Unstoppable Film Franchises

Before I post my first previously published Hamilton Spectator article, I want to showcase another rejected piece from this period.  Unstoppable Film Franchises focuses on 5 film series that show no sign of ending any time soon.  Written in 2002 in consideration for the YourPlace page (which was part of the Entertainment Section and has since been discontinued), I was very disappointed it never made it into the paper. 
It’s been 4 years since I wrote it and as a result, I’ve had to make some updated revisions to make it more timely for 2006.  With the next James Bond film, Casino Royale, coming to theatres next month, this is a perfect time to present an article on long running (and neverending) film franchises.  I hope you enjoy it.
5 long-running movie series that show no sign of slowing down
By Dennis Earl

When is the right time to pull the plug on a movie franchise?  When all creativity is spent or when the money stops rolling in by the barrel?  In most cases, it’s usually the latter.  But even after a movie series’ commercial and creative peak has long passed, leave it to greedy old Hollywood to keep beating its dead cinematic horses.  The following franchises, with some exceptions, arguably might want to re-consider assisted suicide:

James Bond

2002 marked the 40th anniversary of the most successful ongoing movie series in history.  4 years later, the 25th chapter in this enduring franchise (a serious remake of Casino Royale), is ready to go with Daniel Craig (Layer Cake, Road To Perdition) becoming the sixth actor to play James Bond on the big screen.  5 actors have previously played author Ian Fleming’s macho British spy in 24 films which have collectively grossed almost 3 and a half billion worldwide.  Sean Connery is considered the best 007, appearing in 7 flicks, while George Lazenby, who only made On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in 1969, is the least liked Bond (which is unfair because he was effective in that disappointing film).  The first film in the series, Dr. No, debuted in the UK in October 1962 and, in my view, was a terrible film.  It wasn’t until From Russia With Love, the second movie, that the series understood what James Bond is all about.  (It’s held up remarkably well along with Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice.  I recommend all three as a terrific Sean Connery/007 triple bill.)  It remains to be seen what the overall reaction will be to this second and apparently darker version of Casino Royale.  (The 1967 original, which starred David Niven of all people as Bond, was played for laughs.)  Pierce Brosnan was hoping to reprise his most famous role again after 4 successful stints as the great British super spy.  But apparently, the producers wanted to go in a different direction, which is crazy considering how audiences worldwide warmly embraced the Irish actor every time he played Bond.  (Die Another Day, his last entertaining Bond film, made almost half a billion dollars internationally.)  The filmmakers are taking a risk on Daniel Craig who is a good character actor as he proved in Road To Perdition when he played gangster Paul Newman’s son.  But does he have what it takes to play a beloved super spy?  I withhold judgment, as always, until I see the film (which probably won’t be for a long time, knowing me).  All the Bond films made from 1962 to 1989 were based on actual Ian Fleming novels.  Since 1995’s Goldeneye (the name of Fleming’s self-build residence where he wrote the books), all the Bond films have been original stories.  That is until this upcoming remake of Casino Royale.  From what I understand, the James Bond that Ian Fleming wrote about was very different than the one that appeared in the movies.  He was very much a cold fish and not really a ladykiller and I’m wondering if that’s the direction they’re going to be taking Bond in from here on out.  It all depends how well the movie is received by audiences.  Casino Royale opens in theatres on November 17. 

The Pink Panther

It might not have been as successful or prolific as the Bond pictures, but this on-going comedic franchise is only 2 years younger.  Following The Pink Panther in 1964, there have been 8 sequels.  Peter Sellers played the bumbling Inspector Clouseau in 6 of the 9 films, easily making him the definitive actor for the part. (Alan Arkin played him in Inspector Clouseau (1968).) In the last 20 years, at least one Panther movie has appeared.  In 1983, Ted Wass (Soap, Blossom) played moronic NYPD Sgt. Clifton Sleigh who is assigned to find the missing Clouseau in Curse Of The Pink Panther.  And 10 years later, Son Of The Pink Panther was released.  Director Blake Edwards originally wanted Gerard Depardieu for the role of Clouseau Jr., but Roberto Benigni was cast instead.  (6 years later, Benigni won a couple of Oscars for his overrated hit, Life Is Beautiful.)  In 2006, after much delay, the tenth Pink Panther movie hit theatres.  This was a remake of the awful original with Steve Martin becoming the third actor to play Clouseau.  He was cast in the role after Mike Myers and Kevin Spacey both turned down the opportunity.  The movie was a surprise hit this past February earning 82 million dollars during its run in North American theatres.  (According to the Internet Movie Database, though, it cost roughly 80 million to produce.)  As a result, an eleventh film in the series is scheduled for release in 2008.  It has no title and is currently in development, according to the IMDb. 


