Timely Topics

'Avatar', 'Star Wars', 'Avengers', 'Justice League': Franchised Hollywood of 2015

What does the future hold for cinema?

Franchised Hollywood 2015
Photo: 20th Century Fox / Walt Disney Pictures / Marvel / Warner Bros.

2015 is loaded and it is beginning to look like the mushroom cloud of doom when it comes to Hollywood's ever-increasing love for franchises and marketing opportunities. Movies already slated for release include The Avengers 2 on May 1, Ant-Man on November 6 and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 on November 20 and that's just the beginning.

Movies expected for 2015 include Star Wars: Episode VII, Justice League and Avatar 2, which James Cameron recently told AFP he hoped to have the scripts for both Avatar 2 and Avatar 3 completed by February and begin filming by the end of 2013.

I also wouldn't be surprised if the follow-up to Skyfall ends up in 2015 or another G.I. Joe feature depending on the success of G.I. Joe: Retaliation, maybe a Jack Reacher sequel, Mission: Impossible 5, Fast and Furious 7, a sequel to The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and you know we'll have Paranormal Activity 7.

The Justice League potential also makes you wonder if the attempt at an Avengers-like franchise won't instead find Warner Bros. preparing a Man of Steel sequel or perhaps jump-starting a new Batman franchise to tie-in or taking a stab at Wonder Woman before going with the team-up option.

Speaking of which WB has to be kicking themselves considering they cancelled Joss Whedon's planned Wonder Woman after his success with The Avengers? He could have spear-headed their whole Justice League franchise instead of adding billions to Disney's bottom line. After all, he was attached to direct Wonder Woman a few months before Batman Begins hit theaters. Oops.

Now those are just the big budget franchises we tend to talk about more in the blogosphere (gotta get them clicks), but don't forget about the swath of animated franchises looking to continue in 2015 as well, which include the Madagascar spin-off Penguins of Madagascar (3/27), The Smurfs 3 (7/24) and Hotel Transylvania 2 (9/25).

This is what the world of films has come to, at least from a Hollywood perspective. Yes, sequels and franchises have long been the focus of big budget studio cinema, but I can't remember a time when it was looked at as so absolutely vital with plans extending so far into the future. Before films are even released the potential for a sequel is already being discussed. Stories are sought after with franchises in mind. Young stars are idolized and then left to fall before our very eyes. Even the blogs and readers champing at the bit for movies such as The Dark Knight Rises can't help but worry about the future rather than the film right in front of them.

Studios and the new form of "journalism" covering movies online have changed the narrative. It's no longer a question of "What have you done for me lately?" but instead, "What will you do for me next?"

Whether this is a problem I still really can't tell. While we lament the continuing focus on sequels and franchises, good films still find their way into the cinemas (Go see Killing Them Softly this weekend!), but what becomes irritating is the attention lavished on lesser work while better films are left to languish in the background.

I'm sure 2015 will have just as many films I'm excited to see as there are every year, but as someone that covers this industry on a daily basis I look at that potential lineup of films and can't help wonder how many trailers, TV spots and clips each will release. How many character posters will there be and how many viral campaigns? How many of my peers portending to be all for the advancement of great cinema will need to post each and every piece of marketing material just to make sure they get enough pageviews to meet the advertising quota?

Each and every year journalists rush to cry "Cinema is dead!" which is never true as cinema is as alive as it has always been, it's just not in the same corner as it was when we last looked. However, it may soon become harder and harder for sites like this one to maintain attention on the "better" films out there if the headlines are only dominated by stories of men in tights and young adult vampire romance.

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  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/G-Man/ G-Man

    Great writeup and preview, Brad. I'm glad you pointed out that just because there are lots of blockbuesters these days, there are still plenty of other original works like "Killing Them Softly" and "Silver Linings Playbook".

