Monday, March 12, 2012

Of Movies and Mars

We went to see the movie John Carter yesterday and it was awesome.

I've been a fan of the book series it's based on since high school, and I've always wanted to see a film version made, but honestly never thought it would happen. It's been attempted many, many times over the years, and in fact could've been the first animated feature film, if the first planned production in 1931 had gone forward.

I thought the translation was excellent, even though it was not a straight adaptation of the source material. It actually was based on elements of the first 3 books, with some parts changed and moved around. But the director is a huge fan of the books and did a great job of making an even better story for the screen than the original.

Unfortunately, at this point the film is mostly being called a "flop", as it cost $300 million to make and only had a $30 million opening weekend. Much of the blame for this poor showing at the box office has been leveled at the management (or lack there-of) of the movie's marketing, with poorly designed trailers and shaky ideas of the intended audience. This article does a great job of breaking down much of what went wrong: The Inside Story of How John Carter Was Doomed by Its First Trailer

I've been thinking about this (probably way more than I should) as I really don't understand how it can be so difficult to find viewers for an incredibly well made, special effects laden, sci-fi spectacular, especially with what I can only assume is a huge staff of well paid "experts" who are supposed to figure these things out for the studio.

So here's what I came up with...

The later advertisements tried to play up how much of an influence the books were on other well known sci-fi staples, like Star Wars and Avatar. But they did this in such an obtuse way that it still didn't explain who this "John Carter" guy was, how he was connected to these other movie properties, or what the movie was even about. They also failed to take advantage of the fact that this year, when the movie is released, marks the 100 year anniversary of the first story's publication.

I realized the "movie trailer voice-over" was a good idea, it just needed to say the right thing, like:

"From the mind of author Edgar Rice Burroughs, the creator of the modern fantasy legend Tarzan... comes the original sci-fi action hero - John Carter.

Witness the epic love story of two worlds, 100 years in the making."

So that's what I would've done. Explain who the title character is, why we should care, and at least a hint of what kind of movie it is. Doesn't seem too hard to me...

But regardless, the movie is really great. If everyone would ignore the nay-saying of the "critics" and just go see it, maybe Disney will realize that as well.

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