Thursday, May 8, 2014

Potential New Film Franchises for Hollywood

Yesterday it was announced that Lionsgate and Saban Brands would be teaming up to bring the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers back to the big screen, and it got me thinking -- what other potential franchises have Hollywood been forgetting about?

Perhaps the single most frustrating thing about the current state of Hollywood, is its obsession with franchises based on pre-existing characters.  No longer can a film simply be made, with no intentions of a sequel, and it's almost just as rare for a film to be made that isn't based on a pre-existing idea or character from a book, comic book, or TV show.  Now, I am not railing against all franchises, but more so against the franchise mentality.  For every good franchise based off of pre-existing ideas, like the films of Marvel Studios, there are ones that make you scratch your head.  I mean, just in the past few months, they have announced feature film versions of Barbie, the It's a Small World ride from Disney World, and the marshmallow birds known as Peeps, joining Hot Wheels, Angry Birds, and many other pre-existing properties as things being turned into movies that shouldn't be turned into movies in the first place.  To think, these films are getting the money that some original idea, that could have been the next Star Wars, will never get.

Even still, while I do feel that Hollywood is a little too obsessed with anything that has name brand recognition nowadays, I have found three pre-existing franchises that Hollywood has yet to even really try to develop (at least faithfully), for the big screen.  All three I think have the potential to be long lasting franchises, and it's kind of crazy to think that we're gonna get a film based off of Angry Birds before we get any of the films I mention below.  Alas, there is often little justice in this world.  Here are the three potential film franchises that I think Hollywood needs to snap up.



Why Disney has not made a live action feature based on Gargoyles is beyond me.  This early Nineties' Saturday morning cartoon may not seem like an obvious franchise on paper, but to those who have seen it, we know how great a Gargoyles film could be.  

Gargoyles tells the story of a group of medieval Scottish gargoyles in modern New York, who sit encased in stone by day, only to be brought to life by night.  Once brought to life, they become shadowy protectors of New York City, aided by their newfound human friend, Detective Elisa Maza.  

This is arguably one of the most dark cartoons ever made that was targeted towards kids.  While there is levity that often comes from the quirky personalities of the individual gargoyles (often reminiscent of the Ninja Turtles), the show often dealt with much darker fare than the average Saturday morning cartoon.  There were life and death stakes on this show, a Saturday morning cartoon that employed Shakespearean archetypes and mythology to create one of the most unique blends of fantasy and superhero action ever created, that ultimately created its own vast mythological tapestry.

As far as my research has brought up, there has never even been discussion of a Gargoyles movie, neither animated, nor live action.  The truth of the matter is, the show was not a huge success in its initial run, and it took till just last year for Disney to finally finish releasing the show on DVD after years upon years of the small, yet dedicated fans' complaints.  The only thing that has kept Gargoyles in the geek consciousness for so long is that small cult following of fans, that I am happy to say that I am a part of.  We know what was so great about this show, and we know what it could still be.

Imagine a live action film, done with a gothic style, reminiscent maybe to the first Tim Burton Batman movie, featuring these hulking gargoyles using make-up, CGI, and puppetry, to bring to life these honorable, occasionally gentle, monstrous warriors.  As for the gargoyles' Lex Luthor-like archnemesis, Xanatos, they need to get the film made before original voice actor, Jonathan Frakes, is too old to play the part in a live action format.  But I think the real reason a Gargoyles film should be made is because it could check off all of the boxes expected of modern blockbusters.  Huge action?  Check.  Quirky humor?  Check.  Dark tone?  Check.  Unlikely romance?  Check.  Potential for hundreds of sequels, prequels, or spin-offs?  Check, check, check.  You get the idea.

Maybe I'm simply dreaming of something that never will happen, but the ball is in Disney's court.  They own the rights to Gargoyles, and they could do this if they wanted to, they just don't seem to want to.  Instead, they'd rather make a movie based on It's a Small World (because that's way cooler than gargoyle superheroes).


The Hardy Boys

Like so many other young boys, I grew up reading The Hardy Boys' books.  The adventures of sleuthing teenage brothers, Frank and Joe Hardy, were always very exciting to me as a kid, and still are enjoyable to me as an adult.  The greatest thing about The Hardy Boys, was that these were real dime store-styled mystery novels that were simply missing the excessive violence and sexuality of the more adult oriented fare.  Over the years, they may have been watered down to play toward the child audience more, but the original books were merely good Agatha Christie-ish mystery stories featuring two nosy teenagers as the protagonists.  Adding to the believability of Frank and Joe Hardy is the fact that their Dad is a real detective that they often assisted, against his will, on his investigations.  Of course, you may be wondering why I think this would be a good film franchise, and it's because, if done right, it could be like nothing else out there.

