Franchising, franchising, franchising. Where the real money from the movies is made.
I’m probably pretty slow on the uptake for not recognizing the trend in movie-making. Movie studios I think prefer to make sequels because there’s a certain guaranteed return. Prequels are a logical extension of that thinking, and franchising is just the logical extension of that thinking.
I love the MCU. The movies are, at worst, enjoyable, and at best, actually good. Given most movie studios’ uneven consistency (even my beloved Pixar), that’s a really good track record. Making a franchise out of adapting comic books actually makes sense to me from a storytelling standpoint. There are a lot of stories to choose from and a lot of characters and directions to take those characters. Prequels, sequels, spin-offs, all of those could work out just fine (although I’m still not saying Ant-man was a good idea). From a marketing perspective, what could be better? The more I consider that aspect the more I wonder why it took Disney so long to buy a comic book company. Along those lines, of course “Star Wars” is a franchise. It could be argued the first movie is what kicked off this unholy (but profitable) alliance of movies and merchandising.
But the “Fast and Furious?” The fact there are seven movies in this series and another in the works just baffles me. Okay, fine, since the movies are made up of beefy dudes, hot chicks, fast cars, and absurd stunts, I see the mass appeal. Plot is this thing that kind of sort of happens between stunts. And banking on a known name for a very run-of-the-mill action type movie is a smart move, monetarily. Maybe I just don’t see the appeal. I suppose this is harmless enough, and each movie is mostly self-contained. It’s not as though one is being made to purposely set up another, and probably more interesting, movie.
And this is where the franchising movement really ticks me off. Actually, this is one of two main reasons. You will laugh at my second reason because cynic that I am, I ought to know better. But first, the studios’ assumption that any movie is merely the start of a franchise instead of its own story is really, really irritating. I don’t like it even when I know where the set-up is going. For example, I think Captain America: The First Avenger would have been a better movie if so much screen time wasn’t being devoted to world-building the franchise. And that, to me, is the best example of this kind of set-up stuff.
Like I said, I’m kind of slow on the uptake sometimes I just started noticing how some movies are made with this assumption that so many more will follow. I’m not talking about the sequel teaser at the end of The Last Airbender, either. That was an adaptation of a series with three seasons. I’m not even referring to the latest failure of the Fantastic Four. The studio was absolutely planning to franchise the hell out of that. I’m thinking more of Jem and Pan. Okay, these movies had a lot of flaws. A lot. But I’m just focusing on the set-up here. The weird thing (to me) was that this prequel of Peter Pan no one asked for didn’t even answer the question that was in the theory the basis of its existence – How did Captain Hook end up Captain Hook? At the end of the movie, very little is explained about Neverland and Hook and Pan are friends. What? So not only did the studio think audiences wanted to see a Peter Pan prequel, but the studio was banking that the audiences wanted to see several prequels.
The premise of Jem was even more baffling, since this was in theory supposed to appeal to girls who grew up in the 1980s the way Transformers was supposed to appeal to boys. The main conflict in the Jem series is between the Holograms and the Misfits. That’s even in the freakin’ intro song. And yet this whole movie was made and the end-credits sequel teaser shows the creation of the Misfits. What the hell? That would be like watching the first Transformers movie without Decepticons and at the end show Megatron starting his plot to destroy the Autobots. Or having the first Transformers movie be about Sam’s great-grandfather finding Megatron. As bad as the actual movie was, that would have been far worse. On the other hand, this trend of franchising may shut down bad franchises before they start… I’m not sure even Michael Bay could have crammed in enough explosions into Grandpa Witwicky’s polar expedition to drum up interest in a sequel.
The second reason this trend annoys me is that while I understand that movies are a business, I think the emphasis on franchising will only further drive away any interest in new ideas. Believe me I am not so näive as to assume any movie made is for the art. At best, artsy movies are made as Oscar bait. I get it; new ideas are hard to sell. People like what is familiar which is why sequels are easy money. But people also get bored and eventually those franchises will implode. And I don’t want a sequel to The Incredibles or Finding Nemo. I want more movies like Up or Inside Out or Mad Max: Fury Road.