Sunday, July 26, 2009

July 26 - When Good Movie Series Go Bad

Movies. We love them. Ever since those flickering images hit the silver screen near the turn of the 20th Century, we've had an infatuation with the people and stories unfolding in front of us. So much so, that after the story is over, we crave more.

Movies that begat sequel after sequel can either be good or bad. For me, a series is an ongoing thing. We're not talking Trilogies ("Godfather", "Back the Future", real "Star Wars"). We're not talking a group of movies that follow one character/concept (sorry Horror films; no "Nightmare", no numerical "Friday"). I'm talking Series. I know there are many out there, but I'm talking stuff like Bond, Potter, Star Trek, Rocky and potentially some of our superheroes (Batman, Superman, Spidey, etc.) - if those franchises continue.

My early favorite was Planet of the Apes - beginning with first one in 1968 and then continuing annually from Beneath the... in 1970,
Escape from... in 1971, Conquest of... in 1972 and finally Battle for... in 1973. One was a great Sci-Fi film. Two tried too hard and ended up being way too talky. Three had the right balance of fun, sci-fi, humor and story. Four and five got tired and routine... to the point where they could just spin off into a TV series for one season.

Then came Bond... James Bond. I discovered the series during a school beach trip to Atlantic City in the summer on 1977. The Spy Who Love Me was great. I then not only watched them all repeatedly, but got the VHS and then the Laserdiscs and then the DVDs. A true series spanning over 40 years, 22 officially movies and six Bonds. This is a series that - for me - has gone bad.

I like Connery (7 films). Loved Moore (7 films). Get Lazenby (1 film). Really liked Dalton (2 films). Finally thought Brosnan had nailed it for the present day (3 films). The series 'reboot' with GoldenEye in 1995 was one of the best of the Bond films.

For me though, the series is no more. The recent 're-reboot' with Daniel Craig has put the nail in the coffin after 40 years. The fun, gadgets, superhero Bond is dead and gone. The fun of a new Bond theme with that omnipresent Monty Norman theme music is just not there anymore. Today's audiences seem to love this new Bond, but it no longer stands with the canon and is barely distinguishable from similar fare (like Matt Damon's "Bourne" movies - which are much better).

What spurred this blog was Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince. What happened? The first two films were fun if a bit juvenille (sorry, Chris Columbus). The next one stands as one of the best. Director Alfonso Cuarón added just the right amount of darkness to the Prisoner of Azkaban in 2004. Then the books got FAT (twice the size) yet the films maintained their length.

Major mistake. Instead of being a movie that can stand on it's own (like a Bond), they are just Chapters of a whole and unless you are fully versed in the books, you will be lost. They no longer are complete films. For my money I would taken each book and made a single four hour movie edited into two pieces released six months apart. The box office would have been double (if the audience who say part one, came back for part two) and the actually expense to make the longer films might have only gone up by an additional 1/3 of the cost of one movie.

David Yates (director of #5, #6 and both parts of #7) just doesn't seem to get it. Way (way) too much is cut out of books - a lot of it could be fixed with a line of dialogue or two. It really is a shame. These are no "Lord of the Rings" like they could have been. Maybe he can fix it for the finale, but I don't have faith that they care. HP makes money regardless.

One day I will get my chance to shepherd a series... and I swear, I'll get it right!

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