How do you sell a movie called “Captain America” to an overseas market? In South Korea, Russia and the Ukraine, apparently, the answer is you don’t even try.
The film “Captain America: The First Avenger” will have its title truncated to, simply, “The First Avenger” in those three overseas markets, according to Marvel Studios insiders. The choice was made by Marvel, Paramount Pictures’ international team and distributors in those three countries based on market research results. Those involved in the decision are being careful to frame the move as a matter of brand management and consumer awareness and not as a decision tilted by cultural or political winds.
In private, Marvel insiders said that early on in the project’s planning there was talk that the title might need to be changed in numerous international markets but that there was a “pleasant surprise” — the brand recognition of the comic-book superhero was so strong that it overrode those considerations in many places. That was not the case in Russia, South Korea and the Ukraine.
It’s not uncommon for American films to undergo name changes for overseas to suit the international variables in taste, translation and temperament. Still, this particular title tweak might not sit well with those pundits and purists who frowned on comments last year by the film’s director, Joe Johnston, that suggested that Captain America and his alter ego, Steve Rogers, would be more measured in the way they saluted their country.
“He wants to serve his country, but he’s not this sort of jingoistic American flag-waver,” Johnston told Hero Complex. “He’s just a good person. We make a point of that in the script: Don’t change who you are once you go from Steve Rogers to this super-soldier; you have to stay who you are inside, that’s really what’s important more than your strength and everything. It’ll be interesting and fun to put a different spin on the character and one that the fans are really going to appreciate … the idea that this is not about America so much as it is about the spirit of doing the right thing,” the director said. “It’s an international cast and an international story. It’s about what makes America great and what make the rest of the world great too.”
One competitor thinks the name change is a good move and might be advisable for more countries. “It’s going to be interesting to see how the movie does internationally with that character’s name,” said Matthew Vaughn, the director of Fox’s “X-Men: First Class.” “I think changing it is smart.”
Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige could not be reached for comment due to an intense work schedule on “Thor” and “Captain America: The First Avenger,” both of which are now in postproduction. Through a spokesman, however, he did not refute the reports of the name change in the three markets.
This March marks the 70th anniversary of Captain America, the Joe Simon and Jack Kirby creation who was introduced in the months leading up to the bombing of Pearl Harbor and became the most popular of the many red-white-and-blue superheroes of that era.
The film stars Chris Evans as Rogers, a frail young man who volunteers for a secret government program aimed at creating an army of super-soldiers. The experiment is a success but Rogers ends up as an army of one when the process cannot be duplicated as planned. The film directed by Johnston (whose credits include “Jurassic Park III,” “Jumanji” and “The Rocketeer“) and written by Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely and Joss Whedon includes some new additions to the classic mythology from the comics — before Rogers reaches the battlefields of Europe, for instance, he’s assigned to be a USO performer by military masters who worry about the PR risks of putting the hero in the line of fire. The film also stars Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull, Tommy Lee Jones at Col. Chester Phillips and Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter.
The film will be released July 22 in the U.S. with some overseas releases as late as Aug. 12.
– Geoff Boucher (Follow me on Twitter @LATherocomplex)
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