How About Building the Film Before We Build the Universe?

power rangers bannerLionsgate

I’ve had it with this. It’s just too much, and no matter what I say, or how I say it, I might as well be shouting into a hurricane.

Today in theaters, we get the Power Rangers movie, something that I am not sure anyone was actually clamoring for, but lo and behold, it is given to us, anyway, because we can’t have nice things. This is how lucky we are, in the current marketplace, that a campy and fun kids’ show from a couple decades back is given the gritty, colorless, hard take for an audience that, as far as I can tell, is undefined.

I mean, is it for the kids of the ‘90s who loved these characters but have grown up? Is it for their kids, those of today, who like their heroes to be anti-heroes (or so the studios believe)? Someone feel free to explain it to me, because I’m really not sure. For realsies. No clue.

But that’s not what this is about. Not really. Revamping intellectual property because it’s an easier sell than original fare is the current reality (see, also, CHiPs, new to the theaters this very day, and more about that in a bit), so of course it was inevitable that Power Rangers producer Haim Saban was going to spend a hundred million or so of his dollars to put this thing on the big screen, because why not?

No, I’m sort of fine with that. Or, y’know, as fine as I’m going to be. At some point, there has to be some acceptance of basic truths, no matter how ridiculous they might seem.

My issue is with something Saban said this week. That’s what really got my goat.

“We already have a six-movie story arc,” he said, and I just about plotzed.

Seriously? We’re not even a day into the release of this revamped redone reboot and already we have to face the concept of five more? That is, if people even go to see this one? Or are we stuck with more of these regardless? Probably not, but I don’t know. Who really does anymore?

Since when did everything have to be about a multi-movie storyline? Or building a universe? Remember a time, not so long ago, when a movie would be released and, if it was a big hit, then it might engender a sequel? Something considered only after the box office results were tallied?

Oh, how I long for those halcyon days of yesteryear.

This is not, of course, isolated to these Rangers of the Power family. In May, we have a King Arthur movie hitting theaters starring Charlie Hunnam as the legendary regent, and that is apparently the first of a six-part series, too. Much as I love the Arthurian Legend stuff, how about we make sure the first movie is really good, first, and worry about World Building later? Is that too much to ask?

king arthurWarner Bros. Pictures

Look, I know there’s major financial aspects to this, and that the money is what’s talking here, but at what point does all this just become overkill? I obviously believe that time has come and gone and is a dot in the rearview mirror, but I’m not running one of these studios (though, if I haven’t made myself perfectly clear by now, I probably should be, if someone would just recognize that once and for all), so my opinion doesn’t necessarily count for much in the executive suites.

But the idea that every property has to be an IP, with potential for multiple chapters and the possibility of characters from different movies interacting in one big team up has infected the business like smallpox. Much as I love the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there is no question that its success is to blame here. It’s because of what Kevin Feige and his team have done that we’re now getting a series of movies from Universal in which The Mummy and The Wolf Man and The Invisible Man — and maybe The Abominable Snowman and Bigfoot and the ghost of Leona Helmsley, for all I know — will exist in the same continuity, and in a couple years we’ll have a movie with Godzilla facing off against King Kong, for whatever reason.

Because nothing really gets the blood flowing like seeing one special effect fight another one, apparently.

It’s not like there aren’t worlds to which we would like to return. The Incredibles, for instance, is finally getting a sequel next year, 13 and a half years after the first film won our hearts (and two Oscars), and became — in the opinion of at least one person (me) — the greatest superhero movie ever made. No question I’m excited to see that, just as I would have loved for my idol William Goldman to write Buttercup’s Baby and give us the Princess Bride sequel we all would have lined up to see.

IncrediblesWalt Disney Pictures

So I’m not saying I’m anti-sequel, or even anti-Cinematic Universe, especially when it’s done organically, like the way, yes, Marvel did it. People forget what an enormous gamble Iron Man was when it came out in 2008. If that movie had failed, none of those related movies would have been made, and, one could argue, neither would we be plagued by this universe building nonsense, nor the multi-movie storylines that are just as unnerving.

Maybe I’m biased, because my interest has always been in getting a single movie made and making it as good as it possibly can be before worrying about what comes next. It’s also possible that I’m horribly naive, and that none of these things get the green light unless and until they come up with a 12-year plan as to how the property will maximize potential for every conceivable dollar.

Then again, there is the aforementioned CHiPs, written, directed by and starring Dax Sheppard, who told Marc Maron on the comedian’s WTF podcast that, if the movie is a hit, then the next 10 years of his life are planned out, because he’ll end up writing and directing two sequels.

Which means that Warner Bros. might not have our best interests at heart by releasing this movie in the first place, but it’s going to wait to be sure anyone actually buys tickets for it before unleashing more of them on the viewing public.

So maybe there is still hope for us, after all.


Neil Turitz 2 is a filmmaker and journalist who has spent close to two decades working in and writing about Hollywood. Feel free to send him a tweet at @neilturitz. He’ll more than likely respond.

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