Tuesday, January 14, 2014

When the Marketing Sinks a Movie, Or, Reasons to See 47 Ronin

I'm not going to claim to be an expert in marketing or how the whole Hollywood money machine works. I mean, I'm not sure anyone can actually really claim to be an expert in that. So much dark magic involved. So much.

Anyway, I don't really understand how it works in its entirety, but I do understand a little, and what I know should help to explain something that's bothered me: Why did 47 Ronin, a movie that is seriously freaking amazing, tank at the box office?

Let me tell you a thing.

Movies are marketed based on a very confusing system (that I only vaguely understand), based around "quadrants". There are four quadrants - teenage boys, teenage girls, adult men, and adult women. Children are kind of another thing entirely, which is why you will see only kids' movies marketed at kids' movies and never shall the twain meet. Which is part of a lot of other problems. But back to the quadrants.

Each of these quadrants represents a hypothetical subset of moviegoers. It's all very self-explanatory, and while it is overly simplistic to assume that these groups have such wildly different taste, it gets the job done. Now, here's the problem.

No one really wants their movie to appeal to just one quadrant. You want everybody to go, right? Make as much money as possible. So you want to make a "four quadrant movie", right? Pack the theaters in with people excited to see your product. So what is a "four quadrant movie?" I think you can probably guess, but I'll spell it out for you. A "four quadrant movie" is a movie that appeals to teenage boys. Why? Because the theory goes, that what teenage boys will watch, teenage girls will watch and adult men will watch it because they want to feel young again/they never matured in the first place, while adult women will watch it because they have to drive their sons to the movie theater.

Take a long moment to let that sink in. According to most popular marketing firms, the best thing a movie can do is stereotypically appeal to teenage boys.

Now, let's watch the trailer for 47 Ronin again. I've got a link to it right here.

There are a lot of assumptions going on here, and we'll break them down, but first, allow me to totally blow your mind (maybe): that trailer is possibly the least representative explanation of the film they could have possibly made. Seriously. The movie was nothing like that. Every scene in there is out of context, they make multiple characters out of thin air, misrepresent the actual plot of the movie, and generally cock it all up.

And here's why.

The idea behind teenage boys as the standard for a popular movie is about more than just the general belief that teenage boys have disposable income and are sexist against movies with female protagonists and demand explosions and decontextualized nudity. The real assumptions are actually more disturbing.

By placing teenage boys as the arbiters of our cultural taste, we imply that not only do teenage boys represent our monolithic movie taste, that taste is white, male, young, and middle-to-upper class. As a result, any movie that is not about young, white, male, middle-to-upper class characters must be redefined so that it can be about them. Marketing believes that we all are or want to be those things, and therefore we will only watch a movie if it is or claims to be about that specific demographic.

And, as you might be able to recall, most movies that differ from this very specific formula are defined by their deviation. Think of Twilight, Hunger Games, Divergent - now these are all reasonably different films, adapted from YA fiction, and have a female protagonist. And all of them are "teenage girl movies." Hunger Games has transformed into a more mass appeal property, sure, but at their heart, all of these are about girls. They are defined by how about girls they are, at least in the marketing, aren't they?

Katniss Everdeen, is, after all, the Girl on Fire.

Similarly, any movie that is primarily about non-white people is defined by how about non-white people it is. It's a black movie or a Hispanic movie or an Asian movie or whatever. It's not just a movie, it's a movie about race. And so on and so on and so on. Movies that differ are defined by their differences.

Which brings us back again to 47 Ronin. Like all of you, I saw the trailer fourteen kajillion times this year, and I figured that since I love Keanu Reeves (haters gonna hate) and Rinko Kikuchi, I'd go give it a shot even though it looked sophomoric and kind of terrible. 

To my utter and complete surprise, the movie turned out to be a beautiful, thoughtful fairy tale, in which Keanu Reeves is not the main character, there is no pat Hollywood happy ending, the story stays remarkably true to Japanese folklore and myth, and there is much less fighting and a lot more character development than seemed likely. Basically, it's a completely different movie.

So here's what 47 Ronin is actually about. (SPOILERS)

The movie is based on a well-known Japanese myth, and follows the story pretty closely. In the movie, Ôishi (Hiroyuki Sanada) is a samurai in the service of Lord Asano (Min Tanaka), the kindly and thoughtful ruler of Ako. When Ôishi and Lord Asano find a young boy in the woods, Ôishi wants to kill him, as he has the signs of a demon on him, but Lord Asano spares his life and takes the boy into his home. The boy, Kai (later played by Keanu Reeves), grows up an outcast, both because of his weird origin, and because he is only half-Japanese. Ôishi hates him for the dishonor he brings on Lord Asano's house by existing.

