Here’s The $et-Up: Understand Hollywood’s Obsession with the Series
Hollywood has fallen into a trap. A trap that’s poorly made, riddled with issues, and doesn’t do much in terms of catching whatever it is you meant to catch. Superhero films are bigger now than they’ve ever been, and it seems they’ll continue to keep growing. Don’t get me wrong, superhero films are extremely important to comic culture. Without origin stories and team-ups, most movie goers would never know Iron Man’s alias, or who Harley Quinn is. It’s thanks to these multi-million-dollar cash magnets that people get to experience comics in a way they wouldn’t normally. There is however, a huge issue that’s been spiking in Hollywood culture recently with these films; the fact that some of them…aren’t actually films.
Bear with me here, I am not saying that superhero films aren’t movies. What I am saying though is this: the companies behind these films have completely forgot what the phrase “stand alone” actually means. It is far too often we see a movie in the Marvel or DC Universe that is a set-up for the following film, the following characters or anything in between. Now, it’s not just comic films that do this, but they are a major player in this game of villainy.
The companies behind these films have completely forgot what the phrase “stand alone” actually means.
Let’s take Amazing Spider-Man 2 for example. The first Amazing Spider-Man was made to bring Spidey back into the universe after the god awful, goth dance-off that was Spider Man 3. Andrew Garfield did a superb job as a refreshing Peter Parker and the film was…pretty good. But once again, it was a set up for a franchise. The first film was a set up for the second film and the second film was a set up for The Sinister Six which now won’t even happen because of how poorly the second film did. There was no passion or interest in making a good film with Amazing Spider-Man 2, all that was there was the executives forcing villains into every shot so people know what’s to come. This put the film in a terrible spot of trying to live up to an expectation that wouldn’t be brought to light for another couple years. It’s trying to tell you what’s going to happen without showing you what’s actually happening while you’re watching the film. “I know you’re watching this, but remember this is to come!”
The most recent and prime example of this happening would be the latest Fantastic Four film that has been crushed by the box office, critics, fans, and anyone who’s ever seen a movie ever. The film, which has been called worse than Batman & Robin, offered absolutely no action or fun for the audience. All it offered was shouting at the audience “JUST WAIT TILL THE SECOND MOVIE.” But if this film is so terrible, why would we even invest the time for another? It’s like dangling a treat in front of a dog and never planning on giving it to him. Fantastic Four is all set-up for a movie that never happens and now, once again, never will.
Marvel had originally perfected the set-up with the after credit scene. Iron Man started Phase One and with the end of the film we had one small scene for the set-up of the next film, The Incredible Hulk. The film didn’t talk about Bruce Banner or The Hulk throughout the movie. It didn’t pepper in information constantly about what could possibly be happening in Banner’s lab. It let Iron Man be Iron Man and in the end sprinkled some sweet, sweet, satisfaction onto the audience’s tongue.
But if this film is so terrible, why would we even invest the time for another?
This, however, is the problem that Marvel accidentally created. In the same way that Hans Zimmer now apologizes for every trailer ever using the loud abrupt horn from the Inception trailers, Marvel shouldn’t let people abuse their system. Once other companies saw how Marvel was doing the after credits scene, they took it upon themselves to try and “one-up” the company with set-ups throughout their films. Why bother doing an after credits scene when we could just set-up another film throughout the entirety of this one?
In the DC Universe Zack Snyder even admitted to Man of Steel being a set-up. He said that if the film was received well (which it was) it would help lead DC into the phase chase against Marvel. Because of Man of Steel performing well in the box office, DC gave the go ahead to start the Justice League mash-up. Don’t get me wrong, I personally feel that Man of Steel is one of the most perfect superhero films ever made, right next to the first Iron Man film. My point being this, DC shouldn’t have set parameters up for Snyder. They shouldn’t have gone into making a movie with the hopes of getting to make more. They should have just let Snyder make the best damn Superman movie he possibly could have. Who knows, with that in mind it could have even possibly been better.
Of course it all comes down to money. A company wants to make money so they start making a movie. They realize they have the opportunity to make more money by making more movies so they forget about the movie they’re currently making in hopes to set up for the next movie. It’s frustrating, mind boggling, and honestly upsetting.
It’s not always even set-ups that do it though. When Horrible Bosses came out, it surprised the box office by grossing more than one hundred and seventy million dollars. What was the production companies first thought? Let’s make a second one. They started making a second film to something that absolutely never needed and never wanted, according to Jason Bateman in an interview on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, another film. Bateman states in the interview that “Oh yeah. That’s a paycheck for everyone. Everyone’s getting’ paid. It’s a freebie. [But] We can’t just make it suck. Everyone’s gonna know it’s a layup, but let’s at least try to make it hold up to some cynical scrutiny.” When Horrible Bosses 2 released in 2014, it went on to gross a measly (compared to the first film) fifty-four million dollars.
It’s frustrating, mind boggling, and honestly upsetting.
Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand that actors sometimes need to pay bills and need some fast cash, but that’s what Asylum pictures is there for. Where’s the integrity? Bateman clearly says that no one even wanted to do the film. Why can’t Hollywood say, “hey this new, unique film made some fast cash, let’s keep making new, unique films.” Horrible Bosses 2 should be a learning experience for the executives out in La La Land. Of course, it doesn’t force much of a learning experience onto them when other films that didn’t warrant a sequel make one that’s exactly the same movie and rake in tons more money than expected. I’m looking at you 22 Jump Street.
21 Jump Street grossed one hundred and thirty-eight million dollars, more than 150% of its budget. So it only makes sense that Hollywood wanted to make a sequel. So what do they do? They make 22 Jump Street and literally make fun of the audience the entire time for paying to see the same movie again. 22 went on to gross one hundred and ninety-one million dollars, with only a seven-million-dollar budget raise from the first film. Again though, at least the first film wasn’t setting up for another. All it did was make a good movie and then realize people want more. They didn’t spend their time thinking of how to set-up for a sequel.
Look, I get it. Hollywood will continue to make movies that make money for the sole purpose of making said money. That’s why sequels are so often happening. *Cough* Beetlejuice 2 *Cough*. But at what point will the high horse executives realize that they could make just as much, if not more money, making new and unique storylines without the worry of whether or not it will go on to be a trilogy? Not everything needs a series. Some things can have an ending on it’s own. But if you plan on making something a series, just don’t give us set-up for that series. Give us a movie that’s great, that’s fun, that has action, that has relatability, that just leads into the next film. I don’t need you to throw the number 2 in my face every five seconds because if number 1 doesn’t do a good job of standing on its own, why the hell would I want to see number 2 anyway? We’re at a point in cinema where I wouldn’t even be remotely surprised if they suddenly announced The Shawshank Redemption 2: More Redemption. Oh please God, don’t do that…