Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Nicolas Cage: Franchise Starter!

Movie producers are becoming more and more interested in setting themselves up with some stability down the line and getting a good return on their investments. Maybe that's why there seem to be fewer and fewer movies made these days that don't either set themselves up for a full-blown franchise or at the very least leave themselves open to the possibility of a sequel. I understand the rationale: two movies make more money than one movie - just look at what's happening to the "finales" of the Harry Potter and Twilight serieses.

Two such franchise related extensions currently in development - National Treasure 3 and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance - share a common thread: they are both continuations of franchises started by none other than Nicolas Cage.

Whatever the moviegoing public (and the moviemaking private) thought about Cage in years past, he's now solidified his reputation as a solid player around which to base a big time summer tentpole (or several). And nothing exemplifies his position more than his latest big release, The Sorcerer's Apprentice.

Granted it's early, but I haven't heard any buzz surrounding a potential sequel to Apprentice. But keep in mind it was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, who never smelled a movie about which he didn't have aspirations of parlaying into four or five releases. Notice how they (SPOILER ALERT) didn't kill off Cage's character, despite having every reason/excuse to do so. Although, if you saw the Pirates trilogy, you know that it wouldn't have mattered even if they did.

I'd say that Apprentice has an exponentially higher chance of getting a sequel than Bruckheimer's previous epic BIFF - 1) because it's based on a beloved Disney property (and the Mouse never lets its children go without a fight) and 2) because it was actually surprisingly clever, charming, and fun. I believed all the characters, I knew what they wanted, and I could follow all the action without all the muddlesome political intrigue and painfully obvious red herrings.

Plus, I'd take some of those magical battles over the phallic, juvenile wand-waving in the Harry Potter movies any day. Balthazar Blake could out-magic Severus Snape with his spellbook tied behind his back. There I said it.

All told I'd give Sorcerer's Apprentice a pretty solid 40-42 Congos. The trope of smushing all the backstory into a prologue was annoying, but more effective than some other attempts. Nic didn't hit all his jokes and I'm beginning to long for Jay Baruchel to try some different schtick. But Alfred Molina was competent and they referenced the original Dukas piece used in Fantasia and I was genuinely excited when good triumphed over evil. And I'm the kind of guy who will usually root for the side with the evil scheme.

Unfortunately the audiences just didn't turn out for Apprentice. Maybe it's because the film was crowded out of theaters by this powerhouse. Maybe it's because Joe Popcorn doesn't have as charitable a view of Nicolas Cage as I do. I guess it remains to be seen how deeply the opening weekend woes will impact the possibility of a sequel. Both Cage and director Jon Turtletaub have a lot on their plates coming up.

Speaking of which, I'm extra excited about the third installment of the National Treasure series. I can't wait to see which well-kept secret from American history they unmask this time! They've covered the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and touched on the Knights Templar and Aztec Gold. I'm guessing it'll have something to do with World War II, framing FDR and Hitler as extra-terrestrial visitors with a conflict mirroring that of Optimus Prime and Megatron.

A man can dream, can't he?