Heresy of the Week – Not everything needs to be a “mega-franchise”


dracula untold

Heresy of the Week is a (mostly) weekly spot in which I entertain some of the unthinkable notions of geek-culture. The arguments I put forward are not always things I personally agree with, but often rhetorical devices designed to force myself (and maybe readers) out of the boxes which fan discussions can get caught in. But that aside, feel free to get yourselves worked up and your knickers in a twist if you really want to.

This week’s heresy:

“In a sea of stupid film studio ideas, Universal’s plan to build a franchise of monster movies, to ape Marvel’s success with a mega-franchise is the blue whale¬†of unnecessary idiocy.”

I haven’t seen Dracula Untold yet. I feel I should open by pointing that out. I haven’t seen it, and I doubt I will until it gets its DVD release at the earliest. So I go by the trailer and posters, and think that it looks like someone made a prequel to Bram Stoker’s Dracula — and I cannot figure out why.

But worse than a mediocre-to-bad Dracula film — to be frank, they are ten a penny — is the hair-brained idea to make this the first step in a franchise of monster films.

Now, if Universal want to go and make a whole load of new monster films, then that’s great. Really. The original Universal Monsters were classics, and even if I don’t for a moment think that they will be able to rival the oldies, but you never know.

The problem is interconnecting them. The suggestion that Untold‘s Dracula might make a cameo appearance in The Mummy is needless, pointless. Do a Dracula film and a Mummy film have to be connected? It was torturous enough when Van Helsing tried to draw lines between Dracula and Frankenstein.

It doesn’t work, is the problem. Superhero franchises work, because they can occupy shared worlds. Their stories build on each other, there are reasons for them to appear in each other’s films and to team up in joint ones. What is the connection between Dracula and the Mummy? Is Dracula responsible for the Mummy’s immortality? Are they mortal enemies?

And when the franchise looks to expand again, where does it go to? Frankenstein? The Phantom of the Opera? Weaving something like Marvel have done is difficult, and it takes an awful lot of money. Do Universal have the balls, the money, or the creativity to do it?

Eh. That’s the only answer I have.

Because there’s no reason to do it. Mega-franchises can make money, I’m certain, but it’s a heck of a gamble. When the Marvel juggernaut falters — and it will — the merry go round of money will stop. There’s nothing wrong with a standalone film, and with the monster films they are almost certainly better as standalone — Lord knows that the endless sequels rarely add anything worth adding.

I don’t imagine this will actually reach the stage of mega-franchise. Dracula Untold isn’t getting fantastic reviews, and there’s a good chance this will all fail miserably. If it does, it won’t be purely because of the franchise aspect, but I suspect it isn’t really happening.

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