What's the next big thing for movies? Some believe that it may be special effects, or even new shooting techniques, such as Iñárritu's The Revenant, shot in sequence using only natural light. Or could it possibly be the usage of another devices such as video games, graphic novels or TV cartoons?
Perhaps you've heard of a movie called Tron Legacy, the sequel to Tron (if Clancy Wiggum hadn't seen that one, why would you?). Disney Studios tried to launch a new franchise in the middle of reboots and remakes, but Tron wasn't a safe bet. The House of Mouse spent a big budget in marketing and merchandising, expecting children to fall for Tron Legacy and make way for some sequels. Nonetheless, months ago, sadly, we learned that Disney cancelled Tron 3 and focused in some other projects.
Things didn't exactly go as planned. however Disney did something really good and probably aren't even aware of it. They used another vehicles to expand the universe within the film, in the form of video games, graphic novels and an animated series. It was exTRONdinary ambitious. If the outcome didn't pay off as expected, at least they could learn from the failed experiment.
Nevertheless, how is itthat video games, graphic novels or TV cartoons can help big movie franchises? Lets explore some interesting options studios have if they want to expand their movie into a larger franchise.
Tron Evolution was disappointing but entertaining for most Tron fans. The purpose of the game was to take on one of the characters of The Grid and explore it. As the game progressed, you find yourself helping no other than Quorra escape the villainous hands of Abraxas, one of Clu's thugs. The game play of Tron Evolution isn't difficult. Unfortunately, the plot of the game doesn't quite top the outstanding graphics. Once you've completed the game, you get to see how Quorra and Kevin Flynn first met (then in Tron Legacy Flynn explains Sam how he found her and that precisely how Tron Evolution ties-in with the film).
If a video game didn't work for Tron Legacy, how can it help big blockbusters? Imagine for a moment we're three months prior to the release of Star Wars Episode XI and Disney releases a video game that explores one of the characters story following the events of Episode X. If that's not exciting, how about a bonus? Once you complete the game you'll unblock the second and final trailer of the upcoming film (but it will expire once it finishes playing).
To use video games as a platform to expand a movie universe may be an attractive idea but it has to have an engaging story.
For Disney, Tron Legacy was an ambitious project and they had faith in it. Proof of this is that a Tron Legacy graphic novel prequel was published: Tron Betrayal.
Whatever thing we missed from Tron to Tron Legacy, Tron Betrayal helped to bridge the two movies and the result is actually great. Tron Betrayal revolves around the time Flynn spent in The Grid and deals as well with Clu's uprising. If you recall the scene in Legacy when Kevin tells Sam how Clu plotted against him and how Tron was destroyed, the graphic novel tells you in detail those events.
A graphic novel may serve to tie-in the most general, but further relevant, events of any given film to another. Or simply function as a prequel. Remember that awful movie The Surrogates directed by Jonathan Mostow? It's based on a graphic novel of the same name and the writer of the story, Robert Venditti, wrote a prequel to his own work. Even Se7ven has a prequel recently published that expands the stories behind the deaths of the seven people in the movie (it's not actually worth reading).
There's one amazing thing with the Star Wars prequels and that's the animated mini-series Clone Wars. The following season with the same name is ok, but what Genndy Tartakovsky created in 2003 was marvelous. 2 or 3 minutes were enough to develop the story within each chapter and all together delivered a superb story following the story of Attack of the Clones. What's remarkable is that the last 5 episodes of the mini series show us the siege of Coruscant by General Grievous and how he kidnapped Chancellor Palpatine. But what's indeed astonishing is that Revenge of the Sith takes off where the last episode of the mini series left us.
Tron Uprising aired from 2012 to 2013. It follows the story of Beck, a rebel program who fought against Clu and his regime of terror in The Grid. Tron Uprising picks up after the fight between Clu and Tron and it focused on Beck, an all new character for the Tron universe, that will lately be trained by Tron himself, who barely escaped alive Clu (that is why Kevin tells Sam he didn't know if Tron was killed or not). No matter if Tron Uprising only has one season, it digs in into the events succeeding Clu's insurrection.
TV cartoons might be as useful as video games or graphic novels. To make a TV cartoon series may be little more complicated that the previous two, still it's a good choice if studios go for it, just to enhance the arch story of a film. Hopefully, big movie franchises will take advantage of those in the not so distant future and, who knows, those will become part of the big movie franchises.