With all of the talk about movies being converted to 3-D to cash in on the Avatar craze, a trend in movies is being overlooked by many. Filmmakers have started taking movies they hope will become a series and leaving the first installment open ended to lead right into an immediate sequel. This has been done with GI Joe, Sherlock Holmes, and The Losers.
That doesn’t sound like a good business plan to me. What if the film tanks at the box office? People who did go to see it get cheated because there is no follow up and the story is never finished. Golden Compass anyone? There was a reason most film series’ followed the original Star Wars blueprint of stand alone first film followed by two interrelated sequels, it work. Lord of the Rings doesn’t count as that was really one long story cut into three parts and everybody knew that going in.
I know that these are bad economic times and the studios are trying to maximize profits with ready made material to appeal to a large demographic, but what they fail to grasp is that people aren’t going to go to movies if they know they aren’t going to get the full story for their $10. Studios should really be following the Batman franchise set up, the first one had Ras Al Ghul defeated but there is a new criminal in town leaving playing cards at his crime scenes, implying The Joker will be the villain in the followup, and then in the next film Batman defeats The Joker but has to go on the run as a outlaw. You get a complete story each time and a teaser to make you want to come back to see what happens next.
And here’s the thing. This actually works to build up anticipation for a sequel. Just look at Iron Man.
When I was a kid I love the old Adam West version of Batman, you can catch reruns of it on the American Life Network along with The Green Hornet on Friday nights. Though not as enjoyable at forty as it was when I was ten, the show still has the ability to charm. A few years back I missed the TV reunion movie they did Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt, but recently was able to rent the DVD. The film is actually two movies in one. The main plot is a campy spoof of their old show with West and Ward attending a charity car auction where the Batmobile is being sold. It gets stolen and West drags a reluctant Ward along, convinced they are better suited to running down the thief than the police. While tracing the clues deliberately left by the criminal they realize the solution is buried somewhere in the history of the show and look back over it’s two and half season run. The main plot is amusing as West gets to bust out into the Batusi with Julie Newmar and continually sticks Ward with the bill everywhere they stop, the ironic joke at the end of the film is that Ward is rich and easily afforded the layout. tThe fourth wall is continually broken as West comments on Lyle Wagner’s naration as it’s being read and will glance at his watch periodically and let the audience know it is time for a commercial break. One of the best lines is when they are attacked in a bar by a group of henchmen and the slightly delusional and overly excited West deadpans that it is nothing they haven’t face before, while the more realistic and concerned Ward quips that back then they had stunt doubles, before engaging in a Batman style fight complete with Bam and Pow flashing across the screen. The second part of the film is told in flashbacks which traces the show from the casting of the pilot to it’s overnight success through it’s eventual decline and eventual cancelation. Along the way you learn about the shows problem with the censors over Ward’s prominant bulge, how Ward ended up doing all of his own stunts because it was cheaper, he was paid $350 a week while his stuntman was paid $100 per stunt. The on set fighting among the stars due to West’s tendancy to block Ward from the camera and talk over him to lengthen his own screen time, and both of their notorious sexual excapades with female fans which is ironically balanced against parents groups contending the TV characters appear to be gay. An added treat is the showing of Lyle Wagner’s actual screen test when he wa the front runner for the title role, which showed West had the necessary lighter touch and was the perfec t choice. The docudrama part of the film was so much more interesting than the send up plot that I wish they had just made the film about West and Ward remembering the show for an interview and had the entire ninty minutes to tell story of the show’s history with the twoo stars sharing narration, there seemed to be so much more that wasn’t gone into.
I can not believe that there is actual controversy on whether or not the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science should nominate The Dark Knight for best picture. Apparently it comes down to ratings. Last year had the worst ratings in Academy Awards history. The Oscars have found that it isn ‘t the host that determines whether or not people will watch but if there is a popular movie in contention, like Titanic or Lord of the Rings. This is leading some to feel that they are being pressured into nominating a specific film, not for it’s artistic merit but just because it was popular and will ensure good ratings. My take on the whole thing is that if it is only about worthy films and not popularity, then ratings shouldn’t matter, in fact you don’t even need a broadcast of the ceremony. Just have the awards and speeches and then release a list of the winners to the press. Ah, but Hollywood wants to have the broadcast so that they can all appear on camera and be seen and admired by everyone, which is why we now have this lame controversy about whether or not The Dark Knight should be nominated. What irks me about the whole thing is the snobbish belief that something that appeals to everyone is unworthy of accolades, which has plagued movies from the beginning. This is why Hitchcock only won a special life time achievement award instead of a best director Oscar. That and the fact that Batman is a Comic Book character really has the Academy gnashing their teeth in frustration. Hollywood doesn’t mind raking in tons of money from it, but when it comes to saying it was actually a good movie, no way, better to go with Slumdog Millionaire because the Oscars aren’t the People’s Choice Awards. Personally it doesn’t matter, I’m not planning on watching anyway, regardless of what films are in the running. I’ll do what I did last year, get the results the day after. Why? Because, like a lot of movie fans these days, I don’t care. Whether or not someone wins an Oacar doesn’t make me want to run out and see the movie. I like what I like and no amount of pompous promotion about how many awards a film garnered is going to encourage me to plunk down ten bucks. Money’s too tight these days and I would rather wait and spend it on The Watchmen and Star Trek rather than Gran Torino or The Wrestler, no matter how artistically worthy they may be.