Franchises, when is it time to stop?
The last year, and even further back than that, the same themes have been coming out of Hollywood, one of those themes has been the franchise. Hollywood just won't let go of them and we're seeing some of the big ones come back to life while others just can't seem to give up the ghost.
What's the value in them though? What do these repeating films bring us something new, exciting and entertaining, or is it just more of the same trying to tease more and more cash out of us by squeezing the last bit of life and attraction out of a single idea?
The feature was sparked by the news of Final Destination 5, in 3D no less which I think the last one was anyway, which came from The Hollywood Reporter Heat Vision with the following comment which I think summed much of it up for me:
”The movies, produced by Craig Perry, have consistently been profitable for New Line because they tend to be made with modest budgets and generate solid returns, usually in the mid-$50 million range domestically.
The company thought the fourth installment, released last year in 3D, was going to be the last one because it was a tough production that faced reshoots -- and received a critical drubbing. However, when it grossed $66 million domestically and was a big success overseas...”
So the real thing behind the fifth film is that they make money, and I love that comment that despite the reshoots, and as an aside that critical destruction, it earned hard cash. So what the hell, let's do another one, and let's do it in 3D.
I can understand that desire to keep making a franchise if it's making money, but come on now, it's the same old tired story that's going on and on without any real changes, apart from the addition of the gimmick of 3D to make those accidents fly right at you. Other than that it's the same old formula. Big accident set piece where the money goes up front, a group survives through some strange quirk of fate, and one by one they get killed off through increasingly elaborate deaths orchestrated by Death himself, because he wouldn't just give them a heartache.
Isn't the franchise just playing on a single tired old cliché? Something that could well be said for the Saw franchise, one that just keeps going on and on with pretty much the same routine. Person in control setting traps to either kill or transform people through any means necessary. Okay, there's a fair amount of frill around the edges to build something a little more into the film, and at times it does just that and brings something a little fresh to the franchise.
Still though, Saw is that basic concept that seems very much like Final Destination, a group of people go through their own challenge in an elaborate set-up that either means death or freedom.
Surely that concept is a bit tired in both franchises? Has enough been said or seen from them, and is there anything really left to get from them in terms of entertainment?
For me Fast and Furious is a franchise that has outlived almost all expectations, after all it's been about illegal street racing and it's still going strong. The difference there is that despite the core being the street racing, there's still a story there and strong characters, a story that does, mostly, change from film to film.
It did seem dead for a while, but the return of the two big lead stars returning has bolstered the series and given it new life. That's happened to a few franchises recently.
Rambo came back to life, and is one of two franchises that have come back to startling life from a franchise that seemed to be utterly dead because the leading star, the lynch-pin of the series, was just too old. Well he put pay to that when he came back with a more powerful Rambo film than any before.
That's what he did with the Rocky franchise. With Rocky (Filmstalker review) , although it didn't have the same power as Rambo, this next edition in the franchise turned to story and characters above everything, and again brought a breath of something different to the series.
A recent example of a franchise that keeps on giving is Star Trek. Although I don't think the recent Star Trek (Filmstalker review) film is really a Star Trek film, it is a great action film and does deliver a fresh look at the entire franchise, offering something completely new.
It's those franchises which offer something new to the audience which will undoubtedly have the chance to keep going with some dignity. The problem is that these seem to be the ones that the studios are far more willing to drop like a hot potato when it doesn't return what they had hoped, whereas the franchises like Saw and Final Destination can keep on ticking.
Are they worth it though? Do we really want to see these franchises like Saw and Final Destination continue over anything else? Would you rather see franchises continue in more intelligent ways that change and alter the franchise, or does the studio just continuing the franchise and exploiting the same set-up again and again just enough for you?
Surely it's time to stop a franchise when the repetition creeps in, or not so much creeps in but bounds in, even if there's money to be sucked out of it, isn't there more of an obligation to the audience and delivering something other than warm, recycled, faintly recognisable pulp?