The Timing of Sequels

I’ve spoken at great length about sequels and reboots; about the kinds of reboots and why they exist.  I’ve also talked about marketing and about the timing of marketing.  What I want to go over for this post, is the timing of sequels, reboots and remakes.  Now, if a movie is well-received and makes enough money, a movie studio may try to get a follow-up film made.  For movies that are one-and-done, we usually don’t see sequels.  Obviously, there are exceptions to the rule; Independence Day Resurgence is a prime example.  I’ll talk about that movie later.  When there is a possibility of a sequel, there’s a window of opportunity that can be taken advantage of to make that sequel and have it out to audiences in a relatively timely manner.  Now, what is the length of time between a movie and it’s follow-up/s?  Depending on the technology available, the window could be anywhere from 2 years up to a decade.  Making a movie is a lengthy process and it takes up to a year and a half, usually, to produce and put out the film.

The best opportunity for a sequel is generally about 3-5 years after the release of the original picture, if the technology permits it, of course.  Let’s take Terminator 2, for example:  When the original movie was released back in 1984, people loved the hell out of it.  The ending of the film left it open for the possibility of a sequel.  But the tech at the time really couldn’t allow for something on T2‘s scale to be made.  James Cameron has always been one to really push for the advancement of technology, so in 1991, we got Terminator 2.  That was about 7 years after the original film was released.  Now, you would think that people would have moved on from The Terminator, but when the sequel was released, people ate it up, and it was the biggest movie of the year.  So, people got a sequel that they didn’t know they wanted.  But again, it was still less than a decade from the original film, so interest in the franchise wasn’t all dried up yet.

Let’s take a look at a more recent example: Independence Day Resurgence.  Now, here is a sequel that nobody asked for.  The rumors had been out there for years of a possible follow-up to the 1996 smash hit, but nothing had materialized until a few years ago.  Here’s the problem:  This is a movie that was about a decade too late.  The actual problem is that the original Independence Day was self-contained.  It had a beginning, middle, and end.  The ending seemed pretty final to me, at the time.  A lot of people agreed.  So, the idea of a sequel was pretty much left to fan-fiction and the imaginations of the people who loved the movie.  Had Resurgence been released about 10-12 years ago, it might have made more sense, and they would have been able to get Will Smith to come back.  This is an example of a sequel that was made outside the window of opportunity.  It also would have been better received than it was.  Star Wars had about 3 years between films for each trilogy, so Star Wars gets a bit of a pass from me on this one.  Now, certain movies like Lord of the Rings Trilogy are unique, because they were all filmed at the same time.  It took about a year and half to film the trilogy, but they split up the movies and released them one a year.  That’s a special case, because of the story that Peter Jackson wanted to bring to the screen.  It made perfect sense to release the movies that way.  It gave people enough time to process the movie by the time the follow-up came out, but it wasn’t a very long turnaround for each film.  Now the timing for sequels depends generally on the kind of movie that they want to make a sequel to.  Some movies warrant a sequel, but others don’t.

Reboots and remakes are a whole different beast.  A remake is generally made for an audience that may be unfamiliar with the source film.  The time between a film and its re-make or reboot can be anywhere from 7 years to 50 years.  The reason I bring this one up is because we are getting a couple of high-profile re-makes this year.  The first one I bring up is Ben-Hur.  The original film starred Charlton Heston in the title role and was one of the greatest Biblical epics to be filmed.  This year, we’re getting a re-make starring Jack Huston and Morgan Freeman.  The original film was released in 1959.  I have an issue with this one, because it seems like a shot-for-shot re-make.  So, why now?  I guess the film-makers assume that audiences want it, but I’m guessing it’s more for the money.  I realize that a re-make of Ben-Hur wouldn’t have made sense thirty or so years ago, but it still seems odd that they would make a new movie nearly 60 years after the original film.  The other one, I want to mention is the new The Magnificent Seven film starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt.  I’m a fan of the original film with Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen, but it looks really good.  This is about 56 years since the original film was released, so it seems natural that the film-makers want to make a new movie for a new audience.  They did the same with 3:10 To Yuma.  That turned out to be phenomenal.

