I’m not gonna lie: that very first John Carter teaser gave me goosebumps. I’m honest enough to admit, however, that most of my enjoyment came from already loving the property and being excited to see a talented filmmaker – Pixar’s Andrew Stanton – finally bringing it to the big screen. Not to mention the excellent use of Peter Gabriel’s haunting cover of Arcade Fire’s “My Body Is a Cage.” For a casual moviegoer, someone who’s never even heard of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ books, neither the original trailer nor the ones that have followed have done a very good job of answering three crucial questions: who the hell is John Carter, what the hell is going on in this movie, and why the hell should I care?
We should have known there was trouble afoot when Disney dropped the “of Mars” from the end of the title early on. I can understand their concern; the Mars (or Barsoom) on display in the books and the film looks nothing like the Mars we all know from science class, and it’s hard to explain why that is in a two-minute trailer. That’s probably why they’ve also downplayed mentions of the source material – they’re trying desperately to sell John Carter the movie as its own thing. Here’s the problem: it’s not working.
Each new trailer has demonstrated over and over that Disney’s publicity team hasn’t got a clue how to market this movie to people who aren’t already excited about it, and that even extends to the movie title itself: after dropping the “of Mars,” you’re left with one of the most generic, forgettable names possible, and one that tells me absolutely nothing about the movie or character it’s trying to sell. The only way it could be worse is if Edgar Rice Burroughs had written about a guy named John Smith of Mars.
Compare the official John Carter trailers to this version created by the folks at TheJohnCarterFiles.com, compiled from the various existing clips and trailers. It’s got action. It’s got amazing visuals. It’s got a little humor. But more importantly — crucially — it actually answers those three questions I listed up top. It plays up the legacy of the story, and the talents of director Andrew Stanton. Even using footage of varying quality, this trailer handily outshines every official bit of John Carter marketing we’ve seen. In short, it actually makes you want to see this movie.
Hey, Disney? Take some notes. Or even better, hire these guys.