Magazine article Variety

Rivals Increase Labors of 'Hercules'

Magazine article Variety

Rivals Increase Labors of 'Hercules'

Article excerpt

Dwayne Johnson has helped boost the box office brawn of the "The Fast and the Furious" and "G.I. Joe" franchises, but his star power really will be put to the test when he toplines "Hercules" in July.

While casting the action star formerly known as the Rock in the role of the iconic Greek demigod seems like a sure bet, the $100 million-plus pic is one of several similarly themed strongman releases hitting theaters this year.

In January, Lionsgate invaded with "The Legend of Hercules," while Sony Pictures' TriStar unit releases "Pompeii" on Feb. 21, and Warner Bros, follows with "300: Rise of an Empire" on March 7. In each film, the lead muscle-bound warrior is clad in essentially the same leather-strapped outfit, stands in the same heroic pose and fights similar foes. Even Paramount's campaign for Darren Aronofsky's "Noah," also due out next month, has borrowed from the 2000 best pic Oscar winner "Gladiator," starring Russell Crowe, featuring that same actor in a warrior-like stance - albeit rain-soaked - on the film's posters.

All of this creates a potential problem for Johnson's "Hercules": sword-and-sandal fatigue among audiences.

The film's backers, Paramount and MGM, must be hoping they don't suffer a similar fate to Sony Pictures' last summer when its costly "White House Down" was largely rejected by U.S. moviegoers who four months earlier had flocked to FilmDistrict's lower-budgeted, similarly plotted "Olympus Has Fallen."

Paramount has yet to start promoting "Hercules," which debuts July 25. The studio didn't buy a pricey Super Bowl spot. It hasn't even released a teaser poster or trailer yet (WB sent out a teaser trailer for its "300" sequel nine months before its release). Only Johnson has done any promotion - posting photos on Twitter and Facebook from the set in Hungary that teased the look of his character. Timing of the campaign's official launch is still being worked out. Paramount and MGM declined to comment for this story.

The lack of any ads for such a major summer tentpole just months before its release is unusual. That's especially true given that Paramount and MGM are hoping to launch a new franchise around Johnson. But more promotional breathing room may work for Paramount's marketing team. Johnson is a far bigger star than Kellan Lutz, Kit Harington or Sullivan Stapleton, who headline the earlier actioners, and Johnson is one of Hollywood's best self-promoters.

But as Paramount focuses much of its marketing efforts around "Noah" and "Transformers: Age of Extinction" (due out June 27), the studio could find itself having to do some heavy lifting to get "Hercules" noticed by moviegoers bombarded by ads for an action-packed summer that includes Sony's "The Amazing Spider-Man 2"; Disney/Marvel's "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" and "Guardians of the Galaxy"; Disney's "Maleficent"; WB's "Godzilla" and "Edge of Tomorrow"; and Fox's "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" and "X-Men: Days of Future Past. …

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