You generally want to give a movie time before you reboot it, but there have been cases recently where a movie franchise has been rebooted not even a decade after the last film.  Spider-Man is a perfect example.  It took Sony only 5 years to reboot the franchise and they’re doing it again with Spider-Man: Homecoming.  The Amazing Spider-Man starring Andrew Garfield wasn’t well-received.  Most people really didn’t need another origin story for Spider-Man so soon.  It was about 6 years between Star Trek: Nemesis and the Star Trek reboot.  But that one was an exception because Nemesis wasn’t particularly liked by critics or audiences and the box-office returns reflected that.  The new Ghostbusters film is another example of bad timing.  That movie was released about 20 years too late.

Timing is very important.  Like I said before, there is a window of opportunity to take advantage of an audience’s need for more.  When you miss that window, people are not likely going to favor a follow-up film.  That window of time changes for each movie and it’s franchise, so it’s never the same kind of window.  Re-makes and reboots can have a larger window of opportunity.  It’s usually about decades-long, but even then, if you take to long to re-make a movie, audiences aren’t going to reciprocate.  Film-makers can sometimes under-estimate or over-estimate an audience’s patience.  That’s something that film-makers need to take into consideration.

Preview: Hacksaw Ridge

World War II is one of the last wars where the line between good and evil was clearly drawn.  It was one of the most devastating wars in human history.  It was fought to keep the free world out of the hands of tyrants like Hitler, Mussolini and Hideki Tojo.  There were a lot of stories coming out of the European and Pacific Theaters.  A lot of them were really downbeat and pretty depressing.  But there obviously stories of courage and valor.  There was a story of a man who went to war but refused to carry a weapon.  His name was Desmond Doss, a corporal who was assigned to the Medical Detachment, 307th Infantry, 77th Infantry Division.  Hacksaw Ridge tells the story of a man who refused to compromise his religious convictions and instead chose to save lives on the field of battle as a medic.  What makes this story so intriguing is that Doss was a conscientious objector.  He did not believe in violence, even though he knew that the war was necessary.  Doss was the first conscientious objector to receive the Medal Of Honor, the highest decoration the United States military can give.

The movie Hacksaw Ridge is being directed by Mel Gibson, who is known as an actor for movies like Mad Max and Lethal Weapon.  His directing credits include The Man Without a Face and the historical epic in which he also starred, Braveheart.  Hacksaw Ridge comes ten years after the last film that Gibson directed, which was Apocalypto in 2006.  While the man may have had a turbulent time during the past ten years, he’s been striving to make a comeback as both actor and director.  Hacksaw Ridge stars Andrew Garfield as Desmond Doss and Sam Worthington as Captain Glover.  Other cast members include Luke Bracey, Vince Vaughn, and Richard Roxburgh.  This movie looks really, really good.  It hooks you right from the beginning, and it looks like Andrew Garfield is going to knock it out of the park.  It definitely looks gritty enough to be a legitimate war film, but at its heart is a real human story and I think that’s what really separates this particular movie from other war movies.  Most movies based on true stories tend to either overdo it with the heroics or they don’t do enough to shine a light on a particular event, and I’m hoping that Hacksaw Ridge will give this story the treatment it deserves.  Seeing Mel Gibson in the director’s chair again is a welcome sight.  This man knows how to make a very compelling film and I’m hoping this will help put him back on top.

Why I Love Superman

The character of Superman has been embedded in the American consciousness since the early 1930’s when Kal-El made his first appearance.  He first appeared as the cover feature of Action Comics #1 which was published on April 18, 1938.  The reception of the character was a resounding and immediate success.  In 1939, DC Comics(then Detective Comics)began a sister series specifically for Superman.  So, why is he so popular?  There are multiple reasons.  Obviously, because he’s a superhero, but that’s kind of missing the point.  Superman resonates with people because he represents what is supposed to be the best of humanity, event though he’s an alien.  Many of us aspire to be something greater than ourselves, and that’s what Superman represents.  He’s the one character that many people have looked up to for decades.  Even in today’s world, Superman represents the one thing that a lot of people don’t seem to have a lot of anymore:  Hope.  His desire to do what’s right for mankind is extraordinarily inspiring.

