‘Terminator’ and ‘Ninja Turtles’ both battle franchise fatigue

05.28.10 8 years ago 14 Comments


At what point do you gracefully walk away from a franchise?  Is it even possible anymore?

I hate the current creative climate in Hollywood.  Even though I saw a sequel tonight that is as good or better than any original film I’ve seen this year, I know that’s the exception and not the rule.  For the most part, we are trapped in a staggering rut that I can barely bring myself to write about again.  I’m tired of beating this particular drum, and yet the news each day almost feels like a dare.  “Can you write this story up without yelling about the death of mainstream Hollywood one more time?”


Nickelodeon purchased the rights to the entire Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles license last year.  They own it all now, and it really shouldn’t be a surprise that they’re planning a new attempt at turning the characters into a viable bigscreen film franchise.  What is surprising is that Paramount and Nickelodeon have chosen Platinum Dunes as the producers of the new film.

These guys have built a reputation for themselves with their horror movie remakes, and while some of their recently-announced development deals suggest some sort of shift away from that particular model, it’s still a pretty major jump to suddenly hand them a huge kid’s film property, especially one that’s as well-known as this.  Considering how miserable fans typically are after their favorite horror title gets the Platinum Dunes treatment, it seems dangerous for Nickelodeon to hand over this property to this particular production team.  I don’t think there are many reboots left in the material, so whatever they do this time, they need to get it right.

The same is true of the “Terminator” series.  There were so many hopes, both financial and creative, pinned on the release of “Terminator: Salvation” last year, and most of those hopes were dashed by McG’s almost preposterously bleak and solemn take on James Cameron’s killer robot series.  Even though I wasn’t a huge fan of “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” it seemed to please the hardcore fans to some extent, and it proved that there’s still some hunger for the characters and the story.  That’s got to be good news for WME, which was just picked by Pacificor to handle the representation of the franchise for sequels, remakes, or whatever else they decide to do in the future.

At this point, I’ve just plain got franchise fatigue.

I love the idea of long-form storytelling.  I think you can do one type in film if you’re lucky enough to create characters and situations that people want to return to, and I think there’s a totally different type you can do in television.  But when you keep rebooting and discarding continuity and starting over, you’re not telling a story spread over several films.  You’re just stuttering.  You’re just using familiar iconography while running in place.  It is, quite frankly, pathetic.  And yet we stand here, all of us in this business, looking at the flames that keep getting higher and higher around us while we say nothing and do nothing and make no efforts to stop the ruin of this art form that we love.  We run these stories as news instead of dire warnings.  And I’m sure tomorrow morning, when people get up and start to read these stories on various sites around the internet, many fans will get a temporary burst of pleasure at the thought of doffing their nostalgia goggles one more time.

How many times do we go back to a dry well before we accept that there is no more water?

How many times do we watch filmmakers try to wring more material from a story as fundamentally thin as “The Terminator” before admitting that the story ended at the closing frames of “T2”?

How many times do we pay money to filmmakers who trade mercilessly on affection for something from 20 years ago before agreeing that lightning rarely strikes twice?

I’m sure WME is counting the money they’ll make off of reselling “Terminator” to someone, and I’m sure the merchandising department at Nickelodeon is positively cackling at the prospect of more “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” in the near-future.

And, yes… I know it’s called “show business.”

But it still makes me sick enough to scream when I realize that the people who control the money in this town have all, to a person, turned into gutless cowards who are determined to cannibalize pop culture until all that is left is an ocean of bleached bone, picked clean, damn the consequences.

Only a fool would still believe that good ideas are the most important currency in this town.

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You can e-mail me at drew@hitfix.com or follow me on Twitter, where I’m DrewAtHitFix.

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