My personal feeling is that if anyone is to do a Hardy Boys movie, then they need to do it in the original 1920s' setting of the books.  I think setting the film in the Twenties, and then giving it a film noir, or maybe even a Rear Window tone and style, would create a film franchise unique to anything Hollywood is currently producing.  What I don't think they should do is add in a bunch of stupid humor and transplant the characters into modern day (like that bad Nancy Drew movie a few years ago), to try and appeal to modern children.  The original stories appealed to me as a kid because they were serious, and they made me feel the mystery and the suspense.  That's what I would want from the movie, and if no one in Hollywood can understand or do that, then I don't want them to do it at all.  The thing is, I don't think anyone currently in Hollywood understands these characters.

Just a few years ago, it was rumored that a comedy version of The Hardy Boys called The Hardy Men, was gearing up for production about Frank and Joe as adults, starring Ben Stiller and Tom Cruise.  Thankfully, that film never went anywhere, and if that's the best that Hollywood can do by FW Dixon's creation, then I don't want them to ever touch it again.  However, if they do it respectfully to the original books, then it could open the door to a James Bond type of franchise where you can just continually recast the roles every few films or so and make films into infinity.  Not to mention the fact that these films would be far cheaper than the average blockbuster, because they aren't sci-fi, action, or fantasy, so they could be more profitable and could be considered successful even if they only do moderate box office numbers.  Then, there's the fact that you could eventually spin-off a series of Nancy Drew films from The Hardy Boys as well.  Maybe have Frank and Joe meet and work with Nancy on a case, and then start Nancy's own series of films set in the same time period.  Just a thought, but one that could result in not one, but two significant film franchises.


Mobile Suit Gundam

In the wake of stuff like Transformers and last year's Pacific Rim, I've only become more convinced that it's not only possible, it's a downright shame that Hollywood has yet to even try to get the rights to make a Mobile Suit Gundam movie.  For those not in the know, Mobile Suit Gundam was a Japanese comic book in the mid-70s, and eventual animated TV show, that spawned a massive franchise in its native Japan that consists of toys, video games, multiple TV shows, comic books, and some animated films as well.  Designed by series creator, Yoshiyuki Tomino, as a story about war, almost every iteration of Gundam always manages to show the grim realities of war, while also being a piece of satisfying sci-fi entertainment.  

The original Mobile Suit Gundam was set in a future where Earth has expanded its reach and created space colonies.  In this future, wars are fought with giant robots called Mobile Suits, that humans climb inside via cockpits in the robots' chest to pilot them.  When the space colonies farthest from Earth secede, a war erupts, and the only hope for the Earth Federation are their newest secret weapon, a special Mobile Suit known as a Gundam.

The reason why I think a Mobile Suit Gundam film should be a reality is because it's a comic book and cartoon that's not cartoony.  Designed from the very start to make the situations feel real and believable, a Mobile Suit Gundam film needs no real heavy lifting to realize in a live action context.  As a matter of fact, Transformers is more implausible than Gundam has ever been, and it's now had four live action films made, why not Gundam?  

A Mobile Suit Gundam film could easily rival any of the great sci-fi franchises Hollywood is currently tinkering with, from Star Wars to Star Trek to Battlestar Galactica.  What makes Gundam so different, is that unlike those other space epics, Gundam has the added bonus of giant robot mechs doing battle, which none of those other franchises have.  Then there's the fact that Gundam still has great, relatable characters that are highly likable at the core of its story, and you have the ingredients for a perfect Summer blockbuster.  Of course, the question is not when Hollywood will come knocking, but if they ever even will?

Film technology has simply gotten to a point where it would be an utter shame if Hollywood continues to ignore Gundam and all of its possibilities.  Japanese company, Bandai, has the rights, so the only way it can even be possible is if a studio can strike a monetary deal with Bandai to use the rights, which is always tough to do when greedy people get involved.  However, I feel that enough people in my generation, especially boys and now, young men, who grew up watching Gundam on Cartoon Network, will turn out in droves for a Gundam film.  Ultimately, I think it will take one of the aforementioned young men to eventually get to a point of power in Hollywood to where they could make a Mobile Suit Gundam film even a possibility, until then, I don't see it happening.  

Whenever a Gundam film does happen though, I think it will be a huge success.  It features everything people want from a good sci-fi adventure.  Tons of action, tons of emotion, awesome heroes, even more awesome villains, and lots upon lots of explosions.  Then, there's the fact that there are dozens of spin-off series that could be adapted, as well as many other follow-up series that highlight different points in the Earth's timeline.  This could be a film franchise that could conceivably go on forever, as long as Hollywood can get onboard.

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