There have been MANY interpretations of the character since his debut in 1938.  Some of the more recent incarnations with Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel and Batman V. Superman have courted some controversies among fans, but I’ll get to those later.  While actor Kirk Alyn would be the first actor to portray the superhero on screen, it was George Reeves who really made the character more popular with a series that started in 1951.  The actor boldly wore the iconic red, blue and yellow outfit with the signature S on the chest.  The character would also be featured in an animated series during the 60s.  In 1978, the first real serious live-action film of Superman: The Movie took the world by storm.

Superman: The Movie was essentially the first real comic-book movie to be taken seriously.  And how.  It featured an all-star cast with Gene Hackman, Marlon Brandon, Ned Beatty, Terence Stamp, Margot Kidder, and Jackie Cooper.  However, it was the performance of Christopher Reeve that turned people’s heads.  With that one iconic performance, Christopher Reeve shot to nearly instant stardom.  Superman: The Movie is by far one of my favorite movies of all time, because it embodies all the elements of the character so well, and Mr. Reeve really brought that out in the character.  The film would see a decent follow-up and two horrendous ones during the 80’s.  We would not see another live-action Superman movie until 2006, when director Bryan Singer would give the character another shot.  Since Christopher Reeve had since passed away, it fell on the shoulders of newcomer Brandon Routh to don the red cape.  The movie was decent enough, but it was too similar to the original film, and not everybody really bought Brandon Routh as Superman.  As a result, it would be another 7 years until we got a new movie.

In 2013, Zack Snyder’s re-imagining of the character, Man of Steel would be released to mixed but mostly positive reactions world-wide.  It took a darker and grittier look at the character and how he fits in with today’s world.  Henry Cavill would be the first non-American to play the character, but you would never know that unless you already knew that he was British.  It was certainly a different take on Superman, and while many people complained about the character’s departure from the big blue boy-scout of yore, I feel that this interpretation of Superman is far more relevant to today’s world.  With the recent release of Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice, we see Superman still struggling to adapt in a world that is connected  and very skeptical about him.

Now that I’ve gone over a little bit of history with Superman, I’m going to tell you why I really like the character.  It goes back to my first paragraph about what the character represents:  Hope.  In Man of Steel, that’s what the S on Kal-El’s means.  As Jor-El puts it, it represents the fundamental belief that there is potential in everybody to be a force for good.  THAT is the essence of Superman.  Yes, I like the fact that Superman flies and has super-strength and can see through everything(except lead), but there’s this absolute desire from the character to do the right thing, even if it isn’t the most politically correct.  While previous films have portrayed the character as absolutely sure of himself and as a boy scout as Lex Luthor puts it, Henry Cavill’s character is not as certain.  He even admits to a priest in Zack Snyder’s movies that while General Zod can’t be trusted, he’s not sure the human race can be trusted either, because of what he’s seen.  This is actually why I like the newer version of the character so much, because he has doubts.  Not just about people, but himself as well.  He’s not perfect and he makes mistakes.  I find that approach to be rather refreshing.  While a lot of people would accuse the new Superman movies of feeling to much like Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy, I feel that in today’s world, a movie with the tone and color of Superman: The Movie would feel somewhat out-of-place.

As I said before, Superman: The Movie is one of my favorite movies of all time, so don’t think that I’m ragging on it, because I’m not.  It’s just that a movie like that really can’t be made today without coming across as cheesy or cynical.  Comic book movies, like the comics themselves, are often a reflection of the decade in which they are released.  The looks of the characters and movies tend to change over the years.  I can certainly understand why people don’t particularly care for the new movies, but I love them.  The actions that Superman takes in the new movies have severe consequences as exhibited in the Battle of Metropolis at the end of Man of Steel.  The consequences of that battle would become the focal point for Batman V. Superman.  People are afraid of Superman and they feel that he has too much leeway in doing things.  There is a political aspect of the new film that addresses those questions.  I really do like that about the new movies.  There are consequences and Kal-El himself has doubts about how he fits into that world.  I think that makes the character even more compelling.  He’s not perfect and he knows that his actions have hurt people.

