It all began so well for the British filmmaker. Bursting onto the scene with independent cockney gangster flick Lock, Stock, Ritchie followed up with the similarly themed, though more polished Snatch. Hollywood stars were knocking on his door for parts, and the mockney boy was set. Except it all went a bit wrong. Follow up Swept Away was poor, and quality control quickly spiralled downwards. Ritchie had become Mr Madonna, and a bit of a joke. His last picture before Holmes, RocknRolla, was an attempt to go back to what made him a success. Unfortunately it was panned, and his filmmaking career looked washed up. With an intriguing trailer and the star power of Robert Downey Jr, however, Holmes became the success Ritchie desperately needed.
Why, then, would he take the risk of a brand new property when a sequel is guaranteed to achieve similar numbers? That’s all well and good, but isn’t it a little bit early to start thinking about a sequel? Holmes still has theatrical life in it, and it will be months before DVD brings it to a new audience. Until the movie has been more widely viewed, how can a true picture be gotten of what was good about the film and what was bad? What worked and what didn’t? At this rate the script for the sequel will probably have been knocked out before the DVD is even released. Ritchie isn’t the only one to jump straight from movie to sequel either. Jon Favreau went in to Iron Man 2 not having worked on an interim project. James Cameron has many mooted projects, but following Avatar’s success it’s looking increasingly likely that his next feature will be Avatar 2.
The problem with such quick turnarounds is that the sequels are obviously being made for the wrong reasons, i.e. financial. It means the filmmakers aren’t waiting for the right script, or storyline ideas. It just doesn’t allow for a long enough gestation period, and the likely outcome will be a lacklustre follow-up. These filmmakers may well have ideas about what storyline a sequel would follow, but time away would give them time to think about it, and they could then come back with a fresh perspective.
Christopher Nolan has the right idea. After Batman Begins, even despite its success, he went away and did The Prestige. The time away from the franchise gave him fresh perspective, and some different experience. Most importantly it gave the inevitable 2nd movie time to grow, for the ideas to develop naturally. The outcome was one of the films of the decade. Everyone was calling for a 3rd Batman movie, but again Nolan went away to do something different. He sensibly stated that he would only make another film if the right idea came along. A great movie cannot be rushed.
We can’t lay all the blame at the filmmaker’s doors however. The studios obviously exert significant pressure on directors to develop a project when they see the dollar signs. Probably the best example of this is the recent news that Transformers 3 is going into production. Michael Bay had gone on record saying he wanted a break before getting to work on another Transformers movie, that he would take on another production in-between. It looks as though the studio convinced him otherwise. One man who didn’t let a studio dictate his schedule is Gore Verbinski. He insisted there was another picture he wanted to make before he thought about a Pirates 4. He was promptly replaced on the series by Nine director Rob Marshall. That’s the power that the studios have, an ability to hire and fire at will. When they have been working on a successful series of films, this makes it difficult for directors to make the decision to step off the boat.
The biggest problem i have with Ritchie’s turnaround, among others, is that it makes me question their commitment to the movies they dropped. Ritchie clearly didn’t have his heart set on Lobo, or he would have stuck with the job and revisited Holmes when it was done. It was clearly just a paycheque to him. Quite possibly a narrow escape for the adaptation then, maybe now it’ll find a helmer who is genuinely interested in making a great movie.
When i was younger, we had to wait many years for the sequels to our favourite films. It didn’t dull our interest in a franchise, it heightened it. The excitement was allowed to build, our appreciation of the original movie to grow. And in many cases, it allowed great ideas time to develop, interesting and unique storylines to mature. Great things are worth waiting for, and i’d rather wait for a great movie than than be hastily served up a mediocre one.