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C'mon Hollywood: What happened with John Carter?

03.13.2012

This past weekend everyone seemed to be waiting with baited breath to see just how badly JOHN CARTER would do in theaters. Many (mostly fan boys) were excited to see the film, but overwhelming amounts were hungry to see Disney bleed. Although most fans of the genre walked away with positive remarks (despite a 50/50 split on reviews), the film failed to bring in massive numbers.

Audiences, much like Hollywood, will gamble on what they think is a sure thing. If you wonder why you see so many crappy movies that feel like overcooked sequels or monotonous franchises, then look no further than the box office for TRANSFORMERS, GROWN-UPS, TWILIGHT, SHREK, and THE CHIPMUNKS to name just a few. All of these are typically movies people say they hate, yet were massive successes at the box office, continuing the lifeline of celluloid crap.  So, why did they succeed more than JOHN CARTER?

Most of the fault lies in marketing. For one, they could’ve worked harder to get director Andrew Stanton to play ball in the live-action realm. Giving the keys to the city to any director is a gamble and a little oversight wouldn’t hurt, especially when your gamble is $250 million. Also, dropping the “of Mars” from the title seems to be a major problem for most people and Disney should’ve stuck with it. The movie is about John Carter…on Mars. Your typical moviegoer is not going to be drawn to a simple name. Yeah, Mars movies have got some bad stigma to begin with, but it’s not like Disney execs didn’t know that when they greenlit the damn thing.

The title should have been: Edgar Rice Burroughs’ JOHN CARTER OF MARS. Each trailer and poster should reiterate who the hell Burroughs was (creator of Tarzan? Hello?) and why this property matters. There’s a lot of significance in what Burroughs’ work did for future generations and to ignore that is just stupid. Everyone from Lucas to Cameron has already torn their share of meat off the corpse, so it may do some good to remind people of whose corpse it was to begin with.

Secondly, the first full trailer should’ve been the first teaser, then built from there. When fan-made trailers eclipse your own in-house trailers then you know you have problems. While not everybody with Adobe Premiere is a stellar editor, there are some talented amateurs out there. Studios failing to heed that are in the wrong. You’re having your fan base SHOW you what they want for God’s sake! Take a hint!

The full trailer should’ve given enough back story into who JOHN CARTER was (i.e. his civil war roots and personal dilemma’s on Earth) and built up the fish-out-of-water story (show him discovering how to walk again, etc.). It should have introduced the struggle, building to a climax that leaves you feeling like you were just on a rollercoaster. Also, if your plot is going to be even mildly convoluted, then use some damn voice over. JOHN CARTER would’ve benefitted from a gravelly voice telling us what’s up.

Lastly, the posters and promotional materials were weak. Aside from the sweet Mondo poster, the red-and-orange-tinted posters are loud and obnoxious. There’s not much about them that would make you want to hang them on your wall. I think the marketing department failed miserably by not taking a cue from the Frazetta paintings that emulated the world of JOHN CARTER so well in the past and run with that concept. The movie is a genre throwback, so why shouldn’t the promotional material be as well? The marketing failed to inject the importance of the work until everyone had already wiped their cynical asses with the movie. It was too little, too late.

The saddest part about JOHN CARTER’s less than stellar opening is that it’s actually a good movie. It’s not perfect and has its problems, but the majority of film-loving people agree that it’s good, if not great. I foresee it being a moderate success with a cult following, but it’s doubtful it will generate enough money to see any future incarnations. It’s box office won’t be anywhere near as dismal as the naysayers would like, but it’s unlikely it will break any records. If anything, I think JOHN CARTER proves that even if you make a good film, a failure in marketing can sink its success, leaving it bested by a shitty Dr. Seuss movie that no one will remember.

Extra Tidbit: Other movies that failed at the box office, but later went on to become cult hits: Fight Club, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Office Space, It's a Wonderful Life, Highlander, Gattaca, etc. You can fill in the rest...
Source: JoBlo.com

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