Old franchises in the modern day

Aside from Japanese animation, I really enjoy older American movies. By old, I mean movies ranging from the Marx Brothers in the 1930s up until Indiana Jones in the early 1980s. Specifically, two film series that I’ve enjoyed since childhood are the original Star Wars movies and the aforementioned Jones series. Ever since I was a kid, I had always wanted to see more in the way of film from these two franchises. Films that expanded both upon their stories and universes. Years later, I got exactly that–the Star Wars prequel movies, and Indiana Jones 4. However, something had gone horribly wrong.

While both of these series provide a vast canvas by which writers can scrawl infinite amounts of sequels and side-stories upon, (and they have, in comics, books and video games that all range in quality, but we’re not talking about that) when they finally got around to it–many years later–the results came out rather pear-shaped. I suspect that one main factor that contributed to these movies failing was simply the time in which they were made. Both of these series–Indy and Star Wars–are very much products of their time. That’s not to say they aren’t timeless, but you simply can’t make movies like those anymore. Our current situation and environment just isn’t conducive to nurturing a creative process that can bring about a good new Star Wars or Indy flick.

As far as Indy goes, I actually didn’t think the new one was too bad. I mean, it wasn’t spectacular, but it kept my eyes on the screen and did things that made me entertained. However, there was something missing, and that was spirit. The spirit of 30 years ago and the spirit of young directors really wanting to make something spectacular. One of the key things that makes the Indy movies great is the amount of soul poured into producing a fun and exciting pulp-novel throwback with all the trimmings. By the time you get to Indy 4, it’s less a homage to old pulp serials and more a copy of itself. They were too distracted by the history that their previous films had, and neglected to harness what really  made those older films great.

The Star Wars prequels are a bit more dire, and you can’t really pin the time period in which they were made on why they failed, but I still feel it was part of the problem. There was too much of a break between when the old movies were made and when the new ones were. Perhaps if the prequels were made closer to when the originals came up, someone would have actually had the guts to walk up to Lucas and say, “Hey, you know? Jar Jar Binks may not be a great idea.” But instead–here in the 21st century–we get movies that look like cheap science fiction TV shows. I’m not joking, when I came across Attack of the Clones channel surfing I assumed it was some cheap TV show before checking what it was.

The fact that these movies were made within the last 10 years only compounds these problems. As I mentioned before, you just can’t make movies like these anymore. Society has become far too cynical for a film like Star Wars to be produced. The kind of energy present in the time in which these movies were made simply doesn’t exist anymore, and that effects things. Of course, there are a host of other issues as well, but they aren’t the issue at hand.

This can be seen in Japanese animation, as well. Look at how Gundam has changed over the past 30 years, and how fans are split between the old and new. While it hasn’t really changed for the worse, take a look at how time has effected Lupin and his cohorts. That said, one example (of many, actually) of a franchise that has not let time touch it is Cobra. Watch the first TV series, then watch the new OVA. Outside of the animation, they feel almost exactly the same. I guess we can attribute that to Terasawa Buichi’s direction, since time for this dude clearly has not moved since 1985.

I know that photo’s old, but I’m pretty sure he still looks like that.

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7 Responses to Old franchises in the modern day

  1. digitalboy says:

    You’ve pegged it exactly. That’s my problem with all of the modern action movies and big-budget films – they are trying to hard to be a certain thing and not be a fun movie. Even if we get up to the 90s, there are fun movies like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that say ‘this movie will be amazing if you suspend the living hell out of your belief’, so you do, and it’s fun. Indy Jones never expected people to take it seriously, you were in it just to have fun.

    Nowadays, everything has to aspire to this ‘realism’ that frankly sucks balls. I know I’m comparing animation to live action here, which is pretty apples and oranges, but the original Transformers movie was fucking awesome. It had epic arena ock songs and dancing robots and Weird Al but it was still a totally fun and great film. Now we have these new movies that can be entertaining with their fast cameras and explosions, but end up trying for this semblance of realism that, when put against the horrible writing, just falls completely flat.

    I think one man that still ‘gets’ the old mindset is Robert Rodriguez, whose films have always been that classic camp and silliness that lets ou have fun and not think too hard. I think Zack Snyder gets it too – I know you didn’t like 300, but I think it’s a great example of the ‘be badass, fuck reality’ mindset.

  2. digitalboy says:

    Oh, and that Terasawa Buichi picture is EPIC WIN.

  3. Rotoboto says:

    With that (entirely true) discussion of the new Star Wars things, I’m interested to hear your thoughts on the (bullshit) cartoon based off of the (bullshit) cartoon movie.

    In b4 rant.

  4. wah says:

    I’ve only ever seen the films. I haven’t partaken of anything else in the Star Wars universe outside of the Shadows of the Empire novel, and some of the older video games.

  5. jpmeyer says:

    Star Trek wasn’t so bad when it came to being “fun” without being “silly”.

    There’s an idea in film theory that this sort of thing is cyclic, and soon enough we’ll swing back and be less focused on “realism”. Right before that 1975-1985 or so blockbuster era all Hollywood was making were movies like Chinatown, The Godfather, Bonny and Clyde, etc.

  6. VZ says:

    I totally agree with WAH. It’s the reason why I have no desire to see Macross Frontier, the modern Gundam show and various other revivals. Certain things are only indicative of the time of their creation and when you try to apply to a modern setting or style, it just doesn’t work.

    The only exception to me are the revivals of Go Nagai properties. Somehow, they almost always pull it off. I haven’t seen Shin Mazinger but I loved New Getter Robo and Mazinkaiser.

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