Monday, December 21, 2009

Charge Aught!!!: The Decade in Movies, Part One


Part Two Part Three

Andrew Pankin, Alex Boivin and Jordan Pedersen have spent most of the last decade in darkened rooms – some of those rooms were movie theaters. Read on for their thoughts about the most important developments in the cinema of the aughts.

Part the First – Franchise reboots

error-reboot-plz AP: In the age of the Summer Blockbuster, big-budget sequels have traditionally garnered more release-date attention than the originals on which they were based. Seven of the top ten grossing films of all time are sequels, as are all ten of the films with the highest opening day gross. It makes sense, marketing-wise: if someone makes a popular movie, people will be more likely to tune in to see what happens next in the series.

As with most big tentpole productions, these franchises are usually based on previously published material: books, TV shows, comic books, even a favorite line of toys. This also makes sense marketing-wise: if you can draw your audiences from already established demographics, it's that much easier to get people interested in seeing your movie.

But there comes a time during the life of every franchise when sequel ideas tend to run dry. Either the legendary producer of your original material dies, or your stories and style are becoming increasingly cartoony, or people just stop caring. At first, viewers might have shown up out of loyalty to the original subject matter, then they might have gotten hooked into the story and characters, but after episode 7 or 8 (let alone episodes 17 or 18), the interest is bound to fade. It's at this point in the story when a visionary new director arrives on the scene to cut through all the sequels and extensions and spinoffs. This attempt to return a franchise to its roots, affectionately known as a "reboot," provides filmmakers and film companies with a golden opportunity for a whole new round of lucrative sequels.

We've seen three significant franchises receive reboots this decade, all achieving impressive critical and box-office success. What about a franchise needs updating in order for a reboot to be deemed successful? How much respect does a rebooter need to show to the first incarnations of the original subject matter? And how long does a franchise need to sit in moratorium before a reboot is justified?

thumb_SupermanReturns JP: I'm mostly surprised at how good the majority of these reboots have been.  Especially in contrast to the outright suckitude of just about every remake on record.  There's almost an element of betrayal when it comes to remakes; the studio just wasn't principled enough to keep Michael Bay's greasy fingers off of the fucking Birds.

Or maybe just laziness?

"We know remakes suck, but they usually turn a healthy profit.  Who gives a shit if we're desecrating a classic?  Easier than writing a new movie."

It's a pleasant surprise, then, that studios actually are principled when it comes to reboots. Perhaps they fear geeks more than average moviegoers (wise).  Fans of Bad News Bears, for example, are likely to be less vitriolic than, say, Star Trek fans.

Or maybe studios appreciate that a long-running franchise is long-running for a reason (i.e., its fans are dedicated).  So studios know that injecting life into a sagging franchise only works when the injection isn't totally shitty.c

But the list is impressive:  Star Trek, Batman, Bond; even the new Rocky movie was supposed to be good.  Superman Returns can bite my ballsack, though.

James Bond AB: I suppose the whole reboot thing is of course due to the fact that popular franchises have written/crapped themselves into a corner over the years and need to effectively start from scratch in order to get into any semblance of quality. Bond's reboot is strange indeed (well maybe not strange, "unique" let's say). Bond effectively reboots himself every time a new actor puts on the tuxedo. The franchise was in a very similar situation pre-Goldeneye: decades of aping Sean Connery had left the character stale, and even if Timothy Dalton's films aren't that bad (License to Kill is a pretty good Joel Silver-style actioneer if you ask me), it was a time for a change- in both personnel and attitude. Enter Brosnan and his post-Cold War adventures. Even this 90's approach felt dated by the turn of the millennium, however and the disaster that is Die Another Die was symbolic of the Babylon that 007 had become. Hence the reboot. Nonetheless, even with Casino Royale depicting Bond's first mission as a 00 agent, by the time Quantum of Solace rolled around the series had become goofy again. Another reboot can't be far off, can it?

My point is, yes Casino Royale and Batman Begins are great, but can we really think of franchises in terms of reboots anymore? I have yet to hear anyone refer to Guy Ritchie's upcoming Sherlock Holmes as a reboot. Perhaps Holmes has the benefit of being in the public domain but I seriously think that this system can't hold and the obsession with franchise tentpoles will collapse in on itself sooner or later.

Tune in tomorrow for the continuation of the story, same bat time, same bat channel!