Sequels and Franchises or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

IMG_0718We’re living an age of hysteria. With an influx of sequels and franchises taking over theaters they say nuclear winter is coming in Hollywood. From comic books alone there are at least 30 new films to be expected in the next five years.

  • Marvel has 12 movies in the works, including Ant Man, two more Avengers, and finally it’s own Spiderman co-produced with Sony (but we can still expect Sony to have a Spiderman animated feature).
  • DC has Batman vs. Superman and 10 more follow ups such as Suicide Squad and Justice League as well as 7 films still rumored or in development.
  • And Fox has 6 more movies in the works including Deadpool, Fantastic Four and it’s sequel, and the last we’ll see of X-Men with Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine.

Did you get all that? And from other franchises we can expect at least five more Star Wars movies, more Star Trek, more Harry Potter, more Pirates of the Caribbean — It’s daunting to say the least. I was once worried about this as well, but I see now that as long as we’re able to admit that this is a new trend for the industry, or at least an embellishment of a trend that has always existed, for sake of our existence as movie lovers it is actually an omen of good things to come.

I will agree, that there are exceptions and movies do exist for the love of money but that has always been the case, and even so, now that American Pie is done making naked band camp spinoffs these are coming few and far between. There is so much to be appreciated from franchises today that are leading us into a new era of cinema, such as–

  1. The Production: What we are seeing 3227693047_5184aecbfc_bnow hearkens back to is the
    studio picture days of the 1940s, 50’s and 60’s, or the “Golden Age” that created epics like Gone with the Wind, Ben-Hur, and The Ten Commandments which blended flamboyant technicolor, special effects, high profile actors, and imposing casts with scores of extras. These may not have been part of a franchise, but they are still evidence of studios shelling out huge dollars to make a picture that looked like nothing we had seen before and pull in enormous amounts of cash.
  2. The Experience: In witnessing the spectacle of human accomplishment and ingenuity of the screen, there’s a real appreciation to be had for the people who spent weeks at a time and thousands of dollars to make sure the three seconds of special effects you just saw looked perfect. And in spite of the epic production that is unfolding before your eyes there is a tone set for the audience that is not so much to be taken seriously but something that that allows us to enjoy our time in the theater. The Friday night out to the movies still exists because of the summer blockbuster and is what keeps concession stands and drive-in theaters existing.
  3. The Turn Over: My favorite aspect of the movie business is its capability to withstand the years to fall into place for future generations and make “family time” all the more interesting. It’s why franchises like James Bond and Star Wars are still being made today and why they’re just as exciting as they were 30 or 50 years ago. You may argue that these burst with flaws because they lack an original idea, but really, from this time spent through out the generations they’ve been able to become something different from what they once were. James Bond has existed long enough to see Cold War tensions rise, fall, and rise again, and have an entirely new outlook at the world around him. He has also grown as a character and been reborn through six different reincarnations to add depth to himself and his history. You can’t argue that type of redefinition didn’t require outbursts of creativity.
  4. The Excitement: These new movies know how to draw a crowd. The Star Wars Episode VII teaser trailer has over 50 million views on YouTube alone and is expected to set records opening weekend.  Fans will form lines in front of the cinema days (or months for the dedicated) before its release on December 18th, which will fall as a holiday for many as well as a means of connection between people around the world
  5. And the Money: Of course the center of the issue and the reason why so many hate franchises. But what I love about the money they are pulling in is that it’s allowing studios to take more risks and expand an industry that we all love. The employment in the film and sound industry spiked last year by adding 40 thousand jobs and by 2018, the revenue of filmed entertainment is expected to increase by 19%. And this is thanks to the trend we all have looked down upon. Nine of the ten movies with records for the largest crews ever employed have been released in last ten years as part of a franchise, with Iron Man 3 holding the record with 3,310 members credited to the project (complete list from film blogger, Stephan Follows, here)
Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 5.49.43 PM

Data acquired from Statista.com

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Data acquired from Statista.com

