Sunday, February 17, 2013

Dear Franchise Filmmakers

A Guest Contribution by Zoinks Teabiscuit

          Gather round and listen, children, while I tell you the tale of RoboCop VII: The Hurtening. You’ll recall, from yesterday’s tale, that Peter Weller, having been reborn as the immortal RoboCop and doing all that stuff he did in the first five installments, successfully destroyed the reanimated corpse of Kim Jong-Il by crashing his base into the moon. The people of New Detroit rejoiced at this, but their joy was not to last, for the moon was knocked out of orbit by a few degrees, plunging the earth into a terrible ice age from which, it seemed, it would never again emerge. It was at this time that the alien cyborg army emerged from its long hiding in the moon’s core, and probably at some point the Predators showed up, and OBVIOUSLY Lance Henriksen was in there doing something—eating babies or, you know, whatever. The whole thing, dollars to donuts, was directed by Michael Bay, and following the stunning climax—a tremendous and moving scene that ranks with Willem Dafoe’s death in Platoon and also Willem Dafoe’s “There was a firefight!” scene in Boondock Saints and also Willem Dafoe’s monster-soliloquy in Spider-Man—the people of earth were treated to a montage of explosions and barely-concealed breasts the likes of which they had never seen that entire weekend.
            Alas, the festivities were not to last. Seven installments of alienborgs and boobsplosions proved too much for the delicate ecosystem that is American film audiences. When, the following weekend, the rocking sequel to The Hurtening released to disappointing opening sales of $400 billion, creators of popular entertainment knew they had a crisis on their hands. The stage was set for the invasion of Honey Boo-Boos, bafflingly exploitative mental disorder reality shows, and charmingly ridiculous minorities doing things white people find hilarious. At last, amidst the wreckage, one desperate thought emerged among the shattered communities of the learned: the answer to the age-old question, “How many boobs is too many?” Apparently, Mr. Bay, seven. Seven is too many.
            Or fourteen, I guess. I don’t know, there’s no time to math with all these damned boobsplosions.
Of course I’m being facetious. Mammary-related detonations are the least-offensive tip of the industry-sinking iceberg that is franchise filmmaking. I have nothing against franchises per se. I understand that film is a business, etc. etc. I’m not criticizing you from an anti-capitalist perspective. I am criticizing you from the perspective that you are stupid and your cynical attempts to manipulate viewers are embarrassingly transparent.
Take The Exorcist. Maybe you’re not a horror movie fan, but that is an intense, well-crafted film. Then take a look at the sequel, Exorcist II: The Heretic. That is a steaming pile of crap that is not saved—surprisingly—by a half-naked racial stereotype played by James Earl Jones giving us the fodder for everybody’s favorite Futurama bit some twenty-five years later.
The Exorcist films are actually great examples of the stupid decisions made by inept producers and studios who think they know what audiences want, but are in fact hindered in their higher thought-processes by the fact that their bodies are made entirely out of teeth stolen from under children’s pillows. The third film in the series was actually good, but was apparently butchered by the production company. Then there’s the embarrassing fact of the two prequel films, starring roughly the same cast (and not coincidentally produced by the same company). The studio wanted more violence, so they cobbled together something new out of the scraps of the first version. When their Frankenstein film proved to be a bust, they ended up releasing the original version anyway, which also sucked.
Too niche for you? Well okay, Mr. Cinematic Everyman, Esquire—the recent Hobbit film also stands as a perfect example of Hollywood nonsense invading a perfectly sound, tellable story and literally filling it with poo. Wizard poo, to be precise.
Not, like, the poo from a wizard. More like, poo in the possession of a wizard. I guess.
Lest you cry foul here, I’ll qualify this by noting that I’m not a major Middle-Earth geek. Film adaptations of novels are fine, and sometimes they’re great (see, again, The Exorcist). I’m not angry because nobody should mess with my books, dammit. But I did reread The Hobbit in preparation for the film, and good god, the monstrosity that ended up on screen is not even remotely close. But that could be totally forgivable, if it didn’t suck as a film in every conceivable way, regardless of its relation to the novels.
Radagast the Brown? Haha! It’s funny because of all the POOP on his FACE! There’s POOP! On a WIZARD! Not only did Jackson decide to take Radagast out of his brief appearance in Fellowship (the book, not the film), and insert him into a montage of stupid scenes that were invented to liven up the joint; he felt that his creative addition would not be complete until he literally covered it in feces. Bravo, sir. You have at long last surpassed Dead Alive.
I’m a big Transformers fan, and I’ll admit that I liked the first Michael Bay movie when it first came out. But in retrospect, he made Bumblebee pee on a guy. What the hell was he thinking? What were any of us thinking?!
Maybe we just weren’t. As I was writing this a friend pointed out that people pay to see this stuff, and that’s why it keeps getting made. They address this in a recent episode of South Park, and as usual, Trey and Matt hit the nail on the head. Maybe we could make it stop.
There’s probably a lesson to be learned here, but it’s probably got math in it, and I suck at that. Because of all the boobsplosions.


  1. Hollywood has become totally infatuated with these awful franchises, and often seems incapable of producing a single original film. However, there is a subtle joy to be found in taking a bottle of cheap liquor to the local theater on a Tuesday, and drinking it while shouting at the characters of Fasterer and Furiouser.

  2. It is less risky for them to go with a known commodity than to take a chance on something fresh. Hopefully, the overwhelming good reception of Argo and Silver Linings Playbook, as well as other original films this year, will turn the tide a bit.


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