Years pass. Kai grows up, and Ôishi becomes no more fond of him. But Lord Asano's daughter, Mika (Kô Shibasaki), does. She loves Kai, and Kai loves her, and it's all very tragic and noble and chaste. Until the Shogun visits, that is, and brings with him Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano). Lord Kira is not a nice guy. Such not a nice guy, in fact, that he brings with him his concubine - who is really a witch (Rinko Kikuchi). Lord Kira and the Witch conspire against Lord Asano, and seek to take his lands. Actually they seek to take all the lands. And they're darn good at it.

First their poison the samurai who will fight Lord Kira's samurai in the tournament. This will bring shame on Lord Asano, but Kai steps in and dons the armor. He's almost home free, too, until his helmet pops off and everyone sees that not only is this not a samurai, it's a demon-touched half-breed. Shame everywhere. Kai is beaten and Ôishi is furious.

Then, later that night, the Witch spells Lord Asano so he attacks Lord Kira. The result is disastrous. Lord Asano is forced by the Shogun to kill himself, Mika is given to Lord Kira in marriage (though she may wait a year for mourning), and Lord Asano's lands are given over to Lord Kira. Ôishi and his other samurai are banded Ronin (or, masterless samurai), and banished from Ako. And then, to add insult to injury, Lord Kira sells Kai into slavery and sticks Ôishi in a pit for a year.

Lord Kira is not a nice guy, okay? Also kind of crazy.

A year passes, and then Ôishi is up, feeble, and ready to take revenge. While he knows that they may die in the process, Ôishi is determined to fight to free Mika and regain the honor of Lord Asano. He also owes a debt to Kai, who realized that Lord Kira had a witch with him long before anyone else did. Ôishi wishes to see that debt paid.

And this is where in the story the action actually starts. But it's action with a purpose, and consequences, and stakes, and all those things that action movies really don't usually have. Plus, the ending of the story is true to the legend. The reward for fighting injustice and overpowering an evil warlord and his witch is simple: you may now die with honor.

There is virtually no nudity, there are only a couple of kisses, the violence is always plot-related and important, there is really only one white character in the entire film and he's not the protagonist, the two female characters (Mika and the Witch) talk to each other rather a lot actually, and the whole film is about the sublimation of self in the pursuit of honor, nobility and the greater good.

I guess I can kind of see why Hollywood didn't know what to do with this.

But really it just makes me sad. This is an amazing movie, guys. It's beautifully shot, the story is well written and compelling and tragic, and it's so delightfully different. This isn't an action movie, it's a fairy tale, and that's fine. Better than fine, it's great. How often do we get to see someone else's fairy tales, as in, non-European ones, on our screens?

The rub is this: 47 Ronin tanked at the box office. It tanked for two reasons: 1, the people who were expecting a big dumb action movie and did go to see it were bored out of their skulls and complained about how not an American action movie it was all over the internet, and 2, the people who were expecting a big dumb action movie and didn't go see it didn't go see it. And this is where our little example up above about how movie marketing works turns disastrous.

This movie failed because it was badly marketed. There is literally no other explanation. The expectations that were shaped in the leadup to its release were, frankly, full of shit. They had no bearing on the real movie, and as a result, the movie was a disappointment. I don't think I can say how sad this makes me.

So, please go see 47 Ronin, if you can. It's a wonderful movie that doesn't deserve to be punished for the shittiness of the market, and, really, don't we want to reward Hollywood for at least trying something different? I hate to say it, but if 47 Ronin bombs, it could be a long time before we get another big-budget non-western action movie again.

At least, one without Tom Cruise saving the Japanese from themselves through the power of white man magic. Because we all know how much Hollywood loves making those.


67 comments:

  1. I didn't finish reading your article because spoilers, but basically I saw the trailer and was super confused as to the plot, and wondered if Keanu Reeves was going to make it a saved-by-the-whiteness thing or if his half Japanese-ness would contribute to a legitimately interesting story involving hapa person, the latter of which I have interest in for obvious reason. I will put it on my very long list of movies I meant to see this winter and maybe get around to it at some point.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You should definitely go see it. It's not really Keanu Reeve's story at all, which is surprising and rather nice. Mostly, it's just a good story, based comfortably in Japanese myth, with a Japanese cast and beautifully shot and well, it's good.

