Commenting on the Critics with Simon Columb…
Today, BBC relayed news of the upcoming Harry Potter spin-off, currently titled Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them…
“Warner Bros chief Kevin Tsujihara persuaded author Rowling to adapt the book for the big screen. Last week, he told the New York Times there would be a trilogy of films based on the book, which follows a “magizoologist” named Newt Scamander. Scamander is the author of a guide to magical creatures. Set in New York, the book is neither a sequel nor a prequel, but an “extension” of Harry Potter’s “wizarding world”, Rowling said.“
After viewing footage from The Amazing Spider-Man 2 on Monday, the scale of these cinematic universes has dominated my mind. The four comic-book worlds between the X-Men, The Avengers, Justice League and Spider-Man is simply mind-boggling. In a few years, these series will release a new episode every couple of months. Add to that the plans for Star Wars and, briefly, Harry Potter with this three-film deal, and blockbuster cinema will be dominated by a small handful of franchises over the next decade.
Hollywood is not keen to take risks. These films are guaranteed successes and their continued success will determine the continuation of franchises in the future. Watching a film series from the nineties is now such a strange experience. A clear lack of natural progression – repeated stories and arcs with new characters felt stale and dull. Watch Home Alone and Home Alone 2. Or even Jurassic Park and The Lost World. Producers assumed audiences simply wanted the same again and tried to force a vaguely different story into the same mould. Funnily enough, Die Hard with a Vengeance was in the first instance an original story titled ‘Simon Says’ – but they squeezed in John McClane (and a strange ‘twist’ ending) and turned it into a sequel.
The expansion of ‘universes’ meant cast members only need to make a cameo to legitimise the world created. Indeed, if a set is recreated or a story is “ret-conned” (retroactive-continuation) then audiences see the film as an extension of the original story rather than a revisit or repeat of the original.
Studios have figured out what we want in a sequel and it will be dependent on our own championing of original material that will change cinema. Otherwise, every blockbuster will be part of a ‘world’ and the creative minds that could write of a new hero, or a new alien world, will never see the lights of Hollywood at all.