By John Dunkerley | Staff Writer
Film is something that any individual can connect with. No matter what generation someone is a part of, they have a love for one or more movies. Those who make movies notice that and have worked hard to preserve this enjoyment for years to come. However, a new trend within the business is set to lead to damaging effects that could harm the entertainment industry for a long time.
The main issue of the film industry today is that there has been an over-reliance on brands or, more specifically, franchises that will likely generate multiple products for years to come. This trend began with the release of The Avengers in 2012, a superhero team-up film that was the culmination of five previous films that tied together a cinematic universe of connected movies.
The film drew high anticipation as a result and became a smash hit. The film grossed over $600 million in North America alone, and a cumulative total of $1.5 billion worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo. As a result, other studios viewed the idea of the cinematic universe and saw a truckload of money ready and able to them.
Many believed that they could get to the numbers that the Marvel films had in profits from this system. Thus, franchises became a high priority as studios looked for a brand to push forward into the public interest to create numerous products to rake in obscene amounts of cash. However, a problem has surfaced in regard to how fast the studios are rushing in to make their own franchises and connected universes.
One recent example it this year’s reboot of The Mummy, an action-horror film loosely based on the classic from the 1930s. However, Universal (the studio involved in the film’s production) did not set out to create a singular entity. Rather, they were dead set on making The Mummy the first in a line of monster films to create their own cinematic universe.
As a result, the film focused less on the titular monster and more on setting up future spin-offs and sequels at the cost of the film’s quality. When released, the film was hated by most who saw it, and the plans for the shared universe went down the drain months after. Many could see the company’s eagerness to push forward their own brand into the public eye quickly as the fatal blow to the film.
Insiders reported that the studio allowed Tom Cruise, the star of the movie, to have an immense amount of creative control on the project, according to Variety. This resulted in his character, the rugged adventurer, being given much more attention in the final product than the titular mummy. In this sense, the studio put more faith and trust in a movie star to save their project than a talented team of filmmakers.
Another recent example is the DC Extended Universe from Warner Brothers, a shared superhero universe using the characters of DC Comics to directly compete with Disney and Marvel made to compete directly with the Marvel films. Previous attempts at fleshing out a DC comic universe were growing thin with each release. Most of the films that came from the production pipeline, such as Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad, were poorly received and did not turn out the profit that the studio hoped for.
As a result, their following film, Justice League, was put through heavy re-shoots and re-edits from another director to ensure an audience. However, the film came out with many claiming it was a cheap looking, simplistic and uneven mess. It was obvious that it was fast-tracked to meet a quick deadline. With another disappointing film arriving, most of the public couldn’t have cared less, and the film made less on its opening weekend than any of the previous DC universe films.
Within both productions, the root of the problem was a lack of understanding. Both studios attempted to copy the formula of creating a connecting universe of films, but did not realize why it worked. The Marvel films were successful because they focused on one film at a time. Each product had priority, but they made sure each wold be able to stand on its own. The competitors just rushed each film or crammed all of the world-building into a single one. As a result, no one was attracted by these franchises because they did not have much appeal on arrival. This reveals a major problem with today’s Hollywood having the priorities in the wrong perspective and having the entire enterprise suffer as a result.
In hindsight, film is an important cornerstone of our culture, and most find immense enjoyment every time they view one. Most of the beloved characters and stories come from the silver screen, and many treasure them for generations. To that end, the idea of just turning film into today’s equivalent of a hamburger grinder is something most just despise.
Film will never be completely devoid of corporate agendas or having its focus on profit. It is a business, after all, and no company can completely act like Samaritans within their field. But the new system of attempted film as product for an annual release is something that has been used in the worst way possible. When a franchise or universe is done right, then people will celebrate it due to the continuing contributions to fun and memorable entertainment that will make its mark on the public.
When it is done wrong, however, most will just remember the debacle as an example of what not to do in entertainment or business management. From that end, the current landscape of the film industry is on a tightrope. There are still those who create products that enchant viewers and pull audiences into worlds they only dream off. But the growing number of shameless and corporate centered properties are looming over the distance with the public in fear of that standard becoming the future of entertainment.