      Delete
  2. http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/NeverTrustATrailer so of course I will go by a much more reliable standard. How about good ol' metacritic... oh, oh my. Ah well, Debbie says it is good.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am the best metric you could ask for, that's right.

      Delete
  3. I really loved this movie. I was totally looking forward to it when I thought it was a ridiculous sword-slamming fest, and I enjoyed it when it wasn't. Maybe if you think all ads are lies to begin with, the odds of enjoying things more increases? No idea.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I feel like there's a scientific study in there somewhere...

      Delete
  4. I avoided watching this in the theater due to poor reviews. This was a much better movie than the reviews indicated. Basically, if a movie has a bummer ending aka main characters dying or humanity as whole losing or being shown in a negative light you can deduct roughly 20% off of the metacritic score right off the bat. If doesn't have constant action, tits and asses and or cheesy Hollywood humor injected into it every other line you can deduct another 20% for that. The only exception is if the movie is marketed as an art house independent movie then none of the above rules apply, but said movie is doomed to poor box office returns anyway due to being pigeon holes as an art house movie regardless of how positive the reviews may be. This movie basically got screwed because it strayed too far from pandering to the lowest common denominator without actually being an artistic movie.

    47 Ronin was better than 3/4 of the trashy tent pole movies I have seen recently, but because it strayed from the block buster formula it was doomed to failure which is sad. This was not the best movie but it was MUCH better than the reviews indicated. I would give it a low B which is higher than I would give most of the trashy super hero flicks that got MUCH better reviews than this did. This movie deserved a much better run at the box office and a fairer score by the critics.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This is impelling the probability that organizations swing to independent journalists and other people who can create content at a cost. PaxFax FaxBroadcast

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Does payday loans check your credit?
      In the case of payday loans, sometimes called payday advances, while most payday lenders do not pull your credit report to approve you for a payday loan from blue sky loans or to check for past defaults, these lenders do not report the loan or the payment or default of the loans to the credit bureaus, according to the Consumer Financial

      Delete
  6. aily paper promoting, pro advanced marketing organizations will focus on web based marketing instead of "marketing organizations" who normally focus on TV, radio and print marketing. alberta sales & marketing

    ReplyDelete
  7. How delightfully every one of the sentiments have been passed on through composing.
    Binance reviews

    ReplyDelete
  8. When individuals is there on a given there you have some more "Related Videos" on a section on the correct side of the screen. buy real facebook likes

    ReplyDelete
  9. Web optimization is only a little part covering a couple of marketing missions.Emery EPS

    ReplyDelete
  10. We require more such articles that we can read with such energy.
    123moviestube.io

    ReplyDelete
  11. Looking for a job in some SEO company. Is your Canada's SEO Company hiring new recruits currently? Canada's SEO Company

    ReplyDelete
  12. The blog writings were so nice, I wished they neever ended.
    https://123movieshub.it/

    ReplyDelete
  13. The article looks magnificent, but it would be beneficial if you can share more about the suchlike subjects in the future. Keep posting. Agencia Octopus

    ReplyDelete
  14. Digital marketing focuses on getting your information, products and services in front of people when they are looking online. digital agency content distribution

    ReplyDelete
  15. If you are Windows customer and a music fan, you have definitely been influenced to get Garageband for Windows Apk and Garageband is one of the favored music creating an app.

    ReplyDelete
  16. There are a lot of courses, classes, coaches and workshops out there to enable you to learn.website

    ReplyDelete
  17. It is even more of selling an exclusive product that will provide you larger product sales as you complement your Online marketing business.https://socialener.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For example, the average payday loan is $375. Using the lowest finance charge available ($15 per $100 borrowed), the customer owes a finance charge of $56.25 for a total loan amount of $431.25.
      If they chose to “roll over” the payday loan, the new amount would be $495.94. That is the amount borrowed $431.25, plus finance charge of $64.69 = $495.94.That is how a $375 loan becomes nearly $500 in one month.

