Although I never read the Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom novels about John Carter’s adventures on Mars, I was familiar with them through comics and the great paintings of the late Frank Frazetta. Most people don’t have even the minuscule knowledge that I did about the series, or know who the character of John Carter is. I found that out when I talked to some people about Disney’s upcoming John Carter film coming out March 9th. Ten out of ten people had no idea either about the novels or the character. One person I mentioned the movie to thought it was about Noah Wyle’s character from the T.V. series “ER”.
With the movie weeks away, people still don’t know that much about the novels or even the movie. Disney’s marketing department has dropped the ball big time with this movie. First, they changed the name of the film from A Princess of Mars (the name of the first book) to John Carter of Mars. They did this because they thought the word “princess” in the title would make men think it was a chick flick. Then they changed the title from John Carter of Mars to just plain John Carter. Apparently Disney had a film out called Mars Needs Moms a while back, and it bombed. They’re take away from that was “audiences don’t want to see movies with the word ‘Mars’ in the title”.
No, over paid and idiotic studio executives, that’s not it. Audiences don’t want to see crap on the screen. The word “Mars” had nothing to do with it.
Movie studios learn the wrong lesson from flops. I think part of this comes from when the studio head calls a meeting as to why a film bombed and everyone tries to save their job by making stupid excuses.
“Why did Cowboys & Aliens not make the millions we expected? Who do I fire over this?” the studio boss will scream at his frightened executives who cower in their Gucci shoes.
“Gee, sir, it wasn’t the marketing campaign or the fact the premise seemed like an Asylum cheapo T.V. movie made for the SyFy channel. The problem is…um…audiences don’t want to see cowboy movies.” The others nod their heads.
The studio boss sits back in his giant leather chair and bites on his cigar. “In that case cancel all movies with horses in them. We won’t make another western again.”
So studios in Hollywood canceled almost all the westerns they had in the planning stages. Really. Even Johnny Depp’s The Lone Ranger almost got the axe until the production agreed to cut the budget to the bone.
You should learn from failure, but if you disguise the real reason why you failed you have learned nothing.
Now back to Disney’s John Carter.
As I said, I asked some people (in a very unscientific and informal poll of regular movie goers, not fans of the novels) about the movie and they didn’t really know what it was about from the ads Disney’s marketing department put out. Some thought it took place in Egypt. Some thought it was a sequel to Prince of Persia. One person swore it was about Greek warriors. No one, even once, knew it took place on Mars. And when I asked if they wanted to see it, not one person said they were looking forward to watching it.
At this point let me just point out this might be a good, or even a great film. The problem is if no one goes to see the film, it can be wonderful art but it will still be considered a flop by most people.
There was a great article on the problems the marketing is having with the film (and the problems Disney is having with their studio head, Rich Ross) at The Daily Beast by Chris Lee . Reading it saddened me, since this film would be given the shaft by movie goers because of bad marketing by Disney.
Then I saw this supposedly fan made trailer.
OH HELL YEAH!!!
This is the trailer the movie deserved; this is the trailer the audience deserved. This tells a person who is not aware of ERB’s Mars novels everything they need to know to go see the film, and to want to go see it.
Now I don’t know if this is a real fan trailer. It could be a viral marketing campaign by Disney to lure the geek crowd to the film. I don’t know and I don’t care. All I know is this is the trailer that should have played during the Super Bowl. This is the trailer that people should be seeing. It made me excited to see this film for the first time.
If it was made by a fan then good job. If it was made by Disney’s marketing department as a viral campaign, then they did a little too little a little too late. As of February 23rd only 68 thousand views have been logged on the video. That’s not many when you want a movie to make back its 250 million budget plus some.
I don’t know. Maybe the film will come out on March 9th and do Star Wars like business. Maybe I’ll be made to eat this blog post.
Judging by what I saw in the fan trailer, I really hope so.