There’s a couple of things that I’ve never really gotten about science fiction fans when it comes to the genre, particularly when it comes to remakes or sequels. I come across these arguments almost everywhere, and it’s just plain irritating.
“This has forever ruined the series for me”
Okay, this comes up a lot with Star Wars and whenever the prequel trilogy / TV series has been mentioned or when you talk about the Special Editions. Granted, The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith are nowhere near as good as the original movies, nor is the Clone Wars series. But when you look at the films, there are a lot of differences when it comes to the intended audiences. Episodes One, Two and Three really weren’t aimed at the fans of the original series – they were to be included, but honestly? The entire prequel trilogy series was a good way for LFL to reboot the entire Star Wars franchise.
When it comes down to it, Star Wars has always been a huge franchise, not a work of art. While there is certainly a lot to be said for how it has changed cinema, I find a lot of the arguments about the destruction of the property because of some of the recent changes to be extremely superficial, misguided and completely irrelevant. There’s some good evidence that this had potential to be a good money-maker. The novelization for the book was published several months earlier, and a number of toys were created right off the bat, which have remained popular to this day. There are a lot of properties out there, franchises, that have become incredibly popular, culturally relevant and just as shallow when it comes to marketing and money. Most children’s television shows and cartoons have had a very high value tacked to them when it comes to licensing the property because it sells incredibly well. Transformers, G.I. Joe, Voltron and He-Man all come to mind.
Franchises are an incredibly good idea if you have a marketable idea. Spreading a film’s image over books, comic books, action figures, playsets, video games, and spinoff features brings in a lot of money, because fans, especially geeks/fanboys, are able and willing to spend a lot of money. Even better, when a film, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, gains a cult/icon status in culture, when it has the potential to continue to sell to multiple generations. Star Wars succeeds at this because it appeals to a very broad range of people, and it is not necessarily tied to the generations growing up around the 1970s. It contains ideas and situations that apply and still instill a sense of wonder in people today.
Given the cult status of many of these icons, it becomes incredibly difficult to confront, meet and exceed the expectations, especially with people who have grown up with the series. In my mind, it’s a nearly impossible task, one that is archived very, very rarely. Off the top of my head, I can only really think of a handful of films, such as The Dark Knight, that has really blown expectations away from an already lauded film. The real task for the crew there will be to find a way to overcome the high points of that film with a sequel. Terminator 2 and Spiderman 2 also come to mind. I’m sure that there are some others, but I just can’t think of any others at the moment. No, wait, Lord of the Rings was one of those series that continually build upon the successes of the prior films. But for those couple, there are numerous other sequels that just didn’t work. The Chronicles of Riddick, following Pitch Black, was an admirable attempt, but it didn’t quite make the grade in a lot of eyes. Spiderman 3 certainly failed storywise, as did Terminator 3. There’s a couple batman sequels that are truly abysmal, because they attempted to really please the demand after the first films, but failed. In addition to this, there are a number of remakes and up-and-coming projects in the near future that will have a lot of off the cuff fanboy complaints before the films hit screens. Forbidden Planet, The Day the Earth Stood Still come to mind, while War of the Worlds, Solaris and a couple others have already been made, to varying results.
It comes as no surprise, to me at least, that turning a series of films into a franchise has become a very popular thing now-a-days. There’s the new Star Wars, Stargate and Galactica TV series, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, Batman, Terminator, James Bond, and the Hobbit films, as well as a couple others – all with massive fanbases across a number of different formats. No matter what the critical reception is, they stand to make billions of dollars in profits from these fans, and will likely introduce a whole new generation and group of fans into their ranks.
Coming back to my original complaint about these fanbases and how these films have a far more difficult time meeting expectations. It’s an incredibly frustrating thing to see at times, but from everything that I can see, fans are a greedy bunch of people – they want their originals back in prime, untouched condition because they thing that the film is something that’s unique, special and inflexible. That, however, completely clashes with the fact that we’re considering an industry that exists as a business – to make money. For some stories, it doesn’t make sense NOT to make a franchise out of it because of how popular they’ve gotten. Honestly, I’m surprised that we haven’t seen concrete plans for a Cloverfield 2 yet.
I’ve been seeing this argument a lot with the upcoming Watchman film, and with the news earlier today that another 15 or so minutes are being cut from the film, we can expect to see another rash of complaints at how the film will be completely ruined. Honestly, I’ve never understood how watching a new version of something can completely ruin the experiences that you would have gotten from the first. Time still goes in a straight line, right?