      Delete
  18. Recordings are lively marketing gadgets which are winding up being well known among advanced online advertisers to make more prominent volumes of traffic for the webpage.

    pxm

    ReplyDelete
  19. Information on factoring financing of mega-convert.com in Canada. What does invoice finance cost, who is eligible for best rates, and what are some advantages of a/r finance.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I have been involved in franchising dozens of are speaking, at last count over 60. Some from concept and some where we converted an existing business to the franchised model and I am really happy to deal with either pathway with one really important proviso. The business owner must have a reasonable understanding on what it takes to run a business successfully - franchised or not.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Setting up a business can be click to find out more overwhelming task with a lot to comprehend. It all starts with a dream and a vision, but how do you turn that dream into reality? The dream of becoming your own boss and having the freedom to make your own decisions can be a complicated one at the beginning.

    ReplyDelete
  22. There are many reasons for needing a payday loans colorado springs co or emergency cash, and they are surprisingly easy to get if you have a bank account and a regular job. Nor need you state the reason for the loan, so find out how to get one and from whom.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Creativity is the lifeblood of Free advertising sites Entrepreneurship. An entrepreneur who wishes to stay ahead of the game must innovate in many different ways but keep a clear vision of their goals in mind. Learn to innovate in every way while staying on the right course.

    ReplyDelete
  24. There are several digital how to make money online as a teen courses available both online and in colleges and universities. But before you learn more about these courses, let us know what digital marketing is all about. What Is Digital Marketing?

    ReplyDelete
  25. Love your Article!!! Love the movie! Regards!
    Shai Agencia Digital

    ReplyDelete
  26. Are you so busy that you feel like you've fallen off track? Are your deadlines more like how to make money as a college student Do you feel like your business is struggling, has lost its focus, or is out of control?

    ReplyDelete
  27. You can use CSS to replace images,seo marketing services which is another website design trend that is likely to stick around for the long time. It would be a shame, though, for HTML5 usage to become a new Flash.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Business Needs assessment includes an analysis of the underlying business drivers and objectives and overall context of business need that has been established for the client's Data Warehouse. When business needs have been defined, spotsilver.net assessment process examines the approach to capturing business requirements, their completeness, the priorities of the requirements, and alignment of the data warehouse release strategy and deliverables to the needs.

    ReplyDelete
  29. It can be easy to lose sight of the very reasons why you wanted to open your business startup. Silverpriceperounce.net can get wrapped up in the day-to-day operations, leaving little time to focus on what makes your business startup standout in the market. Having a strategy in place that allows you to keep you motivated can ensure your business stays on a path of success

    ReplyDelete
  30. Although my area of expertise is in the Internet Marketing niche, as I was writing this article, I noticed the information would also work for traditional start up businesses as well. You will notice there are no references to Internet Marketing, etc. This is because I also wanted to share this information with anyone who is planning on starting a "traditional, brick and mortar" business. But the information contained here also applies to my friends who opt to go with the trend of online marketing as well. In this article, we focus on the initial planning steps of getting your business up and ready to open. vladimir vrbaski republika

    ReplyDelete
  31. Since the point https://Silverpriceperounce.net this article is to teach you how I set up my business, I shall start at the very beginning (a very good place to start)! This post will be specifically about registering business with the government of Canada.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Buying a small business requires a tremendous amount of preparation. Successful Click here well managed businesses that are for sale are in short supply and a serious buyer will need to be well prepared prior to pursuing a purchase. This article outlines the process an entrepreneur should follow in such a pursuit.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Digihashtag is best website development & designing company in Gurgaon. We offered Website Development, Mobile App Development, Ecommerce Development, Website designing, SEO, SEM,SMO services.in Delhi, Gurgaon, India with best price.Website Designing and Development Services ecommerce website design company.

    ReplyDelete
  34. I wanted to thank you for this excellent read!! I definitely loved every little bit of it. I have you bookmarked your site to check out the new stuff you post. desifuntv

    ReplyDelete
  35. Home improvement loans can suck the life out your house hunting experience. Find out why home improvement loans suck and what you can do to stop the suck. Compute the Predetermined Overhead Rate for Each Department

    ReplyDelete
  36. Terrific is the most appropriate word to describe this blog.
    jadwal film bioskop

    ReplyDelete
  37. It can be easy to lose sight of the very reasons why you wanted to open your business startup. You can get wrapped up in the day-to-day operations, leaving little time to focus on what makes your business startup standout in the market. Having a strategy in place that allows you to keep you motivated can ensure your business stays on a path of success Cash app support number

    ReplyDelete
  38. Beaver says I also have such interest, you can read my profile here:
    jadwal film bioskop

    ReplyDelete
  39. Just imagine arms equipped with lifespan codes similarly to the candies and products you pick up through the grocery stores. Visualise your forearms scanned to get everything you desire. moviebox for pc

    ReplyDelete
  40. Running any business alone can be self-fulfilling for every entrepreneur but equally as tough and impossible to successfully manage. With this in mind, hiring a business coach is always a smart move because the opinion of an expert enables and facilitates businesses to reach their full potential. The business coaching industry in the US has grown in recent decades to apply now worth of over $12 billion highlighting its impact and the need to find the best business coach for your business so as to unlock maximum potential.

