Top 5: Franchise Revivals

This week’s Top 5 Friday category was chosen by @BSchwarz95, give that page a follow!

In honor of the release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which is reviving the dormant Harry Potter franchise, we are taking a look at our favorite films that revamped a series that was either in need of being rebooted, or hadn’t had a successful installment in at least a decade. Without further adieu, here is my list:

5) Creed. After the last Rocky movie, Rocky Balboa, the franchise was dormant for nearly 10 years until this release. Creed is Ryan Coogler’s second directorial effort following 2013′s Fruitvale Station, and this story follows Apollo Creed’s son Adonis as he struggles with his identity, family, and future. So, instead of rebooting the franchise as many studio’s would do, they decided to shift the focus which in turn shifted the tone into something more real, honest and made the film more of a drama instead of a sports movie. This is one thing that I immediately loved after watching the trailers because many sports movies suffer from the same problem: predictability. When the focus is on a sport, the ending is either win or lose- but this film brought much more to the table than JUST the final match. The ending (which I won’t spoil) is one reason why I think that this film stands better on it’s own than as the 7th film in the franchise (since, as sports film go, one either wins or loses, and not being able to predict that outcome is the best way to watch the film). Some may disagree, saying that the viewer must know Rocky’s backstory, and they must have seen Apollo die in the ring in Rocky IV to understand Creed, but I think that’s a silly notion. There are so many movies- hell, pretty much every movie ever- gives the audience backstory and exposition through dialogue, and sometimes that’s even a more effective way than SHOWING the audience what happened (say, with a prequel). So, to me, that’s the way that this film works best: on it’s own; this is a notion that I will apply to another film on this list as well. However, if you were to watch the Rocky films with Creed, you would have to watch all 6 other films- you can’t pick and choose. Creed breathed new life into the Rocky franchise, and I hope- I really hope, that Ryan Coogler comes back for the sequel because he is what made the first film so great. It seems that, nowadays especially, studios are hell-bent on making a sequel to a successful film as fast as possible. So, instead of waiting for the same writer or director to be able to make the 2nd film, they go ahead and hire anybody who is able… which usually explains why the second is never as good. Look at Kick-Ass 2 or Insurgent or The Bourne Legacy or anything else that followed the trend- the movies end up being forgotten and suffering. Creed 2 should not follow that path to failure.

4) Batman Begins. This is the Batman that I grew up on; my mom, sister and I rented it from Blockbuster when it came out on DVD in 2005, and I loved it. A lot of people grew up Michael Keaton’s Batman and Jack Nicholson’s Joker with Tim Burton’s directing… and Joel Shumacher’s as well, i suppose. To me, however, Christian Bale was the only Batman that existed. Before I watched this, I had seeing Batman: The Movie many, many times as a kid, and I saw a glimpse of Tim Burton’s Batman from 1989. I remember seeing this brief moment because it haunted me for years: I was in bed but I did not want to go to sleep, so I got out of bed and went to the living room to see my dad, who was watching TV. I stuck my head around the corner into the room and glanced at the TV. All I saw was a man fall from a tall building, and land on the ground… and I was so shocked that I covered my eyes, and then I heard laughter from the screen, and i thought that the Joker had fallen, died, and then kept laughing. I was terrified, and because of this, I stayed far away from the old Batman films for as long as I could. And because of that, Batman Begins was the one and only real Batman film to me, and it stayed that way until I saw The Dark Knight in theaters in 2008. Christopher Nolan was the best thing that could have happened to the character back in 2005 after George Clooney’s film murdered the character for almost an entire decade. Nolan was coming off the praise of Following, Memento and Insomnia, and has proven that he knows how to tell a story with characters who the audience can understand… which is what Batman needed. Nolan showed us that a good Batman film needs character at the forefront instead of glowing lights and cheesy jokes.

3) Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In a similar way, this film resurrected Star Wars like Batman Begins did for Batman. Take the original trilogy and Tim Burton’s Batman films, which are all highly respected. Then, take the prequel trilogy and Joel Shumacher’s Batman films, which are mostly disrespected. Now, we have a film that had to save the franchise from any more bad films, and Disney came in to the rescue. 10 years, between 2005 and 2015, is a long time for a franchise to stay dormant, so Disney had to not only re-acquire the fans of the originals, but they had to bring everybody else in on it too, and make their target audience as massive as possible. By taking the franchise back to the “roots,” this film aims to make the story interesting again- which, in turn, gave us great characters and plot that we could get behind and appreciate. In this way, the film was immediately better than the prequels because the movie promised us the return of beloved characters, and the introduction of new characters (that weren’t Jar-Jar, Anakin, or Anakin’s sandy toes). However, if one watches the Machete Order, then the franchise is drastically better as a whole and the prequels CAN be enjoyed (What?! I know). Episode VII took the mess that the franchise had become with the prequels, and pretty much…. ignored them? If you skip 1-3, your experience is not hindered, but improved. Again, the machete order is a strong way to watch as well.

2) Man of Steel. Say what you want about Zack Snyder’s Superman movie, and say what you want about Zack Snyder’s filmmaking in general- but I loved this movie. I think this is an extremely strong film in a lot of ways, and sure it (and no other film) is without a few flaws, but those flaws do not detract from the most amazing aspects of the film [watch this extremely insightful and interesting video]. There is a lot to appreciate and study about this film, and by looking at it in different ways, I think the audience can get a lot out of it. In a way, this is my favorite Snyder film- and one of my favorite superhero films, period (read about my Top 5 Superhero Films here). This film promised to be a Nolan Superman movie- darker, more character driven, and grounded in reality instead of comic-ridiculousness. Nolan and Snyder took a character that had again been dormant for the longest time, and was following previous films that were not well received. Like I mentioned with The Force Awakens and Batman Begins, Man of Steel was following 2 highly respected, and 3 generally disrespected films with the titular character of Superman, and this had to prove that there was a new slate and that the future is going to be promising- and i think that this film did that with flying colors. While Superman Returns has it’s audience who appreciate it (this guy included), Man of Steel became everything that Returns wasn’t. Returns had little action while Man of Steel had all of the action. Returns focused on Superman’s love story, which I didn’t love, but Man of Steel focused on his origin, which I could easily get behind. This film was a bridge between Superman, Superman II, and Superman Returns, by combining the stories and cherry-picking the best parts. We get the origin story, the search for identity, the Lois Lane-love story, the realism that Returns strived for, and the battles with Zod and his gang of misfit toys- Man of Steel expanded on the best parts of the old films in a way that kept me hooked for the entire long runtime. The story we get in this film is akin to Logan’s in the X-Men franchise: “who am I?” Am Logan or Wolverine, am I Kal-El or Clark, and I human, or different? How can I be both (be MYSELF), and be accepted by people at the same time? (read my X-Men series analysis here). That’s what this film tries to answer, and while there is an emphasis on action, there is a focus on character at the center of the film… and that’s really the only time I can say that about any film in the DCEU thus far. [watch the video “Moments v Scenes”].

1) Mad Max: Fury Road. Like I said with Creed, I believe that this film stands best on it’s own; as a sequel, this film is weak since it is so different and disconnected from the other three Mad Max films, and this one is by FAR the best of all of them. Undeniably, this was one hell of a movie on it’s own for every reason: this ACTION film won OSCARS, including being nominated for Best Picture. To me, as an action fan…as a sci-fi fan…as a superhero fan…and as a blockbuster fan, that was a proud moment for sure. The people who are all about all the artsy films (which is myself, as well) watched the film, probably not expecting much, and were blown away with the rest of the audience. What this film gave us was not only spectacle but also story and characters as well. Mad Max was not meant to be the talkative, deep character that you are meant to understand and analyze- he is really only meant to be the strong, silent action hero to help save the day. He is meant to be the most ambiguous character so that any member of the audience can relate to him- and the same goes for Furiosa as well. Beyond the Thunderdome is an example of how supporting characters (and main characters) can be weak as hell and the story fall flat and uninteresting because of it- Fury Road is not. I’m pretty sure Thunderdome was originally going to be a “Lord of the Flies” film, before George Miller bought the script and turned it into a Mad Max film, and it shows because it seems that the film shifts completely and becomes something else entirely. The first Mad Max was just as weak, and the sequel was much better, but still not even close to the quality that Fury Road gave us.

Every movie i’ve listed in this challenge has been a resurrection of either a franchise or a character than has been dormant for years, following disappointing sequels to originally great films, and this one fits that mold as well. What do you think about this list? What would you add to it, or take off? As always, thanks for reading, share if you liked this, and I’ll see you soon!

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