Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Is Hollywood too Franchise Crazy?

That's a question that many have asked for much of the past decade, one in which I think has been answered more than adequately by the movie studios producing only franchised properties and not many, if any original scripts that have no sequels in mind.  In truth, there isn't much I can say on the subject that hasn't been touched on by other sources, but I am going to try.

Yesterday, news broke that Dan Ackroyd and director Ivan Reitman have developed a production outfit, Ghostcorps, at Sony Pictures.  Their goal is to produce more than this new all girl Ghostbusters, but another all male Ghostbusters starring and produced by Channing Tatum, and possibly directed by Joe and Anthony Russo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier).  All of this is being done in the hopes of setting up a Ghostbusters Cinematic Universe, like what Marvel has done.  Personally, I have never been a big Ghostbusters fan.  I've always loved the concept, but the original movies never really did anything for me.  I know there are a lot of Ghostbusters fans out there and I respect that they want to see new films in that universe, just like how I want to see new Star Wars movies, of course with both Star Wars and Ghostbusters, do the majority of people below the age of twenty really care about these new films?

Growing up, I knew of so many people who had never seen a movie made before they were born.  The Hollywood studios are so enamored by the past success of these franchises that they aren't thinking too much about their current market viability.  I am not saying that new Ghostbusters movies can't be successful, nor am I saying that these new Star Wars movies aren't going to be box office juggernauts, but we've already seen many studio franchises implode by trying to mimic the Marvel strategy of each movie in a franchise connecting to one another.  Sony has recently had to make a deal to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe after their latest attempts at creating an independent Spider-Man universe didn't work, the same with when DC hoped Green Lantern would start a  DC Cinematic Universe that failed and they're now taking a second bat at with Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman:  Dawn of Justice.  What irks me about this way of making movies, is the studios are already planning sequels and spin-offs just because of the brand's notoriety without actually making a good movie first to see if they can pull it off.

Here's the thing with franchises, there is a reason the franchises that work are popular.  They are familiar and people pay money to feel comforted.  I mean, that's why I look forward to every new Marvel movie and it's why I think Avengers: Age of Ultron will still be the biggest box office hit of the year (yes, even bigger than The Force Awakens).  I love comfort, I mean I am the first to tell someone that I hate change, but as is evidenced by what DC and Warner Bros. have done with their movies, and Sony with Spider-Man, they are just going to keep trying to shove these franchises down our throats until they strike gold after millions, possibly billions of lost dollars, just to have that one mega hit the size of The Avengers.  What if the Hollywood studios took that money they blew through and invested it in an original idea?  Where would our current movie landscape be if back in the Seventies, Alan Ladd, Jr. and 20th Century Fox didn't take a chance on George Lucas's space opera, or if Dan Ackroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ivan Reitman didn't get the funding to do their original comedy blockbuster about busting ghosts?  Two big Hollywood franchises wouldn't have ever existed and the studios would be in a lurch right now.

In so many ways, this is the hardest time in movie history to get an original screenplay produced that is not based on a pre-existing book, comic book, video game, toy, cartoon, TV show, movie, or even amusement park ride.  Look, as I've already said, I love stuff based off of things I already know I love, but I'd also like to see some new stuff as well.  You know why fans complain about the changes made from the book to the film?  It's because they've already experienced that story.  However, when Star Wars first hit in the Seventies, no one was complaining because they didn't have another source to compare it to.  That's the thing that these studios are missing.  Yeah, when these book and comic book adaptations work, they make the studios a lot of dough, but when they fail they typically go up in flames and hemorrhage money.  Now, while it would be easy to also point out big budget movies that were based on original scripts that failed at the box office, at least it wasn't something we had seen before and they tried.  How are we going to create the franchises for the future if we try to stick to the same old, same old?

I think that's the bottom line that I've been trying to get at this whole time.  I have nothing against franchises, because anyone that knows me will tell you that I am obsessed with Marvel and Star Wars and want as many of those movies as possible, but I also want to see new stuff.  I want to see the next big, original sci-fi or fantasy epic that can rival Star Wars.  I mean, J.K. Rowling didn't become a billionaire by writing a character that already existed.  No, she made her billions by creating a boy wizard that would have not existed had she not created him and his world.  I think the way that things like Harry Potter or The Hunger Games can come along and capture the collective imagination shows that there are people out there still with their eye on creating original stories, but the studios need to let the filmmakers know that they are willing to not just let novelists be the originals, but that they are also willing to let the filmmakers play with some new ideas.  Just because George Lucas is a filmmaker doesn't mean he has any less of an imagination than J.K. Rowling.  Alas, we'll just have to live with this current state of moviemaking for now.  It will take more of these franchises imploding before things change, but I have hope for the future.

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