    Personally, I love both. It's always such a great time gathering a group of friends to check out "Avengers" or "TDKR" at midnight and then talking about it for a week afterwards. I also enjoy the smaller titles like "The Sessions", although it's tougher to get others to join since they (and I to be honest) am not always sure it will be up their alley.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/navaneethks/ navaneethks

      How do you consider both Killing Them Softly and Silver Lining Playbook original when both those movies are based on novels? Originals to me is something like Looper, Inception.... movies not based on a comic, novel, real life events etc., but a pure new story through one's imagination

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/G-Man/ G-Man

        My mistake. Didn't realize they were based on novels. Yes - I guess Looper, Sinister, Django, etc. would be examples of original works. I more just meant smaller type of films.

        • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/loxmang/ loxmang

          Being based on a novel doesnt neccesarilly imply it isn't original. Originality in films can come from several different places.These bigger budget films like the ones mentioned in this article seem to keep directors and actors from exploring creativity. Movies like Killing them Softly and Silver Linings Playbook though based on novels dont have nearly the pre determinted interest or financial backing from larger studios. These films give actors and directors more flexibility.

          We cant compare all films on the based on where they are derived from. Every truly original story is derived from something directly or indirectly. The industry just needs to find a way to sell these more imaginative interpretations to keep filmmaking fresh and capable of progress.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/navaneethks/ navaneethks

    I am sure those movies will be good and very entertaining and I will like it. But at the same time some part of me makes me sad to see lack of originality in today's hollywood.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

    "but what becomes irritating is the attention lavished on lesser work while better films are left to languish in the background." - Well, like I always say: enjoy it while it lasts. We'll always have The Godfather.

  • Dan

    Interesting; however, the success of the mid budget studio film in the form of Flight, Argo, and Lincoln does offer up a sense of hope that studios will take risks on more challenging material if the director has earned it.

    Secondly, there have always been sequels and franchises that studios have emphasized: Jaws, The Thin Man, The Pink Panther, James Bond, The Exorcist, etc. This same old argument is nothing new. Looking at all the upcoming franchise films, one sees James Cameron, Peter Jackson, and JJ Abrhams as the only name directors working in this arena. All other directors are either done (Nolan) or uninterested in such a prospect. As such, I think you are looking at the worst possible scenario Brad.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      I'm not sure I understand the second part of your comment. I believe I said all that and don't think I am looking at a scenario, but a truth. I would also argue the box-office size of the films I mention are double if not triple all those you mentioned.

  • Winchester

    I sometimes mind and I sometimes don't. Today I don't. People like these films which is why most of them make enough money to become franchises.

    And to be blunt, some of the more lauded 'real' films tend to get a little over-rated these days anyway. I don't care how much a film cost, makes or whether it's arthouse or megabudget.

    If I like it, I like it. If I don't, I don't.

    • Munkky

      I agree with this 100%.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Aleonardis/ Aleonardis

      Winner right here...

    • Matt

      I agree wholeheartedly, Winchester. Well said. There will always be original films coming out of Hollywood, and there will always be remakes, reboots and sequels. No offense meant at all Brad, as I'm a huge fan of this site and found this article very well written, but I just personally feel we should just celebrate the fact that there are so many movies to see. There are great franchise films, there are great original films, as well as terrible franchise films and terrible original films.Some of my greatest experiences at the movies, experiences that really shaped my love for film, occurred at superhero films like "Spider-Man" or, most recently, "The Avengers." But I also remember seeing original films and having them shape me as a film lover. I, personally, don't see the point in letting franchises sour the fun of going to the movies.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Criterion10/ Criterion10

    I weep for the future of cinema. This is truly, truly saddening. At the same time, the public is part of the problem, as if no one went to see these films, there wouldn't be any sequels. That's why with the exception of some films, like Skyfall and TDKR, I do my best to not pay to see these films on the big screen, or if I do, I will buy a ticket to some low budget arthouse film that could use the money, and walk into the blockbuster. Oh, boy. We need more Megan Ellisons and less Jerry Bruckheimers.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Ian/ Ian

    Brad, I can understand your frustration. For us commoners who don't make a living off of movies, it's easy to just dismiss all the franchise crap and say "Well, we'll always have indie cinema and filmmakers like Nolan, Scorsese, Fincher, Tarantino, Johnson, Refn, etc. etc. etc.). And that's been my source of escape from the glut of studio franchise crap that's out there. But I understand that you're much more hamstrung by it all, because you make your living off movies and it has to be the movies that the masses want to see most of the time, which makes it harder to cover the actual quality work that's being done. Personally I'd love it if ROS could transform into more of an indie-type side that focused on smaller films, but I certainly understand that there's not much advertising revenue there.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Aleonardis/ Aleonardis