Is the character of Superman still relevant?  Absolutely.  Truth be told, Superman is needed now more than ever, considering the current political atmosphere.  Yes, he’s a fictional character, but what he stands for is as important today as it was nearly 80 years ago.  No matter your age, your creed or your ethnicity, Superman still remains one of the most inspirational and amazing superheroes ever, and he is willing to help everyone, regardless of where they are from.  Call me naive, but I believe we, as a species, can aspire to be something more; to be something greater.  This is why I love Superman.





Ghostbusters 2016

Before I begin, I would like to address a certain and potentially obvious issue:  A couple of weeks back, I made a post detailing the reasons why I wouldn’t support the new Ghostbusters movie.  Given the amount of information that I had at the time, I felt my conclusion was justified, and I still do.  However, when the reviews started coming out on Sunday and not all of them being totally negative, I decided to give the movie a chance.  I guess that would make me sound a little hypocritical, and you probably wouldn’t be wrong for thinking that, but I’m in the business of covering movies and movie news, so not reviewing Ghostbusters 2016 wasn’t particularly an option.  I just want you to bear that in mind while reading this review.  Thank you.

Released: July 2016

Director: Paul Feig

Rated PG-13

Run Time: 116 Minutes

Composer: Theodore Shapiro

Distributor: Sony Entertainment/Columbia Pictures

Melissa McCarthy: Abby Yates
Kristen Wiig: Erin Gilbert
Kate McKinnon: Jillian Holtzmann
Leslie Jones: Patty Tolan
Chris Hemsworth: Kevin The Intern
Andy Garcia: Mayor Bradley
Neil Casey: Rowan North

The idea of a 3rd live-action Ghostbusters film has been floating around since the second film was released.  There have been multiple stories involving the ‘Busters going to Hell or an alternate dimension.  One had them passing the torch to a new generation, and one involved an all-female crew.  This last one is the one that got made.  However, instead of a full-blown sequel, we ended up with a reboot.  The idea of an all-female crew shouldn’t have been as controversial as it was.  Considering that Bill Murray was off-and-on again about another film, the whole idea was up in the air.  When Harold Ramis died a couple of years back, any plans for a 3rd film went up in smoke.  So, Sony brought in director Paul Feig to helm a new Ghostbusters film.  Having had the opportunity to see the new movie, how does it stack up?  Does it really deserve all the hate that it’s getting?  Let’s find out, shall we?

The film opens as a tourist guide is taking tourists around what appears to be a haunted house, only to be revealed as a sham on his part.  After the tourists leave, the guide learns that the house really is haunted.  As a result, one of the owners of the mansion call upon Dr. Erin Gilbert to investigate.  Initially refusing, she realizes that he’s telling the truth.  She finds her former colleague, Abby Yates and HER assistant, Jillian Holtzmann.  Together they investigate the house and after encountering their first ghost, they decide to start up an investigation business to locate and capture ghosts.  Recruiting a local Metro guard, Patty and a dimwit receptionist, Kevin, they begin to investigate strange paranormal activities cropping up in the city.  Sounds awfully like the setup for the original movie, doesn’t it?  The story is pretty much a rehash of the original Ghostbusters.  It doesn’t really tread any new ground, and it just feels like the movie is playing it safe.

I’m going to come right out and say it:  The marketing campaign for Ghostbusters has been nothing short of disastrous.  From the awful first trailer to the horrendous new theme song, everything seemed to scream, “trainwreck.”  It pleases me to inform you that the new movie is not the disaster that everybody has been predicting.  Yes, there are people that really don’t like it, and there are people who think it’s merely OK.  Reviewing a comedy is a hard thing to do, because humor is entirely subjective.  What one person finds funny, another might not.  Everybody has their own things that they find funny.  The new Ghostbusters is surprisingly, and genuinely, funny at times.  It’s funny because the cast works.  The chemistry between the main four character is legitimate.  Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones all do a fantastic job, although I tend to like Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon a little bit more than the other two.  Kate McKinnon’s character is kind of a cartoon, and she’s clearly having fun with it.  Her character, Holtzmann, is the engineer, so she designs the weapons and the proton packs.  Leslie Jones play Patty, the street-wise Metro guard.  She’s loud and she’s hilarious.  A lot of the jokes that didn’t seem to land in the trailers, actually land pretty well in the final film.  Why?  Context.  Timing and context are the two most important things in comedy.  Without either of those, you’re left scratching your head.  That’s not to say that all the jokes are good, some really are not and just don’t work.

