Tag Archives: sequels

Why the Future of Hollywood is Stuck in The Past

By the year 2020 there will 101,228 feature films released throughout human history (according to IMDB). Assuming the average run time is 110 minutes, it would take 11,135,080 minutes to watch them all, that’s 185,585 hours, 7,733 days, 22 years if you don’t sleep or go to the bathroom, and 30 years if you do. If you tried to watch a new movie every night for the rest of your life you’d have to live to the ripe old age of 284 (assuming you watch nothing beyond 2019).

Cinephiles have a cornucopia of calls to adventure to answer, a diversity of dramatic turns to take, and a never-ending supply of new worlds to explore. So why do we get déjà vu whenever we go to the theater? Look up on the marquee. There’s that name we’ve seen a dozen times before, no roman numerals behind it, no subtitle. New year. Same old titles.

The answer is in the question. We have 284 years of options. People want to know what to expect before investing their time. That’s why franchise films continue to reign like eternal dynasties.

Rotten Reviews Don’t Matter Anymore

It used to be if an entry in a series was panned it damaged the franchise’s reputation. Back when there was a scarcity of long running continuities an Exorcist 2or Jaws 4 would derail a series. These days, in the era of shared cinematic universes, franchises are too big to fail.

SoThe Conjuring spinoff Annabelle was poorly received? The studio just made another prequel with a different creative team. So The Conjuring 2 spinoff The Nun was scored low too? Now they’re spinning off The Crocked Manfrom The Conjuring 2to see if he’s got what it takes. The convoy may swerve here and there, but it just keeps on trucking.

Universal has been trying to launch a monster mashup franchise forever. Dracula Untoldwasn’t the series launcher they were hoping for so they tried again with The Mummyas a Tom Cruise auctioneer. Now they’re remodeling their Dark Universe after The Conjuring universe, with a lower budget horror-centric version of The Invisible Man.

Warner Brothers are continuing with the DCEU where Ben Affleck and Jared Leto play Batman and the Joker respectively. Meanwhile they’re producing a backdoor DC universe where director Matt Reeves is recasting Batman and Joaquin Phoenix is playing the Joker. Oblivious to possibility oversaturating the superhero market Warner Brothers is hedging their bets.

Everybody is Eating the Member Berries

Hollywood is learning that extended cinematic universes are hard to build, much harder than resurrecting a dead brand. YouTube is full of Gen Xers who can’t stop talking about the movies they grew up with. Hollywood tried to reboot those classics action adventure flicks for millennials, but none of them took. So producers came up with a new strategy.

Let’s listen in on one of their conversations.

“Can we do anything with the Alienfranchise or did Ridley Scott kill it for good?”

Prometheusand Alien Covenant didn’t resonate with audiences. The Alien VS. Predator movies are best forgotten. Joss Whedon wiped his hands of Alien Resurrection. Alien 3almost killed David Fincher’s career before it started… But Alienwas a cult classic and Aliensmade James Cameron a household name. If only we could jettison the franchise’s baggage we might be in business.”

“What are you proposing?”

“We make a sequel to Aliens. Bring back all the characters who died off screen in Alien 3, like Hicks and Newt, and pretend none of those other movies even happened.”

“But what about the fans of the sequels, prequels, and spinoffs?”

“They’ll be first in line. Didn’t you see what happened with 2018’s Halloween?”

(Authors note: this actually pitch by Neill Blomkamp is stuck in development hell at the time of this writing, but the Alienfranchise will live on as a mobile game).

Halloween was A Harbinger of Things To Come

TheHalloweenfranchise has gone through many revisions, retcons, and reimaginings since John Carpenter directed the original, but 2018’s Halloweenmarks a trend in franchise film making. It isn’t quite a sequel nor is it a reboot. It’s a do-over sequel, one the wipes all but the 1978 film from the continuity. Technically it’s the third version of Halloween 2.

It sounds like a bold experiment until you realize it was made on a modest 10 million dollar budget. Since Halloweencame out in October it’s earned nearly 160 million, making it the franchise’s biggest opening, the biggest horror opening with a female lead, the biggest opening with a female lead over 55, and the second biggest October opening ever.

Halloween’s success set the stage for every tarnished brand to come back with a fresh coat of paint on, but will it teach Hollywood the right lesson?

1980s Franchises Now and Forever

TheGhostbustersreboot was a hit with critics, it made a profit, but it wasn’t a billion dollar success, so that continuity is dead and director Jason Reitman is going forward with Ghostbusters 3.

TheRoboCopreboot followed a similar trend, which is why Neill Blomkamp is bringing Alex Murphy back to his old continuity in Robocop Returns.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is set return to the role of Conan the Barbarian after the reboot failed to take root.

Linda Hamilton is returning to the role of Sarah Connor in the next Terminatormovie, even after two Game of Thronesactresses have played the character.

Closing Thoughts

My generation’s nostalgic streak is costing mellenials new experiences. Bankrupt brands are taking up too much real estate on the big screen because we’re letting them. If a franchise has had one too many brushes with failure it should go into a state of hibernation for a five year minimum.

The wounds inflicted by Terminator Genisysare still fresh in my mind. It’s too soon for another one.

