Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

In the last several years there has been a surprising trend in Hollywood.

I'm not talking about the remake trend that has permeated much of what we see today.   I'm talking about the resurrection of franchises that for the longest time appeared to be dead.

In 2006, 19 years after the last installment, Superman returned.   Also in 2006, after 16 years, Rocky Balboa stepped back in the ring.  In 2007, 17 years after New York, John McClane refused to die hard.  In 2008, two decades since Afghanistan, Rambo lifted his bow and knife.    Also in 2008, 19 years since his last adventure, Indiana Jones returned for his next adventure.   Next year, 23 years later, Gordon Gekko returns to Wall Street.  Also next year, after 28 years, we return to the world of TRON.  And now, it appears in 2011 after 22 years, the Ghostbusters will once again be ready to believe you.

Resurrecting a franchise is a real gamble, not only financially but creatively.   The one thing you have no control over is audience expectations.   If it works great.  If it fails fans will say you should of ended it with the last one.   A whole new generation is being introduced to these characters but how much do you cater to that new audience without losing the core fan base?  

Three of the sequels I mentioned turned out better than I ever expected.  Sure I wanted to see them but in the back of my mind I really hoped that they didn't suck.   The one thing that these 3 franchises have in coming are that the originators of the role are returning and they are pushing 60+.   The reaction of most is that these guys are too old to play action hero.   Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis proved everyone wrong.  The new films didn't hide from the fact that the leads are much older and that was a strength.  On top of that, the action wasn't as over the top as you would find in a modern day Seagal movie.   

Rambo was different from the films before it.   It was ultra-violent, yet action packed and loads of fun.   I expected a decent action movie but never expected it to be as good as it was.  It ended up in my top 20 for 2008.    Rocky Balboa was also much better than expected.  It's one of my favorites in the franchise and one of my faves of 2006.   It was a purely character driven piece that recaptured what was lost since the first.   Live Free or Die Hard, while over the top, also turned out to be a fun action-packed adventure.    All three of these entries were actually better than the previous entry.

I mentioned audience expectations.  No sequel has been more eagerly anticipated than Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.    I for one could not wait.   After seeing it, I was stunned and depressed.   I didn't expect it to be better than the previous entries but I had expected to be as good as them.   I just wanted to have a fun time.   I didn't.  In this case, the creative risk I mentioned rears its ugly head.   There were moments that worked but after awhile I just wanted it to end.   I had the opportunity to see the first three Indy films as a triple feature in a theatre and there is no way I can even include Crystal Skull in the same class as those films.   There are some who consider this the best but I always ask if they've seen the others.  Some have and some haven't.   Clearly, this one catered more to it's new audience then the core fan base.

Unlike Superman Returns, all the other franchises have characters that I forever connected with a certain actor and no one would except someone else in the role if they brought them back.  So in that case, time is a factor in resurrecting a franchise.   Jeff Bridges returns in Tron, Michael Douglas is back in Wall Street and the original Ghostbusters are back in some capacity.

Money certainly can be a major factor in resurrecting an established franchise.  Surprisingly, Rambo was the only one to under perform at the box office.   However, it did well enough for them to greenlight Rambo V.   I for one welcome the return of a favorite character if there's a good story to tell.   Really that's what it boils down to is what story do they want to tell.    Story is what these sequels have in common, the story worked well for most but not all.   Hopefully the stories for Wall Street 2, Tron:Legacy and Ghostbusters III are worth telling.   Otherwise you run the risk of slipping a black sheep into a beloved franchise.

On that note, let's forget any ideas about doing Godfather IV, Back to the Future IV, Lethal Weapon 5 or  Dirty Harry VI.  There are some franchises that are perfect as is.

Now let's talk about Howard the Duck II.

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