Chris Hemsworth plays the hunky and clearly dimwitted receptionist, Kevin.  Look, I will admit that Chris Hemsworth is really funny at times here.  He’s clearly having fun at his own expense and he’s got the charisma to do it.  However, the joke tends to go on a little too long, and it becomes tedious.  There are a lot of situations in the film where that is the case.  When the joke lands, you don’t want to dwell on it.  Just let it pass.  That’s one of the main issues I have with the movie.  The writing is all over the place.  The lack of consistency is jarring.  A lot of the time, the humor works, it’s just when it doesn’t, you KNOW it doesn’t.  It ends up being awkward.

The stuff that works in the movie really does work.  The ghost busting sequences are absolutely phenomenal.  I loved those.  The visual effects are surprisingly not bad.  Again, context is important.  Through the course of the film, the story takes it usual turns, and the ‘Busters end up having to try and save the world.  The battle sequences with the ghosts towards the end of the film is nothing short of spectacular.  There are some new things in this movie that I found to be really cool.  Each Ghost Buster has her own proton pack yes, but each one also gets a smaller “side-arm” to go along with the main weapon.  One’s a shotgun, another’s a shredder, and one is power glove.  It’s all really cool.  The one I like the best is the whip that Holtzmann’s character wields.  I thought that was totally awesome.  There’s some really good action here and it’s big, as it should be.  It’s very thrilling.  There are parts of the film that feel like Ghostbusters.  That’s a good thing.

Unfortunately, there are a number of things that really bring the movie down.  For one, the whole movie is very self-aware.  What made the original film work was that it played the whole thing straight.  The chemistry of the actors and their personalities are what made the movie funny.  There are times when ths movie grinds to a halt and says, “Hey look at me, I’m referencing the original movie!”  There are a lot of situations in the movie like that.  Another thing that drags the movie down are the cameos.  We have cameos from not only the three surviving Ghost Busters from the original film, we also have cameos from the old receptionist and Sigourney Weaver as well.  So, we have Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson, Dan Aykroyd, Annie Potts, and Sigourney Weaver.  These cameos don’t really do anything for the movie except slow it down, and honestly, they’re not that good.  Bill Murray’s cameo is the worst offender.  Ghostbusters would have been better served if it had not had those cameos.  The pacing would have certainly improved.  Also, there is the fact that all the men in the movie are portrayed as idiots and/or dirtbags.  Gee, thanks Mr. Feig.

There is also the issue of the new theme song from Fallout Boy and Missy Elliott.  Who the hell thought that Fallout Boy was a good idea?  I understand that they wanted to try something new with the theme.  If that was the case, they could’ve talked to Ray Parker, Jr. about helping them out a bit.  To be fair, some elements of his song were used, properly of course, but that new main theme is disgraceful.  So…is the new Ghostbusters movie a complete disaster?  No.  Hell no.  I think there’s quite a bit here to like.  The cast is fantastic, especially the main four ladies, but a lot of this stuff surprisingly works fairly well.  Obviously not everybody is going to like it.  In fact, I’ve seen reviews that were quite….scathing.  You could certainly do worse than this.  Improvements could have been made.  Had the movie actually not bothered to reference the previous films in the franchise, it might have done better.  As it stands, I don’t see this movie doing well overseas.  China has pretty banned all movies involving ghosts and the supernatural due to an obscure law, so China’s out of the question.  Honestly, I hope the film does well enough to warrant a sequel, because I want to see where they go next.  I would like the next film to be directed by somebody other than Mr. Feig.  He’s not a bad director, but he was not a great choice for this movie.  My final conclusion is a decent 7/10.  I actually liked it a bit.  Is it a good movie?  Not really, but it’s not a train-wreck either.