Is Marketing Killing Good Stories??

rodney-thought.jpg Instead of posting some picture of myself lost deep in instrospective thought, being the true geek I am, my first open commentary post I featured silly stuff like my face imported on Wolverine’s instead.

Anyways, my thought was this. One of my big pet peeves with movies is attatching otherwise good stories to recognizable franchises to gain some attention in this world of big screen movies. I talked about this earlier this week with my post on Hitman. A movie based on a videogame franchise. Everyone can speculate on whether the actor is the right choice to play the iconic character from the game, or if the plot really fits in with the genre. But have you ever stopped and tried to look at it the other way around.

What if this movie was not attached as a sequel to a popular hit? What if there was no video game to rally some buzz about the title? What if they just wrote movies for the sake of writing movies?

Would Dungeons and Dragons have been a better movie if it wasnt the Dungeons and Dragons movie? When I went to see that movie, the beardy geeks behind me were less than quiet pointing out the “in game” references, monster’s names, in game mechanics (he failed his bluff roll). This ruined it for me. Ok, there wasnt much to ruin in the end of it anyways.

There are a lot of movies that if you break down its plot idea, would make for great action movies, with great stories. All you would have left to criticize is if the movie was actually enjoyable. But I think that making it BE something also gives it a quality for it NOT to be when the critics get their hands on it. And by critics, I dont mean Roper and Ebert, I mean you and me.

There comes a time when you have to take your story, and shop it out to enough people and hope that it stands on its own merit. I am sure some well crafted writer came up with the synopsis for Species 4, and didnt intend it to be that at all.

He probably said, “Here is a great scifi story” and someone said, it sounds a little like a different franchise. Next thing you know, a quick revision of the script to lend to franchise history and its on a lunchbox and boom, there it is. Species 4.

I automatically hesitate and expect less when it is a sequel as a reactionary reflex. Hollywood has Pavlov’d me into it. I think Hollywood should put more importance into sequels and adaptations. If its not better than the first, and has nothing of value to offer the franchise, it shouldn’t be made.

What movies do you think would have made a good story and a fun watch if it wasnt for its association to some marketing tool?

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15 thoughts on “Is Marketing Killing Good Stories??

  1. I think you’re looking at the problem as if the glass is only half full.

    The reality in Hollywood is that movies get made for one of two reasons: (A) there’s an established audience for it, or (B) someone wants the movie made [and is able to secure the financing]. Rarely — very very very rarely — do these two factors find themselves in synch.

    Example: INDEPENDENCE DAY was a modern day spin on “War of the Worlds” built strategically to be a tentpole film b/c summer audiences crave that kind of sugar. You can go back and read some of the pre-release interviews with Devlin, and you’ll see that everyone in the studio was clamoring for a role in this puppy b/c they knew the masses wanted to see it.

    Example: Nobody thought there would be an audience for MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING or even THE NOTEBOOK, but folks who had banded together wanted to get them made. Both turned out to have incredibly profitability, but, on the front end, studios didn’t exactly have a lot of faith … people did.

    Marketing enters the equation AFTER the film has been entirely conceived and halfway thru to its finish (in most cases), and it’s the job of marketing to bring the most folks into the theatres, which means most of the time the film has to be advertised as something it isn’t … b/c, like I said, nobody was asking for MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING until after it had been seen. You can’t ADVERTISE for that.

    It’s a meaty concept, but, if you can get your hands on it, pick up THE MANY LIVES OF THE BATMAN and read the essay on how Warner Bros. actually built up a five year marketing plan to coincide with bringing BATMAN to the screen in 1989, and I think you’ll get the picture.

  2. Best example of this horrible exercise is the Hellraiser series. Every single installment from five through eight has been a stand-alone script which was retooled to fit Pinhead bookends and a couple of cenobites into otherwise unrelated film noir or teen horror plots. And every single one of them is goddamn awful and nothing like the original two.

    I’d love to see a Hellraiser franchise, but from scripts written by people who have a genuine interest in the excellent first movie and not just some studio hack who bought a first-time writer’s stand-alone script for $5 and reworked it into an inferior DTV franchise installment of something else.

  3. i just think that some things are just have a stigma associated with them by title alone. there can probably be a great Dungeons and Dragons movie if you just didn’t call it Dungeons and Dragons. many of the Forgotten Realms take place in the D&D Universe, and some of the storeis are built in triologies (the stuff with that Dark Elf or even that Time of Troubles stuff). done right, why couldn’t they be good fantasy fare? the Miami Vice comments i read are right on the money i feel. friends of mine laughed that there was a movie coming out with that title, and still refuse to see it even though they liked/loved Heat and Collateral. it’s not the director that is associated with the movie and his track record (unless you are Uew Bol), it’s the movie’s title that seems more and more to determine what makes it and what doesn’t. it would have taken better actors and a better script to save Dungeons and Dragons, but maybe calling it Stormfall or something else would have earned it a couple bucks more than it made. and a different title could have helped Miami Vice’s box office.

