Stretching franchises is choking studio films

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As studios insist on incessantly rebooting/sequelising/spinning off films, franchise movies are beginning to look unappetising.

It has now been two weeks since the cast announcement for the upcoming Star Wars Episode VII, and anticipation is running high in the film community. Could this new trilogy redeem the integrity of the Star Wars franchise after the abysmal lacklustre prequel trilogy? Or, alternatively, could this new trilogy simply tarnish the reputation of the original even further, especially since a handful of the original cast members have returned (think Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull)? Regardless of the outcome, fans of the franchise and the general public alike will flock to see the new Star Wars film when it is released.

How many times do we walk away from franchise movies underwhelmed with the thought that it was just more of the same?

So often people complain about the countless sequels and reboots that are released yet mostly everyone is guilty of supporting them. Let’s face it; we all go out to see these films, no matter how pointless they are and how sick we claim to be of Hollywood’s lack of creativity. How many times do we walk away from them underwhelmed with the thought that it was just more of the same? Perhaps the biggest question we have to ask ourselves is why do we see them? Did we love the original/previous films of a franchise so much that we want to see another take on the subject? Or do we just love the characters that much that we need to see what happens to them next?

The only thing to be sure of is that sequels and reboots will continue to be pumped out of the big moviemaking machine that is Hollywood until everyone stops eating up what they are given with every subsequent release. Currently, the most evident culprit of this type of franchise abuse is Marvel Studios. It was recently stated that Marvel has their upcoming superhero films planned out until 2028. Keep in mind that this date isn’t limited to one superhero, and that they release several films every single year.

the avengers team

 

Both Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 were recently released within one month of each other to the usual high box office numbers. Prior to both films’ release, though, a sequel to Captain America was announced (along with the highly anticipated Avengers: Age of Ultron) and two sequels to The Amazing Spider-Man were announced, along with spinoff films, Venom and The Sinister Six. Already with The Amazing Spider-Man 2, there has been criticism of how the story is rushed, setting up for future sequels as opposed to being its own independent story.

Studios are more concerned with hastily assembling a group for a future mash-up over the course of a handful of unfocused films

There are so many things thrown at the audience that they are supposed to believe and process, but there is no build-up or even a semblance of good storytelling to make them care. In the case of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, many loved the developing relationship between Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker even moreso than the setup for the villains and subsequent action scenes. Instead of creating a powerful and concise story with excellent character development, studios are more concerned with hastily assembling a group of villains for a future mash-up over the course of a handful of unfocused films.

Horror movies are another frequent offender when it comes to reboots and sequels. In the past decade or so, remakes of classic horror films have been plentiful. Genre favorites such as Halloween, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Last House on the Left and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre have all been given a makeover, much to the chagrin of fans everywhere. Although none of these films surpass their original counterparts in terms of quality, there is still marketability and profit to be made from them by the studios. Horror reboots have also started to extend to the small screen, with television shows like A&E’s Bates Motel, a reimagining of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho set in the modern day. Also set for release is NBC’s TV mini-series Rosemary’s Baby in 2014, and the newly announced Friday the 13th series (not the 1987 one, but a whole new… just forget it).

More on serialised franchising: The sequel/prequel fad has come to TV

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Sequels are also in abundance in the horror genre. Both Insidious and The Purge generated buzz upon their initial release, and have now spawned their own line of sequels. Insidious: Chapter 2 was released in 2013 and a third sequel is scheduled for release in 2015, while The Purge: Anarchy is set for release in July of this year. Another film that was generally well received on release was The Conjuring which, you guessed it, has its own sequel, The Conjuring: The Enfield Poltergeist, slated for 2015 as well.

There was no studio intention to make a sequel to Back to the Future – it was the fans who clamoured for more

All is not lost, though – there truly are some great cinematic franchises out there. In 2006, one of the longest running film franchises introduced a new instalment that reinvigorated a character in decline. Casino Royale was released to rave reviews and has spawned two sequels of its own, thanks in large part to Daniel Craig’s raw and edgy performance as the legendary James Bond. The Bond series, unlike other franchises, often does not follow an over-arching storyline – it features individual adventures and a handful of recurring characters. 2012’s Skyfall was perhaps one of the greatest Bond films ever made, proving that it is still possible to update an old character for modern day audiences and still achieve success with a quality cast, crew, and screenplay.

In 1985, Back to the Future was released and later spawned two sequels, which together went on to become one of the most beloved and universally acclaimed film franchises of all time. The filmmakers poured their all into the original Back to the Future, and it showed. While the sequels don’t necessarily surpass the original, they’re still worthy successors to the original. It’s in part because the first film had a cliffhanger ending, with no intention of a sequel being made – it was the fans who clamoured for more adventures from Marty McFly and Doc Brown.

While there have been some really great film franchises created and/or reborn in the past few years, the future does not look as bright, not while studios put more weight on the project ahead of them rather than the ones being currently worked on. Studios are always looking for the next big payday, with franchises that they can beat to death, while original ideas are being cast aside and ignored. Unfortunately, the more audiences eat up this flood of average remakes and rushed sequels, the longer everyone will have to continue to put up with them.

 

More on Hollywood franchises: How The Raid 2 breaks the sequel curse

 

Featured image: Columbia

Inset images: Marvel; NBC

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