New John Carter TV Spot: Dear John Carter Trailer Team, I have an idea

Barsoom, Trailers

Disney has just released two TV spots for Andrew Stanton’s John Carter, set to hit theaters and IMAX on March 9th. Here is the spot entitled “Lost”


Actually this isn’t a review — it’s my “notes” as if this were my movie (I wish) and I were reacting to this trailer as a draft subject to revisions. I know this is a little self indulgent — so indulge me — who knows, maybe somebody at Disney will come across this and see some value.

Dear JC Trailer Team:

First of all, congrats on a significant leap forward in the marketing of the movie. This spot does something that nothing prior to this has done–creates an emotional connection with the audience and it does so in the first 10 seconds and that emotional connection, forged at the beginning, changes for the better the way the audience reacts to everything that follows.

By beginning with “Get her out of here”, and Dejah Thoris saying “No!”, it instantly evokes something that was an essential element in all the books and was critical to those books’ success (something we should be mindful of)–a central love relationship that gives meaning to all the action, and without which it would just be, well, action. They called Burroughs books interplanetary romances for a reason — this gets in synch with that. Awesome.

Then right away it gives us another relationship beat — it  goes to “a man and his calot” — as John Carter orders Woola (doglike toadlike yodalike domestic creature who is a fierce fighter as well) to leave as JC is about to be overrun by gallopin’, thoat ridin’ green martians — and Woola won’t go. He’ll face the music with JC.  Now we’ve got a man/dog relationship thing going, and Woola is adorable (Pixar is involved….let’s sell that, great choice.)

These first two beats are excellent — we (the audience) “get it” in 10 seconds that  JC is protecting Dejah (strong heroic dude) ; we get it that she doesn’t want to be protected (strong warrior princess woman) ; and we “get it” that he’s got a cool calot whom he also wants to protect but who won’t leave him.

Think about it — Hero, princess, loyal creature ally — in 10 seconds we’ve got three characters, each of whom we have a reason to like, and hence have a reason to root for.  JC is heroic and in love; Dejah is beautiful and brave; and Woola is lovable and brave and loyal. What’s not to like?  Suddenly, with deft strokes, you’ve involved me in the story so now I will look at the rest of the action with more interest and more involvement.  You’ve not only given me characters to like — you’ve amplified my appreciation of the action because it no longer seems disconnected — it seems personal, and connected to characters I care about.

So this is a rave about the first 10 seconds.

Then he leaps ……okay, I’m not loving the leaps as much as you trailer cutters are, but I’ll go with it. I just wish Andrew and company had thought of maybe having him … I don’t know, tuck into a ball or end up in a headfirst dive with sword extended or something. Looks kind of clunky but hey, that’s a quibble.  I’ll go with it.

Next beat is a card: “Lost on our world”….then five or six absolutely terrific images of JC in action but, um…. not on our world, hence unconnected to the card.   Now, does it follow that after you say “lost on our world” we should see something that shows that? Or do we just assume we get it that he’s lost on our world? I get it that  there’s only 30 seconds to work with, but I have a plan for how to buy 1.5 seconds and use that to solve this problem.

Card: “Found in another.”

Dejah says: “You…are…John Carter of Earth?” — and he answers “Yes Ma’am.” I get it that this is responsive to the “Found in Another” card — but it bumps because in the very first moments we see them in a relationship of protector/protectee so to backtrack to them just meeting is unsatisfying, it derails the momentum of the trailer and doesn’t add anything that useful.


I’m thinking this trailer is almost great — a few tweaks and it will be. Things to try:

  • Lose the double beat of “Woola go!”  at the beginning.   Just have JC say it once, and have Woola refuse — there’s not enough time in a 30 second trailer for both beats. (Saves 1.5 seconds which we can use later).
  • After “Lost in our world”, make use of the 1.5 seconds saved previously to add a 1.5 second shot of JC in confederate garb, just to lightly touch on the “our world” bit – then leave the rest of the shots between the first and second card the same.
  • After “Found in another” — lose the “You”re John Carter…Yes ma’am” thing and instead go straight to the intimate moment when she puts his hand on her check — and milk it….get more out of it. Slow it down if you h ave to. Show her doing that, then cut to him and show his reaction — he’s FOUND by the most beautiful woman in the universe and we get it, and we’re hooked.
  • Then let it end basically like it does  — keep all the action shots, same build … just commit to the “found” part of the relationship between JC and DT instead of the “who are you” moment at the beginning..  The audience doesn’t need that.
Great work.   Try these changes and let’s see how it feels.
[[And thank you all for indulging in my fantasy of being a big movie director when all I’ve directed are little ones that only got limited theatrical and never vaulted me to the ranks of the elite.  Damn…….but this is fun, and my inputs come from a good place — I want this to succeed.  Onward.]]


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