The Decade of the Franchise Film
Watching Deadpool a few weeks ago, I thought to myself: “How much more can Marvel turn into a movie?” The answer is: probably a lot more. As everyone’s heard by now, Deadpool is set for a sequel, possibly featuring Cable. The X-Men are probably getting a few more films, with McAvoy and Fassbender as leads. Civil War is coming up. Spider-Man is getting his third (THIRD) actor in 15 years. That’s an average of one new Spider-Man every five years. I don’t have a particular beef with Peter Parker, but that’s a little much.
I love Marvel, but the fact is, franchise films are getting a little repetitive for me. And it’s not just Marvel at fault: I’m also looking forward to DC’s Suicide Squad and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and the Ghostbusters reboot, all of which are entries into existing franchises. 2016 is full of franchised films that are probably going to be good, but what does that mean for the film industry?
Every film predicted to rake it in at the box office this year – at least according to Don Aguero of Sportsbettingdime.com – is building off a pre-existing property. From Captain America: Civil War to Finding Dory, franchise films are dominating the next year. And if we go back the last decade or so, many of the best films haven’t been franchise films. Looking at Rotten Tomatoes’ best movies, we can see that a few franchise films make it up there; we’ve got Mad Max: Fury Road, Star Wars: Episode VII, Harry Potter, Toy Story 3 and Casino Royale, which have all rated highly in the last few years. But overwhelmingly, the most critically acclaimed films of the last decade have been new films with original premises, like Inside Out, Selma, Boyhood, The Babadook, Whiplash, Gravity, Her and 12 Years a Slave.
Yes, plenty of original films that have been coming out have been of exceptional quality. Sure, there are the duds – ones that flop at the box office and quietly vanish to DVD, never to be brought up again – but why, when original films do so well critically, are they ignored?
It’s not that original films aren’t any good, it’s just that franchise films are stealing all of the attention, and money. The films that have topped the box office the last few years are overwhelmingly franchise films. American Sniper (which, let’s be real, wasn’t that great) topped 2014 and Avatar took out 2009, but the rest? Star Wars: The Force Awakens destroyed 2015, Catching Fire topped 2013, The Avengers topped 2012, and then we’ve got Harry Potter: The Deathly Hallows Part 2, Toy Story 3, The Dark Knight, Spider-Man 3 and Dead Man’s Chest, before we circle back to Star Wars with Revenge of the Sith in 2005.
In fact, since 1999, only three non-franchise films have topped the year’s box office. That’s kind of sad, at least for the avid movie-goers among us.
So here’s a challenge for cinema-goers who are deciding which films deserve their hard-earned money in 2016: watch something you haven’t heard of. What about The Witch or Midnight Special, or Triple 9? Try something that isn’t a reboot or a sequel or a prequel – there’s so much possibility out there in the big, wide film world. Not Gods of Egypt though, that looks terrible.