I’ve got a new post up over at Hothouse.
To love pop culture movies is to love franchise entertainment. Such is the incentive of the Hollywood studio system to produce titles at any cost that might return box-office rewards and sequels. The current gold-standard of this model is the expanding Marvel Universe. Four individual character franchises, a TV show starting this fall, all under the umbrella of a series-unifying series called Avengers. Each Marvel movie is nearly guaranteed to rake in the dollars; and if one does fall short, there’s always the next Iron Man or Avengers to make a cool half-billion.
Marvel exemplifies what the blockbuster system can do when it works. Most of the time, it doesn’t.
The summer blockbuster franchise model has been getting attention again because of the seeming abundance of box-office failures produced this year. Charlie Jane Anders at io9 asks if Hollywood’s glut of big-budget blockbusters is doomed to fail? It’s worth a read, but Charlie and others I’ve read on the subject (there are many) seem to ignore an important element of big-budget franchise cinema: it’s really hard to make a good movie, and convincing people to see bad movies is even harder.