    I think the future is going to exceed what we're getting now. With people like Benh Zeitlin, Rian Johnson, Xavier Dolan, Lena Dunham, even Ben Affleck, bringing the mainstream, movies and or entertainment that's not so flashy and uninteresting. Rian Johnson is a person who takes the mainstream style and imbues it with flashes of witticism and strong stories.

    I think there's more upcoming greats that'll take over the mainstream whiz bang films that Bruckheimer and Bay produce. Nolan, Del Toro, and Jackson have a pretty great sense of mixing flash with smarts. I have this feeling that Zero Dark is going to be a HUGE box office success and that's going to be the jump off point. The same way that Inception was a semi-starting point for smart minded cinema. I think we're progressing not regressing. Even the semi success of Prometheus tells me this. And Magic Mike. And Lincoln. And The Grey. And Chronicle. And Life of Pi.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Kessler/ Kessler

      I definitely agree with you on this. Well said.

  • Chris138

    Bah, humbug. This is dreadful. It's inevitable that all of these big blockbusters will have sequels and whatnot, but The Dark Knight RIses was really the last big blockbuster/sequel that I looked forward to. Obviously I will see the next James Bond film, since that series doesn't seem to end, but stuff like the Justice League, Avatar 2 and 3, The Avengers 2, the next Hunger Games, and whatever else... I couldn't care less. I don't think that 'cinema is dead' or whatever melodramatic crap people like David Denby spew out every summer because the movies released don't fit their tastes, but it's certainly making each passing summer more and more dull.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/RandallPMcMurphy/ Randall P McMurphy

    I hope this doesn't mean posts about new trailers and posters for big budgeted that none of us really care about will leave interesting posts like the ones you did on Looper where we got to analyze the whole film, which for me is my favorite acticle you've written all year, and like the one on Prometheus which even though I wasn't a fan of the film you helped me see it from another angle and expand my thoughts on it.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Elijah/ Elijah

    I know this "death of cinema" business isn't going away and it's just opinion, but i'm pretty sick of this terrible non-argument. Because films are easier to make and have greater business shoes to fill than before, we're gonna get plenty of dreadful pieces that are made for the purpose of money and not as an artistic endeavor. That said we just need to focus on the people that're actually trying. Cinema goes in waves and not every year's gonna be '07 or '94, but I'm liking the direction today's directors are going.

    As for the mountain of sequels I'm totally digging the thought of Avatar 2, I'll be the first to admit I enjoy having my choice of overblown big-budget sequels. It's tough as hell coming up with $200 million original ideas every year so I can cut the big studios some slack. Mind you they're going overboard with this sequel business, but... the movie business is a slippery slope?

  • Scott

    Lumping all big-budget franchise movies together doesn't make sense. There is a Grand Canyon of difference between crap like Battleship or Transformers, and enjoyable movies like The Dark Knight or the Lord of the Rings movies. I don't award bonus points for artistic risk or studio daring. Either the movie's enjoyable or it's not, regardless of budget, sequel, big-name actors, or even the number of explosions.

    I've really enjoyed a lot of movies that most of my friends would consider boring as hell (like Brick, Barcelona, City of God, Rififi, The Fall, London to Brighton, Wrestling Ernest Hemingway) but I'm looking forward to Iron Man 3, Pacific Rim, the next Avengers movie, and many other "death-of-cinema" movies. They look fun!

    There are many avenues in life to feel engaged in politics, discussions of belief systems, artistic endeavor, symbolism-laden literature, . . . it seems some of you look solely to movies to enrich all these personal needs. And if the movie fails to satisfy all these requirements, and is simply - gasp - a fun way to spend a couple hours, then it has failed somehow.

    Some of you need to lighten up.

  • cinejab

    hahahahaha a Jack Reacher sequel? hahahahahahaha That movie will be lucky to make as much money as Premium Rush