John Carter 3D

Can Disney transform Edgar Rice Burroughs' sci-fi icon into an unstoppable spex machine?

A century after he first appeared in print, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ sci-fi hero has finally made the leap to the silver screen. Unfortunately, despite all of its flashy CG wizardry, John Carter can’t help but feel vaguely old-fashioned.

The big problem is that, for all the action and spectacle the film can muster, Burroughs’ stories have ‘inspired’ generations of novelists and filmmakers, from Frank Herbert to George Lucas. Because of this the belated film adaptation now feels surprisingly second-hand, with few concepts and set-pieces that you won’t have seen before. It’s still a fun sci-fi romp, but you’ll end up wishing it was something more.

Picture: Despite some set-pieces that make effective use of the added depth (Carter’s escape from Zodanga in Chapter 12 being a particular highlight), for the most part the 3D presentation is pretty lacklustre. Though technically proficient, the MVC 2.40:1 1080p encode falls flat on a number of occasions and struggles to really bring anything to the film.

The AVC 2.40:1 1080p 2D version is another matter. Pin-sharp, brilliantly coloured and packed with intricate detailing, it’s everything you could want from a HD blockbuster.
Picture rating: 4/5

Audio: Disappointingly, after being blown away by the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix that accompanied both versions of the film on the review copy we were sent, it has since come to our attention that the final UK retail disc has seen the audio downgraded to DTS-HD High Resolution 7.1 (capped at just 2MB). While there's still a fair amount of panache to the sound design, with sequences such as Chapter 1’s opening Airship battle or Chapter 13’s arena face-off unleashing a torrent of dynamic panning effects and thunderous bass. However, comparatively it feels a little more constrained and underpowered - which is a real shame, as the lossless version was definitely a '5-star' affair.
Audio rating: 3/5

Extras: As usual with Disney’s 3D releases, there are no extras on the stereoscopic disc so you’ll have to switch to the accompanying 2D platter instead. And, while it ditches the Disney Second Screen app that appeared on the US release, it still delivers a handful of quality extras.

Director Andrew Stanton joins producers Jim Morris and Lindsey Collins for a commentary discussing the film’s genesis and production. 100 Years in the Making is an 11-minute look at the source material and earlier attempts to bring the stories to the screen. Meanwhile, the 35-minute 360 Degrees of John Carter offers a twist on the traditional Making of… and gives a fascinating insight into the amount of work that went into just one day of the shoot. Rounding things out are ten deleted scenes and a blooper reel.
Extras rating: 3/5

We say: Hi-def video adds some extra spectacle to this old-fashioned sci-fi epic, but the entire package is let down by the decision to downgrade the audio for this UK release.

Walt Disney Home Entertainment, All-region BD, £28 Approx, On sale now