SEQUELS & FRANCHISES, berated & defended

starwarsMy friend Elliot found a great article about blockbusters and summer sequelitis that’s worthy of a read. While I’m a fan of summer blockbusters and film franchises, having been weaned on the movie that really kicked it into high gear (Star Wars: A New Hope – for sequels) I really like the sense of history A.O. Scott gives to the notion of the franchise:

“The current practice of presenting feature films as installments in a single story cycle recalls the old one- and two-reel serials that used to precede the main attraction in the pretelevision era of moviegoing. And it is hardly an accident that so many of the current franchises are spun from superhero comic books, which fed the youthful appetite of every generation since the Great Depression for open-ended storytelling.”

“Before that, there were crime novels and cowboy pulps. Back in the Victorian era there was Sherlock Holmes, a forerunner of both the 20th-century private eye and his superhero cousins. The great novels of Charles Dickens were first read in periodical cliffhanger installments. How far back should we go? Shakespeare’s continuing adventures of Prince (later King) Henry, that medieval muggle proto-Potter? It seems unlikely that Homer, whoever he was, recited the whole of the Odyssey in one sitting. Anyway, it was already a sequel to the Illiad, unless that poem was the prequel. And surely every little Greek kid wanted an Achilles action figure — Trojan horse sold separately.”

Read the whole article HERE.

Before we point the finger at Hollywood for lacking originality, perhaps we need to understand something fundamental about the human condition and our desires for ongoing narrative and story. I’m all for critiquing bad franchises and useless sequels, but it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes and Watson (or House and Wilson) to deduce/diagnose our return to familiar narratives. Even if we change the names, the themes remain the same; we can explore new medium, moving from print to XBox 360, but methodology remains intact. In other words, we shouldn’t waste our time slamming the idea of sequels and franchises so much as the quality of them.

  1. Dave Roper

    Hi James, couldn’t agree more. No sequels may save us from Blade: Trinity, X-Men 3, Superman 4, Batman & Robin, Jaws: The Revenge and Star Trek 5, but we’d miss out on Blade 2, The Dark Knight, Star Trek 2, Superman 2, X-Men 2, Toy Story 2, Spiderman 2, The Godfather Pt 2, Terminator 2 and a host of others.
    Sequels are not in themselves the product of a lack of imagination or creativity, although they do often display that lack. On the contrary, as The Dark Knight and Godfather Pt 2 best demonstrate, you can build on what went before, expand the mythology, develop characters. I think this why television is in a new golden age – the opportunity to develop across many hours and years. I like to think that many film producers see an appetite for a film franchise that will achieve the same effect over multiple films.

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