In the last article (https://creators.co/@Art-Peeter/3876075) I focused on some of the lesson' s learned from two great movie trilogies on what to keep in mind, when building a franchise and how to approach the beginning, the middle and the conclusion of it. But what about a situation where the problem is not setting up a franchise or concluding it, but getting it properly moving again. Lets look at three examples, where a franchise has been successfully kickstarted and what we can learn from them.
Vin Diesel - the master of kickstarting (no pun intended) a franchiseNot signed in
Whatever one's feelings about the depth and quality of the Fast and Furious saga (wow - a saga), you have to give credit where massive credit is due. Vin Diesel along with his co creators and actors have kickstarted almost buried franchise and elevated it to one of the biggest franchises in movie history. Lets see how did they manage it and what lessons can be learned from it.
How did the franchise lost its way?
Well, it's a fairly basic turn of events. Original Fast and The Furious was a simple concept with a simple story and a specific focus (streetracing, cars etc.) with likeable cast. It turned out great (entertaining at least) and became a hit. Of course, because it was a hit, it needed a $equel - queue 2 Fast 2 Furious. Which, for all intents and purposes, was a classic case of a cash in. And, as is the case with a lot of cash ins like that, it completely missed the point on why the first one worked. Of course it was about cars and underground streetracing scene (which if your a petrolhead like me has some value on it own), but it would not have been as popular as it was whitout its likeable and diverse cast and simple but serviceably enjoyable story. That is the core of any movie - story and characters no matter what the subject matter.
Then, understanding that their cash cow is almost milked dry but not wanting to let go, Tokyo Drift was made. Even though it was a different direction, which is nice and provided some new elements, it was still equally unnecessary like the second one.
So that was it. It looked like it was about to go down as "that thing in early 2000-s". But in 2009 came the fourth one that put the seires back on track and fifth one that elevated the series to new heights in terms of popularity and ambition at least. It was followed by sixth and seventh that have continued on these heights and is getting three more sequels. Like the series or not, but this is quite a turnaround.
How did they manage to kickstart it?
One of the biggest reasons my hat comes off to the creating team behind Fast and Furious franchise is how they have done everything right in terms of building something big from the ashes.
Firstly, they made sure they understood, what elements made the first one great. As said before, it was mainly its likeable and diverse cast and characters and their chemistry with eachother. They took that and used the world of cars as an excuse to continue their story (however straightforward and simple as it has been ) and not the other way around.
Secondly, when you have got the core elements of what made the first one great, the next thing the creating team did, was to use it in new and more ambitious context. That culminated in Fast Five as an epic heist movie and they just went on from there. It had the cars, it had the cast and chemistry from the first film, but they used them to a more ambitious context.
Another thing the creators did, was to create a plan - think bigger than one movie. Now, in my previous article, I pointed out the perils of thinking in franchises rather than in single movies, but in order for a good franchise to exist, it obivously needs to be done. It just should not damage the prospects of making every movie stand strongly on its own as well as a part of the franchise.
Finally, but perhaps most crucially, they (creators) didn't shy away from the parts (2 Fast 2 Furious and Tokyo Drift) that derailed the franchise in the first place!
The thing is - like it or not, these weak movies are out there. It is tempting to sort of ignore their existance with the purpose of starting clean, but that is a potentially huge mistake and the creators understood that.
When it comes to the wearker entries in the series (especially in the case of big budget movies), a lot of resource and effort still went into them and therefore they almost certainly have some good elements in them no matter how few. For that reason, it is wise to cherrypick these good elements and use them in the new kickstarted franchise. If they are there for the taking, why not use them?
Also, by doing that, you elevate these otherwise bad movies and give them some new level of likeabilty/acceptability by giving them more important role in the overall story. It is a win - win. Embrace the franchise, don't be embaraced by the wearker parts. A saying goes that a team is only as strong as it's weakest link and that can be appiled to franchises as well. The creators of the reinvented Fast and Furious franchise have understood that brilliantly.
