Lurking in a Variety piece on the ending of the relationship between Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. (their eight-year partnership included Nolan's Batman trilogy, 300, Watchmen, and many more geek-friendly films) is word that Pacific Rim, one of the final films the two will be releasing together, isn't tracking very well with potential moviegoers (aka a bunch of random people in a mall who answered a poll). Not only that, but Pacific Rim is tracking worse than its opening-weekend competition, the inane-looking Grown Ups 2. Sadly, this news isn't all that surprising.
For starters, it's almost unfair to compare the tracking numbers of Pacific Rim and Grown Ups 2 because the latter has the simple advantage of being a sequel to a movie that made a ton of money despite not being very good. Of course it's going to have more awareness than Pacific Rim, one of the few megabudget movies this summer that isn't a sequel and isn't based on a preexisting property. People like what they know, and right now they don't know Pacific Rim. That last part is why this isn't very surprising, though.
People don't really know Pacific Rim because all of the marketing has been focused on one thing: combat on a massive scale. The first trailer that hit was perfect, just perfect. It showed us that this was without question a giant-monster movie. It showed off robots the size of buildings and monsters so massive they could take down entire bridges without any effort. The trouble is that, since then, we haven't gotten much of a sense of what's in Pacific Rim aside from robot-fighting monsters. We haven't gotten any sense of the human element of the film. Idris Elba yells he's cancelling the apocalypse, which is an awesome line, but so far he's the only memorable human element in all of the marketing. And it's not just a trailer problem, either. Of the 15-plus posters and banners that have already been released for the film, only the one you see at the top of this post features a recognizable human face on it.
Considering that we're halfway through the summer and we've already seen cities just absolutely decimated in movies like G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Star Trek Into Darkness and Man of Steel, it's understandable if potential audiences are getting destruction fatigue. If all that's being sold about Pacific Rim is the fact that it's big robots and big monsters causing that destruction, it's forgivable that audiences might actually be a bit more drawn to a movie like Grown Ups 2 that clearly isn't promising any of that stuff. And the most frustrating thing about all of this is that Pacific Rim apparently has a ton of great character material in it.
Though those who have seen it are under embargo and can't review it, the early word that's leaked out says that Charlie Day, Idris Elba, Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi are all awesome in the movie, and that it just has an infectious enthusiasm throughout the whole thing. There's apparently a real camaraderie to it all and so all of the human elements of the movie really pay off in fun, memorable ways. Basically, the people inside the robots matter just as much as the robots themselves, and that's exactly as it should be. Sadly we're just not getting that in the marketing.
Of course, we're still weeks away from the film's July 12 release date, which is enough time for Warner Bros. to start showing off the parts of the movie that aren't CGI. The studio is already turning to that direction with this "At the Edge" TV spot that had a prime placement during the first commercial break of last night's premiere of Under the Dome. We just hope the marketing people keep down that path. Even if they don't, we just want to make one thing clear: don't hear the buzz in the movie blogosphere that says the movie's opening weekend numbers are tracking poorly and think that means Guillermo del Toro's latest movie is a dud. It just means that audiences might be pleasantly surprised that there's more going on underneath those giant, giant robots, because so far they just haven't seen any of that stuff.