    ReplyDelete
  41. There convert money calculator many reasons for needing a payday loan or emergency cash, and they are surprisingly easy to get if you have a bank account and a regular job. Nor need you state the reason for the loan, so find out how to get one and from whom.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Buying a small business requires a tremendous amount of preparation. Successful and well managed businesses that are for sale are in short supply and a serious buyer will need to be well prepared prior to pursuing a purchase. This article outlines the process an entrepreneur should follow in such a pursuit. https://autocad.buycheapcad.com/autocad-electrical.html

    ReplyDelete
  43. Nice man thanks for sharing
    http://capitalsmartcityisb.com.pk

    ReplyDelete
  44. Thank you for some other informative blog. Where else could I get that type of information written in such an ideal means? I have a mission that I’m just now working on, and I have been at the look out for such information.
    mp3xd

    ReplyDelete
  45. Level plan does the polar opposite by actualizing symbol like pictures and straightforward structures.
    web designer nuneaton

    ReplyDelete
  46. Among one of the finest pieces on the web, refreshing in its specificity.
    More Info

    ReplyDelete
  47. The information you have posted is very true, Your words is awasome, Will if you write few more thing on this then that will be the best. Thanks You website designing company in Gurgaon

    ReplyDelete
  48. Water-resistant our wales in advance of when numerous planking. The particular wales surely are a selection of heavy duty snowboards that this height ones would be the same in principle as a new shell planking having said that with much more height to help you thrust outward in the evening planking. planking gsrtc online booking mobile app

    ReplyDelete
  49. The ideal sales and marketing relationship is a symbiotic one. Marketers and salespeople work together to determine what consumers need and how to deliver it.SEO WASHINGTON DC

    ReplyDelete
  50. B2C marketing varies from B2B marketing in various key ways. A Business market has not many clients when contrasted with a buyer advertise which has huge quantities of clients. adfluencer

    ReplyDelete
  51. Running any business alone can be self-fulfilling for every entrepreneur but equally as tough and impossible to successfully manage. With this in mind, hiring a business coach is always a smart move because the opinion of an expert enables and facilitates businesses to reach their full potential. The business coaching industry in the US has grown in recent decades to how to get free money on cash app worth of over $12 billion highlighting its impact and the need to find the best business coach for your business so as to unlock maximum potential.

    ReplyDelete
  52. Businesses all of duty modern warfare free download oftentimes benefit from obtaining business management consulting services. These services are especially advantageous to those businesses that are new to the industry. From marketing strategy development to client management to...

    ReplyDelete
  53. Video games have unquestionably become more ambitious and impressive in recent years. When you look at the likes of The Last Of Us, it's impossible to overstate just how far video games have come since people were playing Pong forty-odd years ago. But for all the innovations within the medium, and for all the new fangled ideas and increasingly elaborate control schemes, there's something to be said for how much more straight forward things were in the games we played as kids. free discord nitro

    ReplyDelete
  54. In this case you will begin it is important, it again produces a web site a strong significant internet site:
    juice mp3

    ReplyDelete
  55. Nice blog post. Thanks for sharing this informative blog with us know more

    ReplyDelete
  56. Information technology professionals describe requirements first in terms of system requirements. These are the technical specifications of hardware, software and networking systems to support business applications. To produce accurate and reliable assessments of these and other information download Minecraft pocket edition requirements, we need to understand the business requirements first. Information technology can make dramatic contributions to productivity growth. Misaligned requirements can lead to expensive disasters.

    ReplyDelete
  57. Digital marketers at CRUX, the renowned digital marketing agency in Gurgaon offers the best campaign plans with excellent planning, adaptable strategies, and precise execution to cater to the needs of clients.ronald banilov

    ReplyDelete
  58. Hey. Cool article. There's a problem with your site in chrome, and you may want to check this... The browser is the market leader and a huge component of other people will omit your wonderful writing because of this problem. cash app hack

    ReplyDelete