Thursday, February 16, 2012

Prospects Looking Grim For "John Carter"

Deadline reports that "tracking" (re: "do audiences care?") numbers for Disney's impending "John Carter" are looking pretty poor, despite good early reviews starting to slip out. Blame is being laid at the feet of bad marketing and the Mouse House's seeming indifference to the project (which was begun under a different regime than currently runs the show there.)

Below, a comment of mine from Jeff Wells' reporting on the same story:

The advance word is actually pretty positive, but the marketing has been ATROCIOUS. Starting with the awfu re-titling and continuing through the nonexistant print campaign and trailers that keep showing the same basic scenes and locations (the shorter promo clips show there's WAAAAAY more to this than the Arizona-with-aliens stuff) and deliberately making the fairly outlandish plot and events sound as generic as possible ("our world is dying..." etc) ...a lethal combination of chickenshit marketing goons ("don't say Mars! Don't say Mars!") and Stanton etc. leaning way too hard on saving the "good stuff" for theaters.

Hell, they haven't even TRIED for the "prestige boost" - i.e. like LOTR reminding audiences at every turn that they didn't just pull this out of their ass, that it was "THE" movie of this massive decades-long cultural phenomenon. For fuck's sake, every schlock airport novel that gets adapted has "BASED ON THE #1 BESTSELLER!!!!" screaming at the top of it's trailer for the VERY reason that it makes the public go "wait.. am I not in on something? maybe I need to see this, I don't wanna be left out." But Disney somehow decides it's NOT pertinent to tell people that this is based on one of the most important and influential works in the entirety of genre fiction? That it's endured for a CENTURY? That it's the source of Flash Gordon, Star Wars, LOTR, Avatar and damn near every other fantasy/scifi blockbuster thats ever been produced?

Disney does not give, and has not given, a fuck about this movie for a long time; that much is obvious. Like "Tron: Legacy," (and the stalled 20,000 Leagues remake) it's production is a leftover from the Dick Cook regime, when the big push was to build a "Disney Boy Brand" to compliment the princess brand and they were greenlighting every action/scifi tentpole that came across the desk... then it became easier/safer to just BUY a pre-built "Boy Brand" aka Marvel - why "waste" time on a question-mark like John Carter when you've got all-but-garaunteed blockbusters coming via Avengers and it's sequels PLUS at least two more Captain America, Thor and Iron Man sequels AND whatever else Marvel wants to run up the flagpole? -- ME.

It's wholly plausible that the film is good, even great - but if so, it's looking like this could be 2012's "the good guys lose" moment a'la "Scott Pilgrim." Pic opens March 9th.


Michael Durant said...

I am so confused. This movie is not hard to freaking market.

It has an American good-old-boy, a fit white male warrior. He falls in love with a beautiful alien princess.

He also has a loyal alien BULLDOG. How do you fuck up marketing this? Seriously?

Anonymous said...

The moment I read "regime change", I immediately thought "they're sinking this on purpose". Ever read the book Harlan Ellison's Watching? His essay on Dune's failure explains why they sometimes sabotage perfectly good projects. Bits of it are quoted in this article.

Blue Highwind said...

Do I care? I thought the trailers looked good. Its the fourth Star Wars prequel, but without Lucas at the helm. So hopefully we get all the visuals and action but none of the wooded dialog and comic relief aliens.

It also helps this movie has Evil Mark Strong and a Pixar director at the helm.

Sylocat said...

The original source material has a heavy dose of the racial and gender biases of its time (though actually less than the norm back then)... which mass audiences STILL have no problem with, to this day... AND the filmmakers have done the prerequisite procedures to smooth out those issues, for the tiny fraction of audiences who live in the 21st century where social issues are concerned.

I say this without sarcasm: ANY remotely-competent marketing campaign could have turned this into a hit.

Joshua the Anarchist said...

