Stay or go? Some film franchises have reached expiration date



Stay or go? Some film franchises have reached expiration date

The lyrics to iconic Kenny Rogers’ song “The Gambler” could double down as the realization that should be coming to movie franchise biz.

In that No. 1 1978 hit written by Don Schlitz, Rogers croons:

You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em,

Know when to fold ‘em,

Know when to walk away,

And know when to run. … 

Hollywood should tap into that sage advice when it comes to the proliferation of reboots, sequels and franchises that is choking the film industry. But with millions and millions of dollars at stake, and with audiences apparently still hungry for more “Fast and Furious” films (10 are in the books and at least two more are planned), the big-studio norm is to churn out sequels, reboots and origin stories.

Sure, some indeed work, but others just clog up the cineplex and offer one empty shot after another.

The story is the same for this summer, with franchises ruling the season and familiar faces suiting up to play familiar characters in familiar predicaments. Indiana Jones is back. Ethan Hunt is returning for another impossible mission of smacking down global villainy while performing death-defying stunts. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are shelling out more “Mutant Mayhem.” Even the Little Mermaid has caught the bug, while transforming into a live action character.

Imagine that.

Some characters we do love to run into again to see how they’ve reinvented themselves. Others just seem old and tired stuck in a rut, and should mosey off into the sunset on a high note. But if a franchise is making millions with every release, there’s no such thing as a hard stop.

With the seventh chapter in the “Transformers” saga barreling into movie theaters June 9 and recent headline-making news that more sequels — including a fifth time around for John Wick — are planned, we decided it’s high time to survey the cinematic landscape and decide which franchises still deserve the welcome mat and which ones they should just a stick a fork in, already.

Here are our verdicts.

‘Transformers’

Films to date: 7

Next installment: “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts,” in theaters June 9.

Pros ‘n’ cons: Michael Bay’s unfussy 2007 original was more Homer Simpson than Homer, but it did deliver gobs of extravagant mindless action and had Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox scorching up the screen. While it wasn’t exactly good, it was entertaining, much unlike the later entries which got too tangled up in the impenetrable mythology. These are Hasbro toys, people, so keep it simple. Still, this one remains an international phenomenon, no matter that the sequels have kept on getting bigger, louder and more nonsensical. That is until director Travis Knight came on the scene and tossed in a new engine with 2018’s “Bumblebee.”

The verdict: If ‘Beasts’ skews to Bay’s earlier forays, we say stick a fork in it! The only hope for the franchise is if it follows the path of “Bumblebee” and looks for fresh ground.

‘Indiana Jones’

How many to date: 4 (plus “The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones” TV series that aired 2002-2008)

Next installment: “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” out June 30

Pros ‘n’ cons: Few franchises make us feel like we’ve been magically transformed into a hyper, wide-eyed kid like Steven Spielberg’s rollercoaster series does. It does cliffhanger action scenes with such aplomb, but taken as a whole the series has been erratic — the 1981 debut remains the best of the bunch while 2008’s “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” was a big letdown, with its unbelievably terrible “alien” finale. Even though Harrison Ford’s tenure as the daring archaeology prof ends with “Dial of Destiny,” and reports say this truly is the end of the line, don’t be too surprised if Disney has eyes on extending the franchise somehow. Early reviews (it debuted at Cannes) weren’t glowing, but we’ll be there even if we have to dial down expectations.

The verdict: Without Ford at its center? Stick a fork in the franchise. After all, it’s not not the years, honey, It’s the mileage.

‘Saw’

How many to date: 9

Next installment: “Saw X,” due in theaters Oct. 27; a TV series based on “Spiral,” (the ninth film) is reportedly in the works.

Pros ‘n’ cons: Distinguished as one of the goriest franchises still going, “Saw” somehow keeps devising new and more vicious ways for its killer, Jigsaw, (or in the case of “Spiral,” a copycat) to off his victims. The 2004 cleaver-clever first entry directed by James Wan (“The Conjuring,” “Aquaman”) co-starred a caterwauling Cary Elwes and managed to shock everyone with not only that OMG ending but with how it slayed at the box office. No wonder we’ve seen countless incarnations since then. But even though 2021’s “Spiral” with Chris Rock opted for something slightly different, the series has grown stale. The “Scream” franchise has the same problem, but at least “Ghostface” has better legs than both Jigsaw and Michael Myers.

The verdict: Stick a (bloody) fork in it.

‘James Bond’

How many to date: 27

Next installment: Unknown

Pros ‘n’ cons: George Lazenby, Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig have all had their turn playing the legendary British secret agent. But since 007 went kaboom in the 2021’s long-winded “No Time To Die” (Craig’s final film in the series) the search has been on to find the next Bond, with no shortage of opinions on who it should be (a woman, a BIPOC actor?). Just get over it and hire someone already. It’s been a tiresome search, and has triggered thoughts that maybe it’s time for Ian Fleming’s suave spy character to be retired. That said, the Craig era — for the most part — suggests there’s still life in this franchise.

The verdict: To coin a phrase from Madonna, let him die another day. Keep 007.

‘Mission: Impossible’

How many to date: 7

Next installment: “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One,” in theaters July 12.

Pros ‘n’ cons: In a rarity for franchises, later installments of the exploits of superhuman Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) are remarkably better than the meh first ones — Brian De Palma’s decent 1996 reboot and John Woo’s flashy but vapid 2000 sequel “Mission: Impossible 2.” Why?  Credit goes not only to its thrill-seeking lead Cruise (who loves to put himself into the danger zone with those madman stunts) but director/co-writer Christopher McQuarrie. They make an excellent team, and this series seems as fresh as ever.

