22nd Nov2017

Culture Dump #18: Can being TOO successful hurt a film series?

by Simon Bland


We hear about the shortcomings of films all too often these days. It feels like sometimes a movie’s fate can be sealed even before the lights have started to dim in the cinema. Like it or loath it, the Internet has given everyone a voice and it seems that everyone has chosen to use that voice to bad mouth movies as soon as they hear absolutely anything about them. On the flip side of the coin, praise for good movies can be all too rare. Riding a wave of word-of-mouth buzz can literally make a decent film transform regular old film frames into statuette gold come awards season but what happens when a film becomes too successful for its own good?

The immensely successful Harry Potter franchise is a perfect case in point. Under the careful guidance of producer David Heyman, a handful of talented and distinctly different directors and most importantly of all, series author J.K Rowling, the team pulled off a near impossible feat in fully realising a totally immersive Wizarding world. For eight movies, we lost ourselves on the big screen in a richly populated universe full of colourful characters and the money rolled in faster than a Snitch on a mission. And then it came to an end. With the story told, Rowling’s Potter anthology wrapped up naturally, leaving a nice neat package for us to enjoy and fondly revisit for decades to come.

At least that was the plan. Despite raking it in at the box office, spawning a bespoke studio tour, multiple merchandise offshoots and its very own theme park, franchise owners seem reluctant to let it retire that easily. What followed was Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, a spin-off tale set in the same universe that, while still canon, left our original hero’s story untouched. Successful, a sequel was soon announced and as we get our first looks at Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald, it’s hard not to think that it’s the beginning of the end for yet another beloved franchise.

It seems like whenever a film does marginally well, a sequel (or trilogy) is all but inevitable. For some these seem warranted – Back To The Future kept the fun going for three movies (for the most part) and cemented itself into cinematic lore. The Godfather undeniably improved itself in part two, even if it did get a little shaky in its lackluster third feature. However more often than not it feels like studios act too quickly, dooming a successful film to a fate of watered down future instalments, making you forget why you even tuned in in the first place.

Bear in mind that while we may have only just met Newt Scamander and his magic briefcase, Warner Bros has already planned five (yep) sequels for the character. Proof, if you ever needed it, that can be a double edged sword. Newt’s certainly not the boy who lived but seen has he’s not going anywhere in a hurry, we better hope he’s the bloke who survives.

Do you think sequels can improve films? Let us know in the comments section below!


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