Quick Takes: Milking Franchises

The Seventh installment of star wars “The Force Awakens” reminds audiences that milking franchises remains at the heart of film industries–is originality and creativity compromised?

The Commercialization of Movies Occurs to the Detriments of Creativity

Diehard Star Wars enthusiasts have long awaited the release of episode VII, “The Force Awakens.” They hoped that this film, unlike its predecessors, would advance the storyline of the original films while still staying true to the Star Wars spirit. Instead, fans were given the same plotline as the 1977 “Star Wars: A New Hope” with better camera work and much more hype.

George Lucas sold his production company, Lucasfilm, along with the rights to Star Wars to the Disney Corporation in 2012. Along with this purchase, Lucas gave the company his ideas and a script for episode VII. Disney and director J.J. Abrams promptly scrapped Lucas’s opinions and instead gave audiences a film with a recycled storyline and little development. This is not to say that Disney is the only company that is milking franchises by cashing in on the hype surrounding these films and television shows. In recent years, audiences have been fed a steady diet of film and television reboots, most notably the Marvel and DC comic book films.

The question here lies between commercialization and creativity. Film and television executives continue to remake well-loved franchises in order to profit off fans of the initial series. They know that audiences who enjoyed the original films will spend their money to see a reboot or a sequel. This commercialization, however, occurs at the expense of creativity. Instead of new ideas, character development and plot twists, audiences are being given watered-down versions of their old film favorites. Risk-taking and ingenuity are key to better films and inspiring millions of young moviegoers to dream and create.

— MEGAN MONGES  Staff Writer

Originality is an Outdated Concept, When Ideas are Constantly Recycled

Hollywood’s recent influx of franchise reboots, sequels and adaptations have caused audiences to worry about the originality and quality of film but there is an irony to that concern, which is that original works aren’t completely original. The Star Wars franchise, with the recent debut of “The Force Awakens,” is a prime example.

The original film takes from Japanese film director Kurosawa, most notably “The Hidden Fortress” (1958), and “Flash Gordon,” a 1934 American comic. The film includes tropes like the zero-to-hero protagonist, wise old mentor, princess in a castle and a thousand other examples that aren’t exactly groundbreaking developments.

This shows that so-called original content is rarely 100 percent original. Originality is taking various story elements, mixing them together and then adding unique ideas to make something new. Reboots do the same but they also reuse key elements already present in a franchise. Originality is a valid concern, but that’s something original works have to deal with as well.

Quality has nothing to do with a movie’s originality. It’s an original abomination that should disappear from theatres forever. “Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015) achieved widespread critical and popular acclaim as a masterful resurrection of a 36-year-old franchise.

Hollywood is being safe, producing films with established fan bases, but that doesn’t mean it’s making inherently worse movies. There have been and always will be, plenty of fan-favorites, disastrous bombs and forgettable films. These films will include originals and cash cows, but their quality and even their originality, won’t be determined by the newness of their titles. 

 — AHMAD ALIJAWAD Staff Writer

While Old Films are Remade, New Growth and Ideas Can be Generated

Spanning four decades, Star Wars remains a powerful force in our culture. Its seventh installment, “The Force Awakens,” closed 2015 with record-breaking box office success and ubiquitous hype, setting the precedent for five more films. Aside from inevitable profit, we must also consider its cultural capital, how these films can bridge generations with a common interest in a galaxy far, far away, and reinforce, update and hopefully improve the prevalent tropes and narratives in our shared cultural consciousness. Reawakening a pop-culture giant like Star Wars gives us the chance to use a time-tested story to show who we were, are and hope to become.

Although the world was a very different place in 1977, it had many of the same hopes and fears of today but in different contexts. It is possible to remake a saga across generations by adapting to the spirit of new times without losing the original essence. Some call the new film a formulaic revisit of “A New Hope,” but our ancestors have retold the same variations on epic, heroic journeys for millennia without them becoming stale.

The film’s adaptation to contemporary contexts makes all the difference. For example, the original trilogy and the prequels have a reputation for their token treatment of women and people of color, not to mention certain aliens written as racial caricatures. “The Force Awakens” takes a step toward atonement with Rey and Finn, protagonists who add some due representation to the galaxy’s skewed demographics. Intergenerational franchises allow us to redesign classic narratives to document the unique spirit of these particular times with new messages to empower younger generations.

 — THOMAS FINN Senior Staff Writer