Oh Tomorrowland, you had so much potential. You started well by getting good talent in place. Brad Bird has an excellent track record as a director. George Clooney is still somewhat of a draw, and he tends to only pick good projects, or at least not paycheck jobs. Hugh Laurie has a fan base too, and Britt Robertson is an up and coming actress. It had a huge budget as well, reportedly around $170 million, and the first trailer blew a lot of people away, myself included. On top of all of this, Tomorrowland has more or less the same feel and marketing campaign as Pirates of the Caribbean, one of the biggest franchises of all time. So why did Tomorrowland fail, when the fifth Pirates film is in production?
Let’s get one thing out-of-the-way, Tomorrowland is not the first time Disney have tried to replicate the success of the Pirates franchise. Most recently, The Lone Ranger failed horribly, despite the fact that it was basically Pirates of the Caribbean in the wild west. In fact, so similar was it in the way it was presented (as a family friendly action / adventure film), they relied heavily on Pirates in the marketing campaign, and even cast Johnny Depp in the exact same role.
It didn’t help that most people hated The Lone Ranger, and it was around 6 hours long (numbers may not be 100% accurate), but even so, for a film that looked from the outside like it had captured the formula so well, it really failed to deliver at the box office. And what about John Carter? Another action / adventure family film with a huge budget that, you guessed it, hardly anybody saw. Now Tron: Legacy, not only was that a visual feast, but it was a sequel to a hugely successful film. Well, it fared it little better, cracking the $400 million barrier, but that still wasn’t enough to get a sequel given the go ahead.
Let’s hurry things along, The Sorcerers Apprentice, I wouldn’t be surprised if some people haven’t even heard of that one, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, based on a popular video game you say? No, we don’t want that. The Chronicles of Narnia? How did that get three films? National Treasure? You fared a little better, but still came nowhere near the numbers Pirates made. And then there’s the original imitator, The Haunted Mansion. Don’t remember that one either?
Almost all of these films had a big star to bring in audiences, and enough great visual moments to make a decent trailer, but none of these films (which I’m going to say again, are all from Disney) even came close to replicating the box office numbers Pirates of the Caribbean brought in. I should probably mention as well, that whilst all of these films were coming out, Dead Man’s Chest, At World’s End, and On Stranger Tides all came out, and made around $1 billion each (At World’s End only managed the pathetic haul of $963 million, but that’s close enough).
So maybe people just love Pirates? They certainly don’t love Johnny Depp anymore. Well whatever happens, I can’t see Tomorrowland becoming a billion dollar franchise, which is a shame, because it really had the potential to be something quite special. Mind you, so did The Lone Ranger, Tron, John Carter and Prince of Persia. At least we got The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
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