding the dead wife and kid to the film, so I guess depending on how you felt about it you can thank/blame them for it. So if you're looking for a nice chat it's here just don't expect much else.

-Disney Second Screen. This is the other extra I haven't done and it basically sounds like a pain in the rear: If you select it a brief video pops up with Stanton telling you how you have to download an app for your IPOD or Tablet or any other mobile device and how you can synch it up with the film and see additional features. Personally this sounds like a lot of trouble to go through and a little bit of a nuisance to have to focus on two screens. Some of the other reviews I read of this disc was also critical of this element so unless you want to go through the trouble I wouldn't waste the time. If someone does though, leave a comment and let us know if it's worth it.

-100 Years in the Making. This is a short-in many ways TOO short-featurette on Edgar Rice Burroughs and the attempts to bring John Carter of Mars to film. While Burroughs' life story and the saga of bringing Barsoom to life is a compelling one, this featurette just doesn't deliver. Burroughs' early years are breezed through, there is no mention of any of his other works (only a passing mention of Tarzan is made) and as far as looking at previous attempts to film John Carter we get only some of the Bob Clampett test footage and an interview with Jon Favreau who talks about his plans when he was attached to direct. The rest of this is mostly Stanton talking about his "love" of the material and yet why he had to make changes to it, something that has become hotly debated among ERB fans. All in all a disappointing bonus.

-Deleted Scenes with Audio Commentary with Andrew Stanton. Again I haven't listened to his track so I'll update later. Beyond that there is 10 deleted scenes included here and they are:
---Original Opening: Hall of Science. I would guess most of you have already seen this (if not scroll below) so I'll skip rehashing it. That said I felt it worked better than the opening Stanton ultimately came up with and didn't find Lynn Collins as stiff as reportedly the Pixar team did. It also has some more welcome humor from James Purefoy which could have been kept
---Ned at College. A brief scene of Ned receiving his uncle's telegram. Wisely cut to spare us anymore of Daryl Sabara's awful performance as ERB.
--Lucky SOB. A short extension of the scene where Ned is given his uncle's journal and a brief exchange with the lawyer and another character. So brief even I can't remember much about it.
---Journey to Thark City. Just as it says. Most of the scene is unfinished so you can see Willem Dafoe and Thomas Haden Church in their motion capture outfits. It also has a urine joke for those who felt the movie needed bathroom humor.
---Sola and Dejah Confrontation. I'm sure most of you remember those shots in the first trailer of a sword wielding Dejah and a Thark with a rifle that didn't show up in the final film. Well here it is. Not much to it, even though it shows more of Sola's compassion and Dejah's feistiness.
---Campfire. This scene shows John and company camping when strange sounds emerge with Sola warning them its white apes. Again unfinished effects and not much to it.
---Thoat Ride. Basically a repeat of the "stealing the horse" bit from the beginning of the film, only this time its Tars Tarkas' thoat. Most of this scene is storyboards until Tars catches John and then it's an alternate take on John discovering Tars is Sola's father. There is also a brief comical bit with Dejah and Woola and Sola bringing dinner.
---Dejah's Answer. Picking up after the arrival of the Xavarian to rescue Dejah from the Warhoons. Most of it was more Shape Shifter Shang dialogue and pretty much unmemorable.
---Matai's Walk. More Shape Shifting, this time into a jolly fat guy. I thought Stanton had worked out his fat people humor in WALL-E. I guess not.
---Groosmen Assassins. This scene is a bunch of additions to the wedding finale, the biggest being that some of the Zodangans now have those light up power bracelets that can zap people. Wisely cut since it was already a bad idea.
All in all not bad but I can see why Stanton cut them most of them from the final film. UPDATE 2: I also gave Stanton's comments on them a listen. Not much real info except that most of them were cut for pacing reasons or suggestions from others.

360 Degress of John Carter. Probably the best extra of the bunch as it follows the cast and crew during one day of filming-in this case on the film's finale. Among the highlights are seeing the extras bonding over working together and having some fun and games between takes; Lynn Collins going through the entire process to become Dejah Thoris-from makeup to hair to costuming; some good footage of Dafoe working on his stilts and discussing his reason for doing the film. It also doesn't show any evidence of a production in chaos as so many have speculated but instead a crew doing the best they can.

Barsoom Bloopers. Basically what it says. There is some shots of Dafoe stumbling around, Dominic West having cape troubles, extras getting in Mark Strong's way and Taylor Kitsch and Ms. Collins breaking out in dance. Not the greatest blooper reel ever but still good for a few chuckles.

Wrapping it up are trailers for some Disney All Access thing (something probably to do with websites and apps I'm sure), The Avengers (yep you still can't get away from it) and Tim Burton's Frankenweenie.

So there it is. I'll come back with my thoughts on seeing it again but for now take a trip to Barsoom-in high def if possible.

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