Lets sum up the lessons learned from the revival of Fast and Furious franchise:
1. Understand what really made the franchise great in the first place
2. Use that base to take story into more ambitious levels
3. Think bigger than one movie
4. Don`t ignore the good elements form wearker entries that derailed the franchise and use what ever is good about them to your advantage.
On a side note, Vin Diesel applied the same approach ( lessons 1 and 4 mainly) to the new Riddick movie and from what I have heard, XXX franchise is also getting similar treatment. That guy clearly has it figured out and props to him for that.
Bond franchise - A case study in how to kickstart/reinvent a franchise and play with the formula of it
Kickstarting or reinventing a franchise after it has derailed is almost a part of Bond's DNA after its 50 + years runtime, that has no end in sight. Although Bond and it' s constant redefining of itself is probably something that deserves its own article ( or a book ), lets look at a few more notable examples and what can be learned from them.
Good ol' Rog giving the much needed stability to the franchise.
Dr No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger. Connery and Bond took the world by storm. Dr No kicked things off respectably, from Russia with love improved on it in every sense and Goldfinger was a perfect effort that solidified Bond in public conciounsess for good.
But then slowly but very clearly, it started going downhill. Instead of trying to recapture the more serious approach of From Russia with Love, the series tried more and more to rely on the more superficial elemets of the now established Bond formula and ride the wave Goldfinger created. It got sillier and sillier... clearly a bit too silly for Connery who wanted new challenges as an actor and left the franchise. Lazenby came and left before he could settle into the role ( I think he might have had potetntial) and then Connery came back and left again after one tired and disappointing outing (Diamonds are Forever).
The creators ( Cubby Broccoly and Harry Saltzman) were desperate to keep their franchise moving and decided to hire a 46 year old TV star Roger Moore who... managed to kickstart the franchise.
Moore's tenure as Bond. Yeah, it was a far cry from what Fleming originally wrote. It continued the trend of going sillier and sillier. But it crucially embraced the silliness and did it with such effortless style that it made Moore the longest serving Bond ever. People can say, that it was a complete cartoon, but the creators understood that and actually made what was a weakness in the end of Connery's tenure into a strenght.
Dalton goes straight to the source.
As we know Moore stayed around a bit too long as Bond and what once was a necessary stability, had now become an unwanted stagnation. When Moore left and Brosnan could not get out of his Remington Steele contract, it placed Dalton in a position to make an ultimatum that probably could be summed up like so: "Lets bring the series back to its roots and return to the character that Fleming wrote or I refuse to participate."
What we got was a good shot in the arm and a change of direction with the Living Daylights and a complete 360 in the gritty and criminally underrated Licensce to Kill along with Dalton' s brilliantly intense and human portrayal of the character. This time around, going back to the very source was the key to reinvent the franchise.
Brosnan creates the best compromise
Legal issuses, License to Kill's poor marketing and poor box office, a change in political landscape brought along a six year hiatus where Bond's existance in the post Cold War era was called into question. So, when Dalton left and Brosnan replaced him, it was arqueably the most important reinvention the series has had because if that one failed, it might have actually been the end of Bond for good ( well, somebody would have eventually picked it up again but when and who is completely another question). Goldeneye came out and was a hit.
The key this time around was that the movie like it' s main star, had elements from all the previous Bonds, mashed it up nearly perfectly and then placed all of it in modern/contemporary context.
Brosan as Bond had (to a certain extent at least) the charisma of Connery, effortless humor of Moore, vunerability and seriounsess of Dalton. I don' t want to say that he was necessarily better as Bond than the formentioned actors, but he was a good and well balacned compromise of all the different approaches to Bond that had been made so far (compromise although does not necessarily mean the best). Of course he also brought along many elements, that had not been previously there at all.