The verdict: Keep ‘em coming.

‘Disney Live Action Remakes of Animated Films’

How many to date: Too many to count when you throw in prequels, reboots

Latest installment: “The Little Mermaid” (now in theaters)

Pros ‘n’ cons: Is there a beloved animated classic Disney hasn’t yet remade or has plans to? Maybe the better question should be: Are audiences still wanting them? The box office suggests the answer to that is a lucrative yes. But let’s face it, the quality has been hit or miss. For every dazzler such as “The Jungle Book,” there’s been a stink bomb such as “Pinocchio.” And even though some like “The Little Mermaid,” there’s no denying there’s an existential crisis at work here, as more filmgoers question the very existence of each redo. We’re all for representation, but in the rote retelling and overreliance on CGI, the Disney magic that distinguished the animated ones is getting lost.

The verdict: Stick a fork in all of them and move on.

‘Toy Story’

How many to date: 4, plus “Lightyear”

Latest installment: In development at Pixar, no release date yet.

Pros ‘n’ cons: The misunderstood “Lightyear” wasn’t quite a rocket man at the box office (it earned $226 million worldwide but was expected to do better, and reportedly lost money). We think it deserved better, but there’s no denying it’s not in the same league as the “Toy Story” gems.  Each of the Emeryville-based animated company’s “Toy Story” productions is magical, guaranteed to make you choke up as they strive to achieve something unique with each outing. (Remember how dark “Toy Story 4” got at times?) At the same, “Toy Story” continually expands on its character base (welcome, Forky!), and does it well. While it remains to be seen how long it will take for us to get another adventure with Woody and Buzz, we’ll be happy to wait until it pulls on our heartstrings again.

The verdict: Keep ‘em coming.

‘Star Trek’

How many to date: 12 (live-action, theatrical)

Next installment: “Star Trek Beyond,” no release date yet.

Pros ‘n’ cons: The self-serious nature of 1979’s “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” — the first theatrical experience — all but killed the joy out of the TV series. But the second jaunt with the Enterprise was a hoot, and gave us one its best villains in 1982’s “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” From there, though, there have been some highs (2009’s “Star Trek” reboot with Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto) and some lows (the 1989 William Shatner-directed “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.”) But with terrific “Trek”-related TV entries and animated series, is there really a need for another movie?

The verdict: Yes, there is. Keep ‘em coming. The series is in good hands right now.

Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC Universe

How many to date: 32 Marvel films and countless series; 14 DC Universe

Latest installments: “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” and “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” (in theaters); “Flash,” due out June 16.

Pros ‘n’ cons: It’s rather fashionable to kvetch about MCU deficiencies. But of late, they deserve it, given how average and lazy they’ve become. There are some superior MCU superhero films: (2023’s “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” 2021’s “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and the final “Guardians of the Galaxy”) as well as the forgettable ones (2023’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” and 2021’s “The Eternals.”) Let’s face it, both the MCU and the DCU (“Black Adam” and “Shazam! Fury of the Gods”) need to pick up Thor’s hammer and recharge their universes and take a cue more from the “Spider-Man” series about doing it well with equal shots of irreverence and reverence. Another bit of advice: Concentrate more on your screenplays than all the CGI nonsense.

The verdict: The jury’s still out. We’re taking a wait-and-see stance for both the MCU and the DCU — the former now under the promising command of James Gunn — to see if they can get their consistent mojo back. The latest Spidey animated movie is a step in the right direction.

‘The Fast and the Furious’

How many to date: 10

Latest installment: “Fast X” (in theaters), more on the way

Pros ‘n’ cons: If there’s ever a franchise — besides the “Friday the 13th” (12 and counting) — that would have seem to be choking on its fumes right now it would be this car-stunt-palooza where brawny hot rods and a buff family of friends take on enemies and frenemies. There’s been just as much drama on set with dustups between stars Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson and one director exiting pronto (Justin Lin) after the filming started on “Fast X.” None of that matters. Audiences clearly haven’t tired of the action. But without Jason Momoa, this franchise might well have come to a screeching halt.

The verdict: Cliffhanger aside, after the next one wraps up — stick a fork in it!

‘Star Wars’

How many films to date: 11

Latest installments: Three new films are in the works

Pros ‘n’ cons:  A long time ago in this very galaxy, the George Lucas space opera led to a thrilling trilogy of films. After that, the series floundered, with some highs and some terrible lows. The brightest spot came in its darkest film, 2016’s “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” With so many origin stories on Disney+ — “The Mandalorian” being the biggest standout — the big-screen outings have suffered in comparison. I’m a big fan of the most controversial installment — Rian Johnson’s 2017 “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” — since it tried to do something different. For the most part, the recent batch of movies seem like they’re just retelling the same damn story time after time. We love nostalgia. But we also love an original thought or two.

The verdict: Stick a fork in it, or at least move the needle like Johnson and “Rogue One” did.

‘John Wick’

How many to date: 4

Latest installment:  A new one is in the work and there are ancillary projects as well.

Pros ‘n’ cons: In classic never-say-never-again fashion, the reported fourth installment of the unexpected revenge hit series with everyone’s fave Keanu Reeves will now get a Roman Numeral V. Why? Look at those numbers — “John Wick: Chapter 4” garnered more than $363 million. Ridiculous and over the top, the Wick franchise remains cheer worthy.

The verdict: Keep ‘em coming, but only if Reeves remains.

Contact Randy Myers at [email protected].


Soruce : https://www.mercurynews.com/2023/06/06/stick-a-fork-in-it-its-time-for-some-film-franchises-to-go-away/

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