class=”alignleft size-thumbnail wp-image-30350″ style=”margin: 10px;” title=”Green Lantern 4″ src=”https://www.heyuguys.com/images/2010/07/Green-Lantern-4-220×150.jpg” alt=”” width=”220″ height=”150″ />Last week it was revealed that Michael Goldenberg (who adapted Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) had been hired to pen a sequel to the forthcoming Green Lantern movie. When i say forthcoming, of course, i mean not until 2011, meaning the follow-up has begun development almost a year before the initial film’s release. This was followed up this week by a rumour hitting the ‘net that an Expendables sequel was also being mooted, again before the first film had even hit cinemas.
On the one hand, this is great news. All the movie-goers who loved The Expendables this week could enjoy it in the knowledge that they will get to see more in the future. For Green Lantern and DC fans, it shows that DC and Warner Bros are serious about making use of their licensed franchises, and that the super hero movie boom will continue on indefinitely.
For me, however, it instead felt almost like a slap in the face. To be clear, I am a fan of the Green Lantern, and DC characters in general. I am also looking forward to enjoying the dumb fun of Sly and his fellow action heroes raining hot lead on an army of bad guys. The reason i felt insulted was not because i don’t want to see these sequels, or the initial movies they are following on from, but because the people involved assume that i do.
That may sound a bit silly on first read, but think about it for a second. Use Green Lantern as the example, as it is much more presumptuous. There have been no test screenings of the movie. Shooting only wrapped just over a week ago. The studio do not yet know if it will be any good, but they are taking for granted that because it is based on a popular franchise, with a recognisable lead attached, that it will make a lot of money. They are taking the attitude that it doesn’t matter what the review scores are, or if turns out to be a coherent movie, that people are going to mindlessly spend money on it regardless of its quality.
There are two reasons this angers me. The first is the obvious, as i have detailed it above. The average movie-goer is seen by the studio as a sheep, and they think that by putting enough marketing power behind any film, or using a licensed property that they know has an inbuilt fanbase, they can influence people into going to see a movie regardless of its quality. Now, I’m not saying that Green Lantern won’t be very good, I’m saying that the studio doesn’t know yet if it will be, and yet are still banking on it making a healthy profit.
The other reason this situation frustrates me is that they are right. There is a rich history of very poor big budget blockbusters making huge amounts of money despite not being very good. The Last Airbender is a recent example. Huge amounts of money were poured into both Airbender’s production budget and marketing campaigns. This was done because it was believed that it would make a ton of money, and with many of the sets and props built, as well as fx shots created, they could then go on to churn out sequels at a lower cost. They were right, it did make a lot of money, despite getting some of the worst review scores in recent memory. It has not made enough yet to cover costs, however, so it is representative of what could happen on a much greater scale when sequels are put into development before the profits are known for the preceding films.
There is a danger, if production companies get too ahead of themselves, that they could end up in serious financial straights by biting off more than they can chew. With Green Lantern, writing a screenplay for a sequel isn’t going to cost a great deal, and so far as i know the Expendables sequel is nothing more than the root of an idea. However, the natural extension of what is happening is for companies to put sequels into active production before the release of the parent movie. If this happens, there will invariably be movies that do not meet their expectations at the box office, resulting in finances wasted on a movie that nobody wants, hours of wasted man power, and in extreme cases abandoned productions.
There have been sequels made back to back, and so far, it hasn’t resulted in huge financial crisis. As far as Green Lantern goes, i am willing to accept that yes, it probably will make a bucket load of money. The comic book movie era has not yet passed, in fact there seem to be more comic based movies in production than ever. Whilst it may struggle to perform as well at the box office as the more established Batman series, the recent success of Iron Man, a Marvel character with no previous big screen pedigree, has shown that secondary superheroes can still draw crowds in as long as the movies are well made and, perhaps more importantly, well marketed.
I definitely feel, at a time when the film industry should be counting the pennies along with the rest of the economic world, that this is a dangerous route that could destroy anyone who treads too far along it. I am not strictly against sequels, and like all the other sheep I’ll probably be paying to see Green Lantern. I just think it is important to take a realistic view of the future. As The Last Airbender has shown, if a big budget movie is God-awful enough, even a large proportion of the casual audience will stay away.
Bazmann – You can follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/baz_mann