Thursday, January 8, 2009
An Evolution in Franchise Milking
Ah, children, the new year is upon us at last. As many of you may know, Charles Darwin celebrates some anniversaries this year, including the publication of The Origin of Species. I had planned to do a little article on Charlie, as I'm quite taken with him. However, I realized just in time that this is a visual media blog, not a general blog. It is with this in mind that I bring you a feature on another one of 2009's evolutionary offerings: a god-fucking Dragonball live action film.
I won't lie (nor will you other brothers) and say that I didn't like Dragonball a lot when I was a kid. In a nostalgic sense, I still do like it. I still get in pretend ki fights with people from time to time. There are thousands like me, most of them in the 18-35 age bracket. This does not mean that thousands of people want to see it made into a live action feature with James fucking Marsters as Piccolo.
Back in the day, there were rumors of a movie with an actual budget coming out making the rounds in just about every discussion forum and mailing list. We became numb to it eventually, dismissing the possibility as remote and even laughable. Why the Hell would an American motion picture company want to produce a film based on a foreign series enjoyed primarily by ten year olds and nerds? I mean, especially when several Japanese-produced animated films already existed, why bother?
Of course, with the recent success of other nostalgia films like Transformers, it seems it would only make sense in this market to continue the trend of milking existing franchises for all they're worth. Things are on the rocks, so why not go with what appears to be a sure thing instead of trying something new? It might not make as much money as a totally original film would if it was a big hit, but why risk a total flop?
I know that sounds cynical, so I want to make one thing clear: I want to see this fucking film. I don't care if I have to take the bus and walk all the way to the theatre from the bus station; I will see it! My need for Spikolo knows no bounds. I don't even want to see it in a so-bad-it's-good trainwreck syndrome way; I just want to see what the fuck they're doing. As of late, I am way too fascinated by re-imaginings of existing series, and seeing Dragonball converted into an American action film would do me just fine. Just looking at the trailer fills me with a burning need to go see it, just for the sake of knowing more.
Something I find amusing is the sentiment in the online community, both within and without the YouTube comments on the video, that the question of whether or not the film will be awful can be debated. This is hilarious to me for several reasons, chief among them being the tendency toward frothing rage on either side of the argument. You're either an idiot for believing it will be good, or a depressive pessimist for assuming that it will be bad.
Here's my take on things: There is a slim but present chance that this movie will be good as a movie. The odds of it being a faithful and pleasing adaptation of the original are absolutely abysmal, and I think the internet as a whole will be a lot happier once it realizes this. In fact, let's not stop there. Let's get more general and offensive and say: No live action film adaptation of a non-film franchise will ever, ever be a totally acceptable adaptation. Never. There are several reasons for this, and I am prepared to list some of them:
1. If the original medium was not film, odds are it will not translate well to film.
I believe this to be where most critical failures of film adaptations begin. Let's take the example of video games, since they're a popular target for certain over-eager film makers more often than not. Now, many video games have interesting and engaging plotlines; this much is true. One would think, for instance, that Silent Hill would make for a fantastic film, and I did indeed make that mistake. However, you and I both forget that much of the entertainment that we derive from video games comes from slowly being fed bits of the overarching plot. This is, of course, why we get so fantastically angry when our insensitive friends spoil that Dumbledore kills Aeris. When you can't draw out the plot-feeding by having the movie's protagonist jump through the hoops of dungeon exploring, the plot will either be so condensed that it feels forced and rushed, or be adequately spread out and neglect several minor details. Either way, people will be displeased.
2. There is very little outside encouragement to make these movies good
Let's face it: If you slap the name of an existing franchise onto a movie, you automatically ensure that it will make some money. Even if it's just from kids, parents, and nerds hoping to see a trainwreck, you're more or less guaranteed at least some profit. The movie's worth is sort of artificially inflated this way. There's just as good a chance that you'll make tons of cash releasing an acceptable movie with a recognizable name, and not so good odds that you'll make decent cash with an exceptional movie from a previously unknown property. When you want some fast cash (and who the Hell doesn't?), there's less effort and more assured cash in just making a franchise film that won't cause viewers to kill themselves out of shame.
3. Uwe Boll exists
And he has ruined it for us all.