Hollywood is so bankrupt for ideas they’re remaking box office failures. Brand recognition is more important than critical reception. I invite you to be a fly on the wall as a major studio mines your childhood for the last lingering piece of nostalgia.
A Franchise is Born Again
Somewhere in Hollywood, a studio head looms over his executives. Armed with a small clicker, he circles the boardroom. With a flick of the wrist, he puts a slide on screen: a weathered face at the center of a sculpted wheel. Its features are all but flattened, with the exception of a long stone tongue.
Leaning into the light, the studio head stares straight into the projector, “Research has shown that the Mayan calendar year was several days too long. This pushes their end time prediction from 2012 to the summer of 2015. The dawning of…”
Flicking his wrist, the words “THE AGE OF ULTRON” fill the wall.
The studio head’s shoulders sink, “The same summer that Disney releases The Avengers 2 and the new Star Wars movie. When Warner Brothers releases Batman VS. Superman, and Universal launches Jurassic World.”
Flicking his wrist, the studio head pitches the clicker across the room. The executives duck. The final image is of a mushroom cloud blasting through a marquee.
Running his fingers down his face, the studio head growls. “This, my brothers and sisters, is a block-buster-apocalypse, a block-alypse. A sign of our end times. If we don’t get a major franchise into production, our investors will be raptured.”
Cupping his hands in prayer, the studio head looks to the ceiling tiles. “We need a motion picture miracle, a remake revelation, a prophecy for our profit margins. Someone bring us back to the Garden of Eden and find me an apple that’s ripe for a reboot.”
The executives slouch in their chairs, adjust their skirts, and turtle-up in their suit coats.
The studio head pops open a can of Diet Coke. There’s silence as it fizzles.
Taking a sip, the studio head wipes his mouth. “Did anyone sleep last night? Hell is licking at our heels people, and your eyes are as red as the devil’s dick.”
An executive, at the far end of the conference table, reaches into her colleague’s suit. Pinching his nipple, she twists until he shrieks. She withdraws her hand as everyone turns toward the sound. The studio head zeros in on the panic stricken executive.
Smoothing his tie, the executive says, “I… Uh, I might have something.”
The studio head shields his eyes from the beam. “Come forth. Please, step into the light.”
The executive does as instructed. He gulps. “We recently acquired a property from LucasFilms.”
The studio head slams his hand on the table, energy drinks bubble over.
“That’s what I’m talking about.” Rolling up his sleeve, he taps a vein. “I am jonesing for some Indiana Jones.” Making a screen with his hands, he stares off into the distance, “I’m thinking Chris Pine with some stubble and a bad ass leather jacket.”
“Well, it’s not Raiders of the Lost Ark, but it is the first movie based on a Marvel comic–”
The studio head claps his hands together. Suds shoot out his Diet Coke. “Did you see that?”
The executive watches the soft drink drip down his boss’s cufflink.
The studio head sets the crinkled can on the table, “You see what you just did? You made my cola cum.”
The executive nods at the puddle seeping over his notes.
The studio head addresses the room, “This sultry minx just gave me a hard-on for the Incredible Hulk, a boner for Conan the Barbarian, and a stiffy for Spiderman.” Cupping a hand around his ear, he bends down to his crotch, “Who’s that knocking at the denim door? Why it’s Wolverine, and he’s come bearing wood.” Stretching his arms out, he frames an imaginary IMAX, “I’m thinking Chris Pine as the titular murderous mutant, with stubble and a bad ass leather jacket.”
“Well sir, it’s not Wolverine, but decisions surrounding the property resulted in Steve Jobs acquiring the CGI wing of LucasFilm, which he used to found Pixar.”
Convulsions surge through the studio head’s leg. His eyes roll back. “And…” Stomping on the floor, his eyes bulge out, “…what goes Up must come down.” Clutching the table, he holds his “O” face for dramatic effect. Then he howls at the ceiling, “Thank you, my soothsayer of sell-ability, my medium of merchandising, my Nostradamus of nostalgia!”
Circling his captive audience, he snaps his fingers with each word, “I’m thinking Toy Story meets Cars, at Monsters University, motherfucker! Let’s recast Woody for a younger audience. I’m thinking Chris Pine with stubble and a bad ass leather jacket.”
“Sir,” The executive bites his lip, his eyes fixed on the stained notes before him, “We didn’t acquire any Pixar properties.”
The studio head casts a shadow on his underling, “Well, cut the foreplay and get straight to the H.J. What did we get?”
The executive sighs, “Howard the Duck.”
The twinkle dims from the studio head’s eyes. His smile shrinks to a frown. Straightening his jacket, he takes a deep breath to regain his composure, “Howard the Duck…” He swishes the words around in his mouth considering how they taste.
The executive inches away from his boss’s big burly arms. Stepping forward, the studio head grabs the executive by the shoulders. He lowers his gaze until both men are eye to eye.
The studio head licks his lips. “Howard the Duck might very well be the greatest cinematic achievement of all time. Forget Mystic River, Tim Robbins had already earned his Oscar. People remember where they were when Kennedy was shot, when the Challenger exploded, when the towers fell. I don’t, but I remember where I was when I saw that movie. It was the best Goddamn Sunday afternoon of television I’ve experienced in my life.”
The studio head slaps the executive on the back.
“Who do we have for Howard?”
The executive shrugs. “Um, we were thinking maybe like a Chris Pine type? Done up with, say, stubble and a bad ass leather jacket?”
“Bold.” The studio head nods. “I like it. What else do you got for me?”
A nervous smile comes over the executive, happy that his head is no longer on the chopping block. “Remember how after The Avengers you told us to scoop up any of the properties Joss Whedon ever had a hand in?”
Wrapping the executive in a bear hug, the studio head scoops him up off his feet.
“What did we get? The Firefly film franchise? Angel? Dollhouse? Buffy the Box-office Slayer?”
Sweat trickles down the executive’s brow, “Uh, even bigger. We got Waterworld.”
The studio head embraces his executive in a passionate open mouth kiss. One foot comes up off the ground as if the two were framed in moonlight. When the studio head pulls away, a streak of saliva links there lips.
The studio head whispers, “My water just broke.”
The executive is frozen. Spittle dangles from his lip.
Resuming his station at the head of the conference table, the studio head presses a button on the intercom. “Helen, have the props department bring the snow machines up out of storage. Why?”
“I didn’t ask why, sir–” Helen buzzes over the intercom.
He cuts her off, “Because Christmas came early this year, and so did I. My crack team just confirmed the existence of the multiple male orgasm. Didn’t we people?”
The conference table erupts into nervous applause.
“Um…” There’s a moment of static on the intercom, “I’m very happy for you, sir.”
The studio head catches the executive paging through his folder.
“Oh my dear Moses, what other movies have you brought down from the mount?”
The executive proudly declares, “We got Heaven’s Gate, and Ishtar. Both are just begging for post 3D conversion, at 48 frames per second.”
Dropping to his knees, the studio head clasps his hands together. The projector’s beam frames his hairline in a halo of light, “Por la gracia de Dios! It is he. The one who has come to deliver us to the land of milk and honey. The one that wields the flaming sword that shall smite our enemies.”
Making the sign of the cross, the studio head shouts to the room, “Kneel! Kneel you unwashed peasants and gaze upon the glory of your cinematic savior.”
Tears streak down his cheeks, “Helen?”
The intercom buzzes, “I’m here sir.”
The studio head bows to the floor. “Get me Chris Pine. We have magic to make and dreams to fulfill.”
Curled up in the fetal position, he leads the conference room in a tearful rendition of Kumbaya My Lord.