Yeah, the lack of "big deal"-ness surrounding this movie is depressing. It's still baffles me that it took this fucking long for any kind've legitimate film adaption of the Barsoom universe to be made. All the other genre classics of the era (Sherlock Holmes, Conan, and Burrow's own Tarzan), were getting multiple big screen treatments as early as the 30's. Meanwhile John Carter has to wait more than a century? The fucking Asylum made a John Carter movie before Hollywood proper ever got around it! How is that not an embarrassment to the industry? The whole point of the Asylum is that they don't do ANYTHING first! Hell, the only reason they even made it was they needed a public domain sci-fi property that could serve as their obligatory Avatar knockoff.

Samuel said... very depressing news. I have to agree with Bob on the marketing, but I'd hoped that maybe that was the sort of thing that appealed to the "mainstream" who weren't aware of the novels.

I think I'll go brood now.

Smashmatt202 said...

My mom went on record saying she refuses to see it. Just not her thing.

My, I'm going to see it as soon as I can, whether I drag my dad along or even if I have to see it myself.

I'd rather NOT see it myself, because I'd rather have someone to talk to immediately after the movie.

David (The Pants) said...

Hopefully Twitter gives it good press.

Paul said...

The thing that probably interests me about this movie the most(from a story perspective that is) is the whole Superman-in-reverse angle to the story. Instead of an ordinary guy from an alien world coming to us and having powers because that's just what happens when his people exist in our world, we get one of us going to an alien world an him finding that he's much more powerful there than he ever was at home. That is interesting. Plus the whole good director, legit source material angle doesn't hurt either.

I'll say I never gave a fig about the Scott Pilgrim movie(and still don't) but this one is much more up my alley. I heard that Disney is likely going to hold off The Avengers final trailer until JC hits so they can release it there and use the hype for TA to help this film.

Anonymous said...

Wait, it's coming out that soon? Talk about lack of hype. I've seen more promotion for the Secret World of Arrietty, and Disney usually tries to keep the Ghibli stuff low key. Then again, speaking of Ghibli, it's not the first time I've seen the house of mouse shove soming out the door with no fanfare so they can focus on the usualy blockbuster.

Sofie Liv Pedersen said...

wait... Disney just be spend a 100 mio bugs budget on a movie and isn't even going to promote it probably...

That doesn't make any freaking sense what-so ever!

Has they just given up all ready. "Oh shocks, we have an unreleased movie which costs us over 100 mio to make, no one will want to watch this, so what do we care?"

Even if it wasn't John Cartner, that's just a really bad way to drive a business.

I bet if Jason Segell hadn't been the one going to Disney asking to make a muppet movie, they would never have used those rights either :/

Popcorn Dave said...

Holy fucking shit! I thought this movie was another half-year away at least! Yeah, Anonymous is right, it's pretty obvious they're sinking this on purpose.

Ezenwa said...

Which is weird, really. Scott Pilgrim, which I loved, didn't have great marketing. This movie doesn't either. Every trailer I saw was too vague. Or, in this case, not explaining the stuff they should be explaining.

My guess as to why they are sinking this: because a Pixar director is directing a non-CG film under Disney's umbrella. Besides the enmity towards Pixar, I'd say they don't want them straying from their lane, so, they are sabotaging it.

It's so sad that this petty nonsense has to happen.

Graham said...

So how exactly does this "tracking" work? Where are they getting these numbers from? How can they tell who is and isn't interested?

William Righetti said...

The fact that Disney isn't promoting this the way it could, makes me sad, though it doesn't surprise me. Were the studio not connected to Marvel the way it is now, (and Pixar the way it has been for some time), I think I'd make an actual effort to boycott all their movies, just to make a pointless statement.

The fact that large sections of the internet "want it to fail" and have written it off as a failed film already, makes me saddest of all, for it implies that people in this nation are forgetting their history, and have forgotten how to dream outside of what is "possible" when it comes to the subject matter of movies.

Over dramatic statements perhaps, but there is my personal take on this wretched affair. I will go see this anyway. If it's good, I'm gonna spread the word as far as I can.