Good Job Disney: How The Mouse House Nearly Killed John Carter
John Carter. John Carter? John Carter. Think about that name for a minute. Imagine a film called John Carter… what’s it about? Could be a tiny indie movie, perhaps about a down on his luck single Father. Or maybe it’s a comedy about a Medieval Cart manufacturer. Perhaps it’s a grand Sci-Fi adventure film that is better than every Star Wars prequel, with amazing special effects, and exciting story, epic battles, superpowers, monsters and a beautiful Princess, set on Mars. Yeah right, you wouldn’t call that kind of movie ‘John Carter’ right? Wrong. Disney did. A huge movie that cost reportedly $250 million to make, has been badly handled in the advertising department, so much so that you might think that they did it on purpose.
The poster campaign for John Carter was absolutely woeful. See the poster above, what does that mean? I can understand trying to create a buzz, a bit of mystery, but I don’t think that this was the right way to go with this property. The trailers too were, well, uninspiring. They showed enough for me to make it a film that was on my radar, and I was bothered to find out more about the character. To be fair, the film had been on my radar for a few years thanks to Head Geek himself Harry Knowles, so I knew the basics, and could piece the basic premise together from this and the trailer. I was excited to see it. But I was very much in the minority. The trailers were generic. They didn’t seem much different from a dozen other recent Sci-Fi films, such as Avatar or the Star Wars Prequels. Nothing was saying must see, and it felt like such a waste.
The main problem seemed to be that, whoever came up with the trailers and posters, seemed to assume that everyone knew who this John Carter guy was. Well guess what, hardly anyone does. I would like to use an example at this point, Harry Potter. Harry Potter is a worldwide phenomenon. A legit super franchise, that is known to most people. Whether it is in book form, video games, toys, or obviously the movies, surely most people who see movies regularly know at least something about Harry Potter, and if not, have certainly heard the name. As such, you could legitimately call a movie Harry Potter, and not only would it not harm the movies box office overly, 99.9% of the population would have some knowledge of who Harry Potter was, and what that meant. John Carter is no Harry Potter. He is a character created around 100 years ago, that was never really that popular to begin with. He was a pulp hero, certainly the stories he was in, and the character himself, are excellent, but they have always been for a small section of society who likes these kind of adventure stories.
John Carter simply does not have the name power to promote a movie. It would be comparable to calling the recent Captain America movie, Steve Rogers. Harley anyone would know what Steve Rogers was about, the name has no pull to it, Captain America, however, does have pull, people have heard of Captain America. John Carter would have faired much better with a longer title, for instance, John Carter of Mars. All of a sudden, the name has some context, people start to get what the movie may be about. It must be remembered that not everyone watches trailers, or sees posters, sometimes, the name of the movie is all that is known, and a decision on whether or not to go may be made on title alone, and buzz can be a big part of this. Give your movie an exciting title, and it may not be tremendously helpful, but it certainly won’t hurt. Give it a boring title, and usually, your on a one way ride to Boxofficebombville.
I have seen John Carter. I loved it. It was the type of film that isn’t really made that often, a genuinely brilliant, exciting adventure story with Sci-Fi/Fantasy overtones. John Carter shares many similar things with Star Wars and Avatar, and it’s because, George Lucas etc. based their films partly on Edgar Rice Burroughs stories. In my opinion, John Carter was a superior film to any of the Star Wars Movies, and more fun and enjoyable than the excellent Avatar. The effects were outstanding, the story strong, and the cast and acting excellent. It’s such a shame that American audiences have not felt the same way. At the time of writing, John Carter has made a little over $37.5 million, not brilliant numbers, and it looks like a much wanted and deserved sequel may not be on the cards. However, things may not be all that bad. Internationally Carter has pulled in $108 million in the same time frame. Perhaps John Carter will be able to make it’s budget back, and perhaps a little more, and a sequel may not be beyond hope.
A few people have commented that Disney finds it quite difficult to advertise films to males. That their usual out put is female centric or for smaller children. There could be something in this, however, now that Disney owns Marvel, perhaps some of the Marvel magic will rub off on their advertising department. Certainly they have had little trouble making The Avengers look exciting to both sexes and all ages. I will end this article with another plea for you to get out and see this film. I genuinely think it is one of the best films yet this year, and should be in the top 10 film lists of many people come December, or damn well should be.