Now, I’ve done my share of complaining about the Oscars but something has been happening to the recent winners in the last 8 years or so since the onslaught of superhero movies and sequels began. I have spoken briefly of this before, but the films I’m talking about are the likes of Birdman, The Artist, Slumdog Millionaire, No Country for Old Men, and The Hurtlocker specifically, which are major studio productions but seem to hold the sensibility of a independent work. Birdman appears to be filmed in one take and blasts a soundtrack full of Jazz, The Artist was a silent movie, Slumdog Millionaire was a Bollywood movie, No Country for Old Men was anticlimactic and swirling with existential crisis, and The Hurt Locker came from a somewhat unknown director and provided an unbiased look at a controversial war.

There are plenty of other examples of “risky” films throughout the history of Oscar winners, but by looking at the list of nominations in the past two years alone you can see the trend is growing, and will continue to grow as sequels and franchises expand even farther in the next few years. Although Paramount might be scolded for bringing us more and more Transformers, they’ve also been able to bring us Nebraska, Wolf of Wall Street, Interstellar, and Selma. Movies that spat in the space of conformity by creating stories that look different and are told in indescribable ways. The same can be said for Warner Bros which has brought us The Hobbit movies, Godzilla, 300: Rise of an Empire, and Horrible Bosses 2 as a means for Her, The Lego Movie, Interstellar, and Gravity. 

And what will we be seeing in the future?

My TOP 5 Upcoming, Anticipated Risks

  1. Inside Out (2015) – We’ll see soon if this was actually a risk or not, but Pixar’s latest film takes a drastically different turnInside-Out-Teaser-Poster after a largely successful return to the Princess fantasy. Synopsis: “The five emotions inside a girl’s head vie for control after a life-changing event.” What? Pixar is tackling the world of child psychology? The only element that could make this film stand out more was if it was hand drawn.
  2. The Great Wall (2016) – The largest film ever to shoot entirely in China for international release. It also brings in a Chinese director lesser known to Hollywood, Yimou Zhang, to direct Matt Damon and Willem Dafoe among a large cast of internationally lesser known Chinese actors.
  3. The Revenant­ (2015) – It’s a film about Hugh Glass (Who?). It’s Alejandro González Iñárritu’s next project and although he has found a huge amount of success in recent years and Leo DiCaprio is involved, it doesn’t give him immunity to a flop (see Ridley Scott). He’s doing things unlike any filmmaker today and being praised for risky innovations.
  4. The Jungle Book: Origins (2017) – Releasing a year after Disney makes it’s return to the story, Andy Serkis is directing this live-action adaptation which will focus closer to the original Rudyard Kipling stories.
  5. Steve Jobs (2015) –  From Aaron Sorkin and directed by Danny Boyle, the film ignores the landscape of Jobs’ life and instead zeros in on three very specific moments as he launches some of his icon products, but not even getting close to the iPod. The movie actually ends in 1988 with his unveiling of the iMac and after Ashton Kutchers letdown, Jobs, this does feel like waters to tread lightly.

WILD CARDS

  • Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant Man, Doctor Strange – Perhaps I’m pushing the definition of “risk”, but these much lesser known comics have been able to see the light of day now thanks to the huge success of their predecessors.

As these are all highly anticipated films with widening budgets as well as artistry yet to be practiced in the mainstream, I feel the future of Hollywood to be promising. There is something to be appreciated from it all and who’s to say that what many find entertaining is not an acceptable practice of the form. There will always be letdowns and frustrations in the business but as the art form continues to grow and gain wider audiences it will always find ways to impress as well. As I see it, there is an impressing horizon as long as we continue to create.

Thanks for reading this week. Now it’s your turn to disagree with me. Post your Top 5 in a comment and engage in discussion here or on Facebook. In the spirit of this post, prepare yourself for another upcoming sequel to complete the trilogy. Until next time, goodbye.

(365) Days of Film Will Return 

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