John Carpenter’s Halloween was a surprise indie smash in 1978 and it has inspired 7 less successful sequels.  The anti-hero of the series, Michael Myers, a masked homicidal mental patient, has appeared in all but one of these films despite being shot, beaten and burned in movie after movie.  The last sequel, Halloween: Resurrection, was issued in the summer of 2002 and once again, Jamie Lee Curtis made an appearance.  (She has been in half of the movies, thus far.)  Now, as was the case with The Pink Panther, the franchise lives on with an upcoming remake of the original, which is considered one of the scariest and most influential horror movies of all time.  Rob Zombie, who has found a second career as a horror movie director, is the brave soul hoping to tackle this impossible project.  I wish him well.  He’s a talented musician whose previous film work I’ve yet to see but he’s got his work cut out for him taking on a highly regarded film like this one.  As of right now, the ninth Halloween movie (the remake of the original), is due to be released theatrically on October 19, 2007. 

Star Trek

10 years after the original TV series signed off prematurely, Trekkers were clamouring for the debut film which made 139 million worldwide despite being a snoozefest.  Before 2002, the movie franchise was an enduring moneymaker, despite some critical misses and the replacement of Kirk and company with The Next Generation stars in the 1990s.  After the release of the tenth film, Star Trek: Nemesis, reality set in.  The film was a commercial failure and more importantly, not a good movie.  Still, it was an improvement, for me, over Insurrection, the 1998 stinker which was the worst chapter in the series since the original.  It’s been 40 years since the original voyages of the Starship Enterprise and there are no new Star Trek TV series on the air.  Enterprise, the fifth series following Voyager, Deep Space Nine, Next Generation and the original Star Trek, went off the air in 2005 after a 4-year run.  But an eleventh feature film is in the works for 2008.  Spearheaded by red-hot filmmaker J.J. Abrams (M.I. III, Lost), the film is reportedly focusing on the early years of Captain James Tiberius Kirk and his Vulcan pal, Mr. Spock.  One of the most influential franchises, in more ways than one, hopefully this new film will come up with some freshness that the series has been lacking since they killed off Kirk in Generations (for me, the best Star Trek movie).  The movie, which doesn’t have an official title yet, is tentatively scheduled for July 2008.

Friday The 13th

Like Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees is incapable of dying as long as movie fans want to see him slash more victims.  Inspired by the success of Halloween, Friday The 13th was originally released in May 1980 and came across as Psycho in reverse.  (You know what I mean if you’ve seen the film.)  It made a nice profit for its distributor, Paramount Pictures.  (37 million on a $700,000 budget. )  Jason didn’t officially start killing people, though, until Part 2 which was released in 1981.  He didn’t start wearing the infamous hockey mask until well into the third movie which was filmed in 3D.  Unsurprisingly, since then, there have been even more sequels as well as premature “finales”.  On at least two occasions – The Final Chapter (part four) and Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday (number nine) – the filmmakers have gone so far as to promise the audience the true end of Jason, only to revive him once again in a later sequel.  The fifth installment, A New Beginning, (a false title if there ever was one) didn’t actually feature the true Jason, only an imitator.  But apparently, the real Jason is brought back to life in Jason Lives, the sixth movie.  (I will know for sure when I screen the movie soon.)  Jason has been revived two more times this decade.  In 2002, he moved from Crystal Lake and Manhattan to outer space in Jason X and the following year he battled Freddy Krueger, the indestructible villain from the Nightmare On Elm Street franchise in Freddy Vs. Jason.  Now, it’s been announced, that there will be yet another film in the franchise.  According to an online report, it’s going to be a prequel and I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up being called Friday The 13th: The Beginning.  It’s coming in 2007.  Oh goody.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, October 29, 2006
5:33 p.m.
Published in: on October 29, 2006 at 5:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://dennisearl.wordpress.com/2006/10/29/unstoppable-film-franchises/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: