Movie Franchises That Need To Die
Life isn’t fair. We exist in a movie world where our most desired sequels fester in obscurity for years before seeing the light of day (sometimes never at all) and where cookie-cutter schlock is pumped out ad nauseam. But don’t call me naïve; it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out why this is. To quote Wall Street’s Gordon Gekko “what’s worth doing is worth doing for money.”
Blue Sky Studios’ long-stagnant (but monetarily potent) Ice Age franchise churns out its fourth instalment this week with Ice Age: Continental Drift, which sails into theaters this Friday. In the spirit of that now-soulless series, let’s take a look at movie franchises that need to die.
Are you ready? Let’s begin.
Pirates of the Caribbean
Why it was good: Any time an actor receives awards recognition for their work in a big budget blockbuster, it’s safe to call that feature something special. While overlong, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was immeasurably raised by the now-iconic performance by Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow. Stunning production values and an equally potent performance from Geoffrey Rush as the devilish Barbossa resulted in nothing short of a phenomenon for Disney. Not bad for an adaptation of a theme park ride.
The turning point: The loss of Rush as the central antagonist, a swelling running length – 143 minutes to 151 minutes to an obscene 169-minute marathon of plundering for “At World’s End” – and the death (?) of Jack Sparrow really had the series walking the plank, even though two instalments pulled in north of $1 billion dollars worldwide.
Why it needs to die: The majority of its stars have already abandoned ship (no pun intended) and ironically it’s only Depp – the heart of the franchise to begin with – that’s keeping this series afloat (no pun intended). Not to mention, between Tim Burton and the “Pirates” films, Depp is being suffocated with presumed commitment and hasn’t chosen an interesting role in quite some time. If anything, for the liberation of a fantastic actor, this franchise needs a quick visit to Davy Jones’ Locker.
Why it was good: Single-handedly setting a fire under the found footage genre that oddly never took off with the mammoth success of The Blair Witch Project in 1999, Oren Peli turned his minimalist, $15,000 indie attempt at the haunted house flick into a $200 million global smash. The “request a screening in your town” marketing ploy was nearly as entertaining as the finished product (in a good way) and while its detractors eventually arose, Paranormal Activity was all anyone could talk about for months.
The turning point: Despite the lack of resources needed to spit out a $3 million, no-star sequel, the turnaround time for between the original and Paranormal Activity 2 set off more than a few warning signals. Thankfully, the follow-up was more a bland rehash than an outright disaster, but that’s hardly call for celebration either.
Why it needs to die: Against all odds, Paranormal Activity 3 turned out to be pretty damn frightening (if not lasting in its potency) and certainly made me twitch more than any other film has (and I don’t scare easy, let me tell you). Though practically every time I turn around I bump into someone who thought the series was shit from the get-go, I’m all for ending things on a relative high note.
Why it was good: Well, in this case I don’t think it ever was. If Tyler Perry’s scores for the series on Rotten Tomatoes are any indicator (which peaked at 38 percent with Madea’s Big Happy Family), it seems like folks go see his films more out of habit than due to an actual burning desire.
The turning point: I’m not going to sit here and pretend I’ve been fully exposed to Perry’s full “Madea” cannon. What is safe to say though is that the point at which the former stage actor decided to churn out one of his drag comedies every year is a pretty solid gauge that the well is running dry.
Why it needs to die: Like any director tied inexplicably to a stagnant franchise, they are doing themselves a disservice. I’d think it unfair to call Perry a hack, some of his non-Madea films have been decently received, if not praised. Essentially, I would like to see how the man would fare behind the camera and outside of his comfort zone. This Fall we’ll at least be able to see how he does as an action star in the adaptation of Alex Cross, though that generic-seeming, likely-flop looks to do little more than turn him back to his past ways.
Why it was good: 2002’s Ice Age started things off on a high point for Fox’s fledging animation division Blue Sky Studios – frankly, a relative “high” it has never been able to match. Though Ice Age never aimed to be anything more than kid-friendly entertainment, it countered its lack of ambition was some hilarious slapstick, likeable characters with great voice actors and made Scrat the squirrel an instant favourite.
The turning point: As far as animation houses go, Blue Sky has never been a heavy hitter at yearly animation awards, but what it lacks in claims to prestige fare, it has made up for in box office returns. Hence, three sequels were spawned which hit its apogee with Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, which raked in an astonishing $886.7 million. And within that title lies the argument for termination. When we’re talking about the latest glacial period (roughly 20,000 years ago) and you need to throw dinosaurs into the mix to keep things fresh, it’s pretty clear the creative DNA of the series is deteriorating.
Why it needs to die: For a less-then-stellar series to begin with, to stretch past a trilogy is pretty substantive proof of the creative bankruptcy of Hollywood. The inspiration for the characters may be extinct but their on-screen counterparts just won’t die. If you can honestly say, with a straight face, that woolly mammoths and sabre tooth tigers battling giant apes on ice pirate ships is a substantive enough plot to keep this series going, then I will retract my dissent.
Why it was good: The original Transformers was never high art, but what it lacked in subtlety it made up for in nostalgia, cutting-edge CGI and director Michael Bay’s sure hand when it came to unleashing a spectacle. Add in Shia LaBeouf before he became overexposed, some amusing segments as Optimus Prime and pals reveal themselves to humans (and of course plenty of transforming), and it’s pretty clear why it spawned sequels.
The turning point: “Punk-ass Decepticons” – that line mechanically uttered during one of the numerous, lifeless, metal-crunching set pieces was one of many tipping points during the 149-minutes of bloat that was Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Though I seem to be one of the first to spring to Bay’s defence when confronted with criticism, the man is clearly in desperate need of a strict editor.
Why it needs to die: Talk of a reboot of sorts, adding Jason Statham to the mix and courting a new director does little to quell the rising bile that stems from the thought of sitting through another Transformers instalment. That being said, what little spark the series possessed is now gone (along with its main villain) – replaced by monotony and indistinguishable smackdowns. I fear these robots won’t stay in disguise until every major city on Earth has been levelled, they run out of robots to kill off or Bumblebee accidently steps on Sam.