Why Our Favorite Franchises Always End Up Sucking

Lately I’ve developed a new addiction. If you guessed booze or gambling, you’d be wrong. I said “new”.  No, my new addiction is the ‘Trivia’ tab on IMDB.com. I can’t get enough. Now, every time I’m up until 3am watching a two star movie on Encore simply because of the fact I caught it at the beginning, I spend an additional 30 minutes reading every remotely interesting factoid regarding its production. I have absolutely no information on how reliable these facts are, as I’m pretty sure its a just Wikipedia type system where users can just upload things, but I can’t get enough.

It may seem like a colossal waste to spend time digesting behind-the-scenes knowledge of such tepid box office ground-rule doubles like X-Men: The Last Stand and Predators, and in all honesty, it is. But I have learned something. You see, I hate being disappointed. Like, a lot. When I go to the movies and spend Visa’s hard-earned money to see a sequel to a movie I love, I get personally offended when it sucks ass. I’m all like, “What’s the deal, Sony Pictures? I don’t matter enough as a person for you to make me a good movie? Taking me for granted again I see. I even wore the 3D glasses! You think I did that for me??”

Uh… anyway, I think a lot of people chalk up crummy sequels to studio greed and the desire to make a quick buck, rushed productions, actors phoning it in, or a host of other reasons. They’re not wrong, and certainly all of these nebulous things can factor in to those bland and lifeless sequels that we all seemingly love to hate. These reasons don’t satisfy me, however. I want to know more. Movies are expensive to make, even the bad ones, so why bother in the first place if you know its going to suck? I mean, I understand that the corporate studio in charge could care less if they make $50,000,000 off of the next Schindler’s List or off of Pirates Of The Caribbean 13: Search For Curly’s Gold, but there are so many people involved in movie productions from the cast, to the writers, to the director, that it just boggles my mind how everyone can collectively fail in order to ruin the most beloved franchises of modern times. That there isn’t one brave soul on the set that could stand up and shout “Hey! That line was so stupid that it will ruin this movie!! Let’s take 45 seconds and think of something better.” Why, oh why must we be treated to brilliant works of visionary creativity only to later be dished out steaming piles of terrible, terrible mediocrity by their bastard children?

Well now, thanks to the addiction I mentioned, I have some insight into this question. IMDB’s trivia page is rife with concrete examples of exactly what went wrong with the franchise installments that take up the Midnight – 4 AM slots on pay cable. Take a look at this bit of trivia from Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines:

The studios had long wanted to make a sequel to the previous Terminator films, but for a long time Arnold Schwarzenegger refused to do it unless James Cameron was directing. Cameron eventually told his friend to “Just do it and ask for a shit-load of money”, reasoning that the character was as much Schwarzenegger’s as it was his.

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“I need your clothes, your boots, and my dignity back.”

That’s pretty telling, right there. I can imagine James Cameron texting Arnold from his submarine. “Terminator? I’m so done with that. Just do whatever they want, go nuts. Get a shitload of money!” I’m sure if I lived on some barren hell-hole of a planet where Terminator and T2 had never existed, Rise Of The Machines and Salvation would be great action movies. Fortunately for me, however, I live on Earth and they’re not. When the creative force behind a franchise washes his hands of it and tells you to grab a paycheck to get the suits off your back, that’s a pretty good sign that everyone’s going to waste $10. Here’s another gem from X-Men: The Last Stand.

When director Bryan Singer dropped out of production, Hugh Jackman recommended Darren Aronofsky to replace him, having worked with Aronofsky in The Fountain. Joss Whedon turned it down to work on a “Wonder Woman” movie (ironically his “X-Men” comic ‘Gifted’ would inspire the final film’s plot). ‘Rob Bowman’ and Alex Proyas were considered for the job. Zack Snyder was approached, but he was committed to 300; Peter Berg was approached, but turned down the job. Matthew Vaughn was hired in March 2005, but with a release date set of May 2006, he realized he could not put together a good film in such a short time and left. Finally Brett Ratner was hired, who had experience of making successful films out of rushed productions, as seen with Rush Hour.

I love this one.

“Alright Mr. Producer, Singer’s out. Aronofsky, Whedon, Bowman, Proyas, Snyder, Berg, and Vaughn won’t touch this film with a ten foot pole. What do we do?”

“We need a man who can make a feature-length picture in 14 days and can’t afford to turn down a job. Get me Bret Ratner!”

Seriously? When you’re the ninth choice to direct a movie, how do you even show up for work? Then again, I guess it’s not every day that Ratner gets to ruin a franchise as well-known as the X-Men. Sounds like an opportunity that’s hard to pass up. The rest of those guys had the sense to jump off of a sinking ship, but no, not Bret Ratner! In reality, how could we expect anything more from the genius who brought us Tower Heist and the Rush Hour trilogy?

But speaking of sinking ships, the real arrow through my heart was Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. I loved Pirates 1. Fuckin loved it. I saw it in the theater seven times and could pretty much recite the script. I thought real pirates were awesome and the movie was everything I ever wanted to see, making all other movies for that year completely pointless. Predictably, the sequels got progressively worse, so I really wasn’t expecting much out of #4. I went into the theater with a bottle of rum, prepared to suspend my disbelief as much as humanly possible, but it was just too fucking terrible. I can’t even get through that movie.

First of all, half of it is just a sloppy patchwork of explosions and meaningless sword fights and chase scenes, and the rest of it makes no fucking sense. Mermaids are like vampires of the sea and have Spider-Man web shooters and terrorize ships even though nobody has mentioned them in three movies. Blackbeard, the big, bad villain, has a power set that seems like it was randomly rolled in a 7th grader’s D&D game. He can create zombies and he practices Voodoo, but he can also magically put ships into tiny bottles and his sword can control ropes. How is any of this remotely related? Did the writers lose a bet and write the entire script by throwing darts at an idea board? Also, if you have such exhaustive control over ropes and rigging that you can simultaneously throw every person on board around the ship like they were human yo-yos, why the fuck do you need a crew in the first place? All sailing is is pulling and releasing a bunch of ropes all over the place, why bother with a ship full of douche bag pirates that you have to feed when you can just wave your sword around for a few minutes? I don’t get it. Were they just trying to 1up themselves with cockamamie ideas? Oh yea, and:

Queen Anne’s Revenge comes standard with franchise-destroying flamethrowers.

The ship shoots fire too. Cause why not?

Yet even as American movie audiences are becoming more discerning as we gain access to social media, blogs, and sites like Rotten Tomatoes, studios are still cashing in on the international market because other countries are just so damn happy to have American movies. This shipwreck still grossed $1,000,000,000 worldwide, leaving little incentive for them to even try to improve the next 16 installments. Thanks a lot, developing nations.

So back to the trivia section. Any explanation for this monstrosity?

Johnny Depp said he agreed to star in this, before “there was a script or anything”.

Always read the fine print, Johnny. Although I can’t say that I blame him. If I was the creator of one of the most recognizable and beloved characters in modern cinema history, how could I resist playing him at every available opportunity? I don’t think I would be able to, especially considering how much money I’d be making to do it.

Well, if nothing else, my obsession with trivia has put a human face on Hollywood’s inexcusable blunders. There’s a large variety of factors, a confluence that goes into any truly great work. Similarly, the same is true for the bad ones, except instead of everything aligning and going right, a lot of stuff goes wrong. So the next time you, like me, feel let down because the movies you grew up with are being carelessly trampled underfoot by the marching of corporate behemoths, maybe the trivia tab can at least tell you why.

By Lou Di Domenico

For an exhaustive list of everything else I’m furious at, go here: http://dukelimousine.blogspot.com/