Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Strike 3?

Yesterday, I called the stills and new poster for 'The Lone Ranger' little more than 2 strikes and left it to the teaser trailer to redeem the marketing campaign. Here it is, and no it doesn't.

Problem 1) The voice-over is that of an unidentified speaker. I'm guessing this is Tonto, but it's not made clear or, rather, it's not clear because we don't know what Tonto sounds like, what to expect from his voice. We don't have a frame of reference, so the voice isn't immediately recognizable. It may be fairly obvious later, on analysis, but this isn't the way trailers for huge blockbusters, especially those aimed at kids, are supposed to play. (They're not for analysis, they're for bowling you over. You should have a visceral response, feel like you know what to expect and look forward to the movie after seeing the trailer one time).

It's not like it's the distinctive gravelly voice of the Dark Knight or some other instantly known character. This doesn't hit home with a prospective audience. You can't tell anything from this voice. No hook there. Doesn't grab you.

Problem 2) The train motif. Kids are supposed to turn out for this because, at one time, the locomotive train was the fastest thing around? Seriously.

Sorry, kids don't care about trains. This isn't 1940. Or 1950. Or 1960. Or...okay you get the picture. Nobody cares about trains. Not anymore.

Problem 3) The notion that the train and, more specifically, the fact a train goes fast, meant that "Time and space (were) under the mastery of man." How is that, exactly? That you could go, what?, 30 miles in a hour meant you had command of time and space? Nobody thought that. The cowpokes didn't watch a train go across the horizon and think the guy driving it had control over time and space. They probably thought something like, "There goes the train."

Further, the notion that this new technology (going from point A to B in a train) is a power that "makes emperors and kings look like fools" is something nobody will buy. Nobody will think train travel was something that brought with it the power to make emperors and kings cower. Sure, it was the future, way back in eighteen-hundred and whatever. It was a huge step toward bringing industrialization to the west. But it didn't make anybody look like a fool. That would be a magical oracle or wizard, or something like that. Make a movie about how a magic oracle makes emperors and kings look like fools and kids might want to see that. But, trains? A movie about trains?

Problem 4) There is no bad guy. No antagonist is identified. That's a bad sign. This lack of a villain means kids can't say, "Yes! I can't wait to see the Lone Ranger and Tonto kick (insert bad guy's name here)'s ass!" No over-the-top bad guy implies anybody could be the good guy. Here, it happens to be Lone/Tonto. Could have been Jeb and Wilbert just as easily seeing how the bad guy is so lame he/she/it isn't even worth including in the trailer. Not exactly inspiring.

Otherwise, this trailer doesn't have much going for it. It does nothing for me. The visuals, the dusty old west setting -- they don't move me. It does not make me want to see the movie. Reactions online are tepid. 'Reserved' might be a good word. So, yeah, I'm calling it strike 3. Not a great start for a massively expensive would-be tentpole.

Too early to call this another John Carter, but that's what I'm doing. Between kids not wanting to see this, adults not caring, the fact it's a western, the fact nobody knows who the Lone Ranger is/was, the bloated budget ($250m+ for (a problematic) production then add marketing), the probable lack of an overseas audience (except in countries where the Lone Ranger is huge), and the highly competitive summer box office race, I'm calling this Disney's 'John Carter: 2013 Edition'.

Let's hope there's only one.


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