Anthony Stokes is frustrated by franchises shooting themselves in the foot….
Franchises are a big part of the Hollywood model. Every movie is tailored to have a sequel, in the hope of becoming the next Harry Potter or Twilight. But sometimes a director, screenwriter, or producer will make a creative decision that severely handicaps a sequel to a popular movie – be it by trying to add emotional impact, keeping a popular character around, fan service, or whatever other reason. Recently I’ve noticed a trend of this occurring more frequently, with someone calling the shots not thinking things all the way through. These are the most frustrating cases in my opinion. SPOILERS AHEAD…
Thor for the most part is a really solid movie. A lot of its problems are inherent with the source material, but other than that Kenneth Branagh did an excellent job of taking a movie that by all means should’ve been unfilmable and making it work more often than not… up until the ending where Thor has to strand himself in Asgard by destroying the Bifröst in order to stop Loki’s scheme. Now had this been a setup for Thor: The Dark World, then it really wouldn’t have been an issue given as it would have time to follow up on this ending. However, it’s actually a set up for The Avengers – a movie that didn’t have time to show how Thor got back on earth. A cover up line by Loki is the only explanation we get. While this isn’t a plot hole and it doesn’t take away much from The Avengers, it does totally undercut the ending of Thor. Not the biggest misstep in the world, but I couldn’t be the only one who rolled their eyes at the “Thor will be in Avengers” part of the credits.
Star Trek Into Darkness
Star Trek 2009 is probably what I would consider to be the best reboot ever. Trekkie purists claim that its Star Wars instead of Star Trek, but this was the perfect way to bring in new fans for the series. What I loved most is that instead of being a standard reboot it tells its own story whilst finding a way to work inside the Star Trek canon really nicely. I even liked the cameo by Leonard Nimoy, who was used sparingly enough that it felt natural and pretty smart. And then Star Trek Into Darkness happened. All the clever references are gone, there’s no surprises anymore, and it falls into the tropes of a standard remake we all hoped the first one wouldn’t be. First off, introducing Khan at this point was a big mistake. Literally every person walking into the theater expected Khan, so when the big reveal came I don’t think anybody was shocked. What’s worse is there’s absolutely no reason that Benedict Cumberbatch needed to be Khan, and when you get down to it, he’s a pretty generic villain. Had J.J. Abrams been more of a forward thinker, he could’ve had Khan and Kirk remain reluctant allies before making him the primary villain for the third movie. The most interesting part was when they’re working together. I always find it funny that people complain about the Mandarin Twist in Iron Man 3, when this was a much worse offense. Khan and Kirk had backstory in The Original Series, adding that much more dimension to their dynamic, and here’s he’s generic bad guy #4. Such a waste of a great character.
But I’m not done yet. There are two other elements introduced which are even worse then the Khan travesty: Superblood from Khan, and advice from Old Spock. First of all, any device that can bring characters back to life completely ruins ANY tension from the action scenes. And of course, there’s a scene featuring Bones using the Superblood on a Tribble and he might as well have said, “This blood has rejuvenating properties, I wonder if we’ll need this sometime later in the third act? *Wink*” If I have to give the Star Trek franchise any credit it’s that there’s always a genuine sense of threat which is absent from other blockbusters. Well not anymore. Anybody who dies can now come back. Also, having Old Spock tell Young Spock about Khan also ruined tension, but in a different way. Now any time there’s trouble they can call Spock. Or if Spock doesn’t feel the situation is grave enough for him to give out the information, then it makes whatever threat they’re facing seem less than that of Khan. I blame Damon Lindelof for this, even though Star Trek Into Darkness is still a pretty damn good movie. Star Trek 3 just has lots of back tracking to do.
Men in Black
Men in Black is a really underrated comic book movie. It was smart, funny, and above all else it managed to find the perfect spot between CGI and practical effects. Tommy Lee Jones was on his A-game playing off Will Smith very well. They have a great dynamic, back and forth, and lots of chemistry. So at the end of Men in Black, Agent K retires. And not retires as in he can come back any time he wants, but retires as in there’s no way he can ever come back. Now I don’t know if they showed this ending in front of test audiences, but this was one of those times I imagine I’d encourage studio interference and the traditional happy ending. The Men in Black series took a dip and never fully recovered. The entire series seems to be about keeping Kay relevant. And just like with Thor, it completely undercuts the ending of the movie and the emotional impact they were going for. Except The Avengers bounced back and made me forget about Thor’s ending. Men in Black II’s entire first act is devoted to getting Kay back. Maybe a throwaway line would’ve been a better choice.
Man of Steel
Controversy time. Okay, so Man of Steel is a reboot, and also the first step to Warner Bros. making a Justice League movie. Except you really couldn’t tell if you watched it. One of the big problems for a Justice League movie is that the entire team is overpowered, specifically Superman. So what do they do? Make him the strongest most destructive force I’ve seen in a movie this year. I’m no David S. Goyer, but personally I would have powered Superman down a lot more. Give him bad ass powers, but make it so that he can’t control them and so he holds back to avoid people getting hurt. And don’t get me started on the destruction of Metropolis, which is completely swept under the rug. Had this been a Hulk movie it’d be great because he’s a mindless beast with no morals or sense of consequences, who in The Avengers manages to run through a building and not kill thousands of people. Why would the world accept Superman after he caused 9/11 to the 3rd power? But even worse is the forthcoming Batman vs. Superman movie. I’m sorry, but there’s no conceivable way that Batman stands a chance against Superman. It would be instant death. I just don’t understand how this movie can work. Who cares about Batman’s fight scenes next to a guy who can level a small town in a matter of minutes? You can tell that a World’s Finest / Batman vs. Superman movie wasn’t Warner Bros.’ original intent, otherwise they would have taken steps to set it up.
Anthony Stokes is a blogger and independent filmmaker.