MovieBob - Intermission
Franchise Movie DOs and DON'Ts

Bob Chipman | 22 Nov 2013 12:00
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"Franchise" movies - movies that exist as part of some bigger universe - are not going away any time soon. Sequels were already a popular and reliable enough way to stretch an asset. Marvel/Disney have proven that you can draw an audience for preposterously silly action movies and wildly inconsistent TV shows that take their sweet time figuring out how to be good. Shorter DVD windows, the advent of streaming, etc have all made serialized storytelling the go-to business model for motion-picture entertainment.

However, not everyone does it well. In fact, most studios don't do it well. It's not really their fault, most of them have never had to managed things like this before whereas books and television have been doing it for decades. Hell, Stephen King actually maintains a functional interwoven mythos within his fiction despite having written/published over 150 books - several of which he has admitted to being so strung-out during the writing of as to not recall actually writing them.

Now, I'm no Stephen King, but I am... well, what I am is a guy who has to think of something new to write about every week in this column. So here's some anecdotal observations about franchise filmmaking organized into a Dos & Don'ts list. Yeah. Welcome to the other side of the curtain, kiddies:

DO: Lay the groundwork for sequels.

DON'T: Screw up the current movie to do so.

Yes, people who keep pointing this out to me: I am absolutely certain that the 9/11-reference-gasm third act to Man of Steel and Superman's curiously un-Supermanlike reaction to it are setting up stuff for Batman Vs. Superman. It's an easy guess that Metropolis will be rebuilt into its familiar "City of Tomorrow" stature, that doing said rebuilding will be the public "cover" for Evil Businessman Lex Luthor and that Superman's imperfect behavior will part of what initially turns Luthor and Bruce Wayne against him. All well and good... except it still leaves the first film as a tonal mess and a poor adaptation which would be even more so if for whatever reason you never got to actually make the sequel.

DO: Think outside the linear progression of time.

DON'T: Mistake things we don't know for things we'll enjoy knowing.

Prequels are not evil. They are, however, hugely abused - often running in circles telling weak stories based on answering questions better left unasked. Case in point? X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which helpfully showed moviegoers what the unfortunate readers of Origins already knew: That the idea of Wolverine fighting in various wars throughout history was more interesting than the reality of watching him actually do it.

DO: Save some stuff for later.

DON'T Save everything for later.

There are basically only two really important Green Lantern enemies: Sinestro, a former Lantern gone rogue and Star Sapphire, GL's girlfriend turned evil. Both characters are introduced in the first (now only) Green Lantern movie with nods to their possible futures, but neither get there during the film itself; leaving the hero to fight a boring mad scientist and an even more boring giant space cloud.

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