Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Film as Franchise

I'm curious about when film-making became an investment in what to me, boils down to a TV mini-series franchise mentality. It seems so often these days that whole companies of actors are contracted for a series of films based on one or two books (with the promise of more to come).  Lord of the Rings excluded, because everyone knew it was an original trilogy so it had to be told in three films, of course.  And I give Peter Jackson major props for his attention to detail.

That said,  think of The Hobbit, a small children's book being squeezed so tight to get all the blood out of that poor shriveled up turnip is simply wrong. And it looks like it's showing in box office numbers. I know of few sequels - or prequels - that ever reached the popularity of the original.  No, I won't go into my theories about this.

I also see that these mini-series productions can become even more of a headache when a cast member already under contract - with major scenes already shot, in the can, for the next installment - suddenly up and dies. Two recent episodes come to mind as I read about the financial investments being lost due to this turn of events.

The stupid, accidental death of Paul Walker. 
The stupid, accidently-on-purpose death of Philip Seymour Hoffman.

While Hoffman's final scenes may be saved using CG techniques, Walker is another story entirely.  Seems he WAS the franchise.

What good is a committed audience if one of the characters suddenly buys the farm? No good at all. A complete waste of money - up front money, at that. Willy-nilly and gone with the wind, as it were. 

To be honest, I don't know much about "Fast & Furious" (it wasn't my kind of entertainment) whether the book came first or was released after the initial film more than a dozen years ago. But, no matter. 

I was aware of the Hunger Games books, and later, the Twilight series.  My attempts to read the former were frustrated by my annoying ability to predict what was going to happen before turning the page. Except for a few quirky bits perfect for special effects there were no surprises there. Chalk it up to my younger years reading science fiction, fantasy, and post-apocalyptic novels.  

It was only after I began reading Twilight that I learned (the hard way) that the books were written for those reading at a 6th grade level. OK, colour me embarrassed, especially since I had seen older adults clutching one of the series in their hands while in public. Teenage vampires!  Who knew?

To make a film in the past, rights were purchased, scripts developed, casting took place; then shooting, editing, postproduction, advertising, distribution and the finished product was on its own. Sink or swim.  Good or bad. This was before television, to be sure. After TV took off all bets were off and many times theatrical trailers were more entertaining than the actual films they promoted.  But that's a story for another time.

As the old studio system was breaking down, Stanley Kramer wanted Spencer Tracy for a certain film he was planning to make. But Tracy was breaking down, too. His health had been deteriorating for some time and no one, bank or studio, would insure he'd make it through the shoot.  So, in order to make the film Kramer and Katherine Hepburn offered their own salaries as collateral for Tracy's performance.

Tracy made it through the shoot (dying less than 3 weeks later) and the film went on to win quite a few awards.  The film, of course, is "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" - a testament to great filmmaking and the folks who made them. They don't make people like that anymore.

Under the studio system, if a film did well, there was a chemistry between co-stars, and  well developed characters, the studio might bring them together for another film, but hardly ever a sequel. It stood alone with a beginning - a middle - and end.  Period! Same genre, same characters with a new story and set of circumstances. I can think of a number of these, can you?  They're as refreshing and original today as they were in first release. 

With the reels and reels of cinematic drivel in the multiplex these days, I'll keep the $12.00, enjoy films like Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, The Thin Man, and others that serve up crisp dialogue, great camera work, superior acting, and wonderful stories that challenge my mind, if only a little. Car chases and vampires - not so much.

Checking the current listings at my local cineplex there are only two films that interest me.  The Dallas Buyers Club (one showing only late evening) and Saving Mr. Banks.  

Here are the other offerings to whet your appetite for more: I, Frankenstein on 2 screens.  The Nut Job & Nut Job 3-D on 3 screens. Gravity 3-D on 2 screens. Frozen & Frozen sing-a-long on 2 screens.  I rest my case.  Enuf said!

Hope I got my idea and observations across.  It's been a rough few days and the painkillers are the only meds helping me make it through the daylight hours. 

And so it goes.



  1. the only way spouse and I go to the cinema is to the small independent house about 10 miles away from our home. we see movies the big chains won't show, yet they are movies we WANT to see. screw the multiplex!

    1. You are fortunate to have such a venue nearby. Most of us are not so lucky. They are few and far between. I hope you support it with all your energy.

  2. When I was in high school and college, there was a small independent movie theater in Durham that I took my dates to. One of those ladies became my wife and we still talk about that film to this day. It was Phaedra starring Melina Mercouri and Anthony Perkins based on a Greek classic. The music was written by Mikis Theodorakis and is beautiful, especially "Agapimou." Phaedra on YouTube. It has never been released on DVD.


Your comments are welcome if they are positive and/or helpful.
If they are simply a tirade or opinionated bullshit, they will be removed, so don't waste your time, or mine.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...