2018’sHalloweenworked because it was the exception that proved the rule. It was a 10 million dollar low risk experiment that payed off. The estimated budget for Terminator 6 is 255 million dollars (making it the most expensive entry in the series). If it makes anything short of a billion dollars the studio will likely consider it a failure… But they’ll probably make another one anyway. Think about all the sci fi movies the studio could make if they divided up that budget and took some risks on some fresh intellectual properties. That’s why my generation needs to stop giving franchise films infinite retries. Let’s give the next generation something of their own to be nostalgic for when they grow older.

Continue reading Why the Future of Hollywood is Stuck in The Past

Franchise Fixes

Hollywood is dead set to refresh everything you’ve ever seen. I figure if I can’t stop them, then I’ll show them how it’s done. What film franchise do you wish you could take back to the drawing board? Not for nostalgia’s sake, but because there’s something worth exploring there.

Fixer 2

Here’s how my new series will work: you give me a film franchise in dire need of repair and I’ll write you a fully realized pitch. As a former script reader, I’ve written over two-hundred coverages, as well as treatments, and script notes. Having pitched to networks and studios, sat in on meetings, and the board of the Minnesota Screenwriters Workshop, I can say I know my way around a screenplay.

Rather than criticize the parade of titles Hollywood dishes out, I want to pose alternatives. If I say I could come up with a better plot, I better have a narrative to back it up. Any mega fan can recognize where a series fell flat, but it’ll take some imagination to wrench it back up off the ground. It’s one thing to say The Phantom Menace lacked a clear protagonist, it’s another to give it one.

I’m not just going to make an abstract series of demands for J.J. Abrams to check through when he’s making the next Star Wars movie. I’m going to write a condensed outline of what that movie might be. Explaining my reasoning, I’ll show my work, and welcome objections.

I’m going to start by scraping the bottom of the barrel, the films with so many entries they’ve destroyed their own continuity. The ones that no longer resemble the classics they came from. The ones that jumped the shark, nuked the fridge, and stepped in the Eopie poop.

I’m talking about the sequels that took spec scripts and shoe horned their series mainstays in, because it was cheaper than writing a fresh script (Die Hard and Hellraiser I’m looking in your direction). I’m talking about the franchises that were ruined by investors who thought it would be a good idea to bring aliens in (Highlander fans are still pretending part 2 never happened). I’m talking about the reboots that did more harm to the brand than good (Nightmare on Elm Street is not supposed to put you to sleep).

Here’s my proposal: I want to tell new stories with new characters, in the same universe. Let’s take the best parts of fan fiction and put them up on screen. I’ll make controversial proposals that could spark heated debate. I’ll take the backbones of these franchises, and spin them on their heads. Knowing that most of these properties are already being remade, I’ll pitch something so far out of the left field, no one will see it coming. I’ll be the lightning rod to direct your nerd rage at, the spark that ignites yelling matches between geeks, the free lunch for trolls everywhere.

Fixer 3

Here’s my stance: I’d rather refresh a franchise than reboot it. Let’s tear down the old sets and rebuild from the ground up. Forget about Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes, a retelling that missed the social commentary of the original. Give me Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a familiar concept from a different vantage point, with a whole new cast of characters.

I don’t want to see a young Captain Kirk face off against the Borg. I want the series to boldly go to a plot line it hasn’t gone to before, to show us new worlds, and give us new moral quandaries. Don’t get me wrong, I love this new cast, but I don’t want to see them in another story with a Khan-like villain. Captain Picard became Captain Ahab over the course of four movies, let’s not have Kirk go through the same transformation.

We don’t need to meet a young Connor Macleod, we need to meet his Highlander brethren. We don’t need to paint the mask of irony on another Eric Draven, let’s have a Crow film starring a woman. We don’t need a found footage Jason movie, we need a Friday the 13th with a protagonist who is just as compelling.

Do we need to see what’s in the Freeling family’s closet again, or could we meet a new family with a similar Poltergeist situation?

Does Ridley Scott need to take us to the engineers’ home world in Prometheus 2, or could we take a pit stop in one of the worlds they’ve decimated already? Maybe he could introduce us to a creature in the engineers’ arsenal that makes the Alien xenomorphs look like kittens in comparison, something the Predators wouldn’t have a chance at hunting.

If Clive Barker really wants to wow me with his next Hellraiser movie, he’d make Pinhead the protagonist, and have him take on a even more malevolent foe. OR make the cenobites one of two feuding demon mobs our hero is forced to play against each other, like a grifter with a debt hanging over her head. OR he’d go back to his original concept and make the cenobites other worldly sadomasochists with no affiliation with the afterlife. These creatures aren’t moralists, but explorers in the further regions of experience.


Your job will be to tell me what series you think is broken, in the comments section. I’m not going to catalogue their problems (the rest of the internet has got that covered). My job will be to prescribe a solution, to pitch a fix, to adjust an established universe to accommodate a brand new story. I’ll write a treatment that hits every major plot point, with a logline and everything. I’ll give you conflict, a character arc, the whole shebang.

You’re welcome to come back and nitpick, to respectfully disagree, or to shout heresy until your lungs bleed.

With a little luck we’ll come up with something so cool that we’ll feel compelled to free it from its source material and turn it into its own thing.