The same goes for Goldeneye as a movie. It had seriousness to it, but also humor and classic Bond elements/moments ( the Bond formula) and added something new (Bond going against an ex 00- agent). It was also self aware, when it came to the Bond formula. Then it placed all of it in the 90-s context. Now, granted, a compromise is not always a good thing, but that time around it worked. So to sum up: Placing our good old "sexist misogynist dinosaur, a relic of the cold war" in the context of 90-s, adding some new elements and self awareness, proved, that the Bond formula can still work in a different era while also evolving with it.
Craig - The much needed force of nature.
And again, circle comes to an end as people get different standards in what they want from spy movies ( Bourne franchise for example). So, a huge CGI wave of mixed reactions to Die Another Day (personally a huge quilty pleasure for me) later, and the series relevance is once more called into question. After a 4 year break (and much pessimism) Daniel Craig blows everyone away with Casino Royale. The key to success here is wiping the slate completely clean, not trying to mimic anything and make as feral and thrilling emotionally driven spy movie as possible while still subtely keeping the essence and the feeling of Bond. Basically showing that even if the formula dosen't quiet work anymore, an utterly brilliant movie (perhpas the best Bond movie in terms of story and emotion) can still be made with the character.
Craig - Old dog, new tricks
Craig has actually had to reinvent the franchise twice, since after the poorly recieved Quantum of Solace, the question was up again about the relevancy of Bond. Along came Skyfall which was a massive succsess in every way possible. This time around the series proved that sometimes old beats the new and that old and new can coexist. They did it by bringing back a lot of the classic Bond formula, while still keeping the emotional tone and seriousness set in Casino Royale. Therefore, Skyfall proved, that the problem of the Bond formula being old and obsolete, can actually be written into the story with the whole old dog, new tricks and old vs new theme.
Lets sum up many different options that Bond franchise has used to kickstart a franchise.
1. Try to do a completely different approach and commit to it
2. Instead of shying away from some of the problematic trends the franchise has gotten, embrace them and see if you can make them work .
3. A retrun to the very source of the franchise will provide a necessary quide.
4. Try taking all the main elements of the franchise to make a strong compromise out of them and then place them in contemporary setting.
5. Throw almost everything out of window except the very essientials and just try to make a brilliant movie.
6. Use the idea of the old formula not fitting into current context as a part of the story (old vs new angle).
I quess the trick is to basically play with the formula but not for the sake of it ;).
Star Wars - Expanding done right.Not signed in
With Star Wars, it is a bit more tricky to read into, because it is just so expansive and in many ways the kickstart is still a work in progress, but the word expansion is actually the key point here.
How did it lose its way?
So the prequels. While I personally have a strong nostalgic attachement to them and I think they have some genuinenly good elements in them, it is fair to say that the overall reaction to them made most extremely sceptical about The Force Awakens.
How has it kickstarted itself?
The fact that TheThe Force Awakens managed to pull out an amazing cinema experience and become on of the biggest movies ever, deserves kudos, that's for sure. Yes, it relayed heavily on the nostalgia factor, but it also managed to put it in fresh context and just foucs on making a brilliant movie. Add to that the novels, Clone Wars series and Rebels that have surpassed probably most expectations in terms of quality, then upcoming spinoffs and we can admit that Star Wars has cast away any doubts about its longetivity and prospects.
What can be learned from it?
Among the lessons that can be learend from it are the aforementioned old vs new theme, going straigth to source material and just focusing on making as good of a movie as possible. But the main one here is just expanding and exploring the vast universe that Star Wars offers and trying to use its potetnial in as many ways and on as many levels as possible all the while having passionate people, who are big fans of the series, doing all of it (Dave Filioni, JJ Abrhams etc.). If you have so much to work with on so many levels, then find the right people with right passion and fire from all canons. So far it seems to be working perfectly. On a side note, it is interesting if Star Wars takes takes a page out of VIn Diesel' s book and uses some of the good element' s in otherwise flawed prequels ( Obi Wan spinoff with Mcgregor etc.).
To sum up
These are just few examples of how to kickstart a franchise. As we see, there many, many ways of going about it, but one thing is consistent in all of them - it' s kinda beautiful to see a beloved franchise rise from the ashes ;)