Pop Culture Futurist #3: More on Super-franchises

There’s much that can be done with super-franchises, when multiple film series are set within the same interconnected world. And I think we’re going to see film studios doing this. They’ve yet to fully realize the possibilities that have been opened up by the advent of DVDs, which allow viewers to catch up on earlier installments, and the opportunities for more complex storytelling.

It’s been done a bit on TV, but imagine separate series with the same characters. So you could have the same guy appearing in a workplace comedy, and a series about his home life.

Or you could have different series about competitors. So you might have two political dramas, one about a Republican Senator and another about a top Democrat. Or two rival law firms in the same city. Or two crime families. Or a crime family and a police department. The trick would be in keeping the programs accessible for those who only watch one series, while also rewarding those who choose to experience the entire saga.

Marvel’s also doing something unprecedented with a TV show set in the world of a film franchise. That can be rewarding, although it requires a different narrative form. Budget will be a concern, as there will never be the same bang for the buck. And it may even become restrictive for the film producers, considering the tremendous amount of content necessary for the standard American show. At the end of the first year, the show’s run may exceed of all the other Avengers films combined. But it can also allow an exploration of the minutiae of living in a superhero universe.

With their upcoming Justice League film, Warner Brothers is taking an interesting risk, which demonstrates their faith in these possibilities. Instead of following Marvel’s lead, and introducing the various heroes in smaller bloccbusters, it seems that they’re going to introduce most of the Justice League, except for maybe Superman, in the team movie. And then they’re going to spin off the individual heroes into smaller franchises.

If this is successful, there will suddenly be at least two super-franchises in film, both in the superhero genre.  It wouldn’t surprise me if other companies start following suit, especially since Disney got the rights to the Star Wars franchise, one series that has a few possible spin-offs. You could have a series featuring Han Solo before the events of A New Hope, as well as animated films set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. Then there’s Boba Fett, and the possibility that one of the sequels will feature a breakout character, who can be spun off into his or her own films.

There is a risk that Warner Brothers is rushing the Justice League series. They currently plans to introduce the cinematic version of the team in the same year that’s scheduled to include The Avengers 2 and Star Wars Episode 7. So it may be best to wait an year, so they would have a chance to have the biggest movie of 2016, as opposed to the #3 film of 2015. Though it’s always possible that the film will not be as successful. If the experiment doesn’t work out, Warner Brothers is going to have an expensive flop. But you can’t fault them for their ambitions.

Previous Pop Culture Futurist installments here and here.

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About Thomas Mets

I’m a comic book fan, wannabe writer, politics buff and New Yorker. I don’t actually follow baseball. In the Estonian language, “Mets” simply means forest, or lousy sports team. Currently, I’m writing a few comic books about my grandparents’ experiences in Soviet Estonia for Grayhaven comics. You can email me at mistermets@gmail.com
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