  4. Bloodrayne was a great video game. I had a lot of fun playing it and I thought the plot/story of the game was pretty good. The movie Bloodrayne (based on the video game) was flatout AWFUL. I mean, I know $25 million is not that much in movie dollars, but maybe if it was not all spent on paying for names like Kingsley and more was spent on writing and production value, the movie would have been alot better. I mean, the main character is a half-vampire, some special effects to help me believe that she is more than human would not be bad, or at least some martial arts/weapons training for the actor so her fighting did not look wooden. And some dialog would have been nice too.

    Underworld:Evolution was a far superior film for only $50 mil.

  5. I wish we could edit posts, because I left some blatant typos in mine. John, any chance of this feature in the upcoming redesign?

  6. Ocean’s 12. It originally a standalone script then shoehorned into the Ocean’s 11 franchise. It could have worked well on its own with some tweaking, but was absolutely not the right fit for the characters and storylines already established in the first movie.

  7. Triflic i haven’t heard anyone really bash Blade II before if anything i think it gets a large amount of praise sometimes even more than the first movie. I personally enjoy the first Blade the most because it has a certain charm and it knows when and when not to take itself too seriously which i think Blade II didn’t really have and also the opening sequence you mentioned in your post. Blade II is still great though and i even find Blade Trinity to be somewhat of a guilty pleasure.

  8. Oh, one more, and I’m sure I’ll get a few disagreements on this one. Mission Impossible II would have been better regarded if it was just a stand-alone John Woo film, rather then trying to shoe-horn his type of filmmaking into the Franchise. Sure the film was far from perfect, but as Testosterone loaded action/Melodrama it is its own form of art. Shoving it into the bland MI series did the movie no favours. It might have been one of those hidden little action gems, rather than the overblown MI movie folks love to hate.

  9. Have to agree 100% on Vice. Even thought the TV show was landmark for its day, and the Movie is simply top-shelf filmmaking, there is something niggling at the back of my mind that calling this Miami Vice cheapens the film a bit, because it invites comparisons to the TV show where none are necessary. But on the other hand, if Mann needed to use the title VICE to get the funds to make his stellar blockbuster, then I’m all for it.

    Junk like Dungeons & Dragons or Species 3 or Trancers 5, I could care less if the screenplay is a graft of some other ‘original screenplay’. Junk is junk. I try to leave the mediocre stuff at arms length and embrace the truly trashy, or the high quality. I’m off topic here, but the true offence of a film for me is being Mediocre.

    Here are a couple other films which are slagged because the belong in a franchise, but don’t give the fans what they want despite being quality films:

    Alien3 (Which I happen to like a lot),Is almost always slagged for being inferior to the first 2 entries. There is a lot of good stuff in this film, from the metal works, to the ‘birth/funeral’ cross cutting, to the prison/temple imagery. Fincher was hung out to dry for this entry, and still is amoungs the xenomorph-die-hards.

    David Lynch’s Dune – Hire the auteur to make the film, let the man make his film…I’m sure Lynch pissed off legions of fans of Frank Herbert’s novel, but his film is fantasticly unconventional sci-fi with some of the best alien imagery ever done (The same argument applies to the Shining, although that film is less maligned for Kubrick’s tinkering with King’s work than Dune was for Lynch’s…In both cases, the directors were better than their source material and turned in Genius, elevating the source material, not ruining it)

    I hesitate to bring this one up, but BLADE II may have been better off if it was stand-alone…I don’t understand why that movie gets flack from a lot of my genre-loving friends and BLADE I gets so much praise (other than a great opening sequence, BLADE I is pretty hollow, but BLADE II is a specacular piece of moody, atmospheric visuals…Like extrapolating the opening Blood Rave from the first one out to feature length.) I’m glad Del Toro is back to making spanish films where the expectations aren’t as high, but the films he puts out (The Devil’s Backbone) are fantastic.

    That is all. Fire Away if you disagree.

  10. Speed 2 could’ve actually been okay if the title wasn’t Speed 2.

    I wonder the same thing about Mann’s “Miami Vice.” I liked it, but I think a lot of people didn’t see it because it’s called Miami Vice. A lot of people were upset that it wasn’t exacty like the 80s TV show. On the other hand, maybe MORE people went to it because of it’s title.

    That’s all I can think of off the top of my head.


  11. What’s *your* problem, Tristan?

    I always DO say why, pro or con. I never make “cheap shots”. Anything I respond to is in the post or comments as they are written. Now and then I’ll even ask for clarification.

    Rod is too general. I’m not quite sure where he’s getting at, what his post is really about.
    In fact, read what I wrote above. On one point, am I really disagreeing with him? Not really. I just think his post is too generalized.

    The last “couple of comments” of mine on Rodney’s posts:

    1) Rodney implies that “Species 4” should it be made, go direct to video. Fact is, the third one did, so it is a foregone conclusion, and it really has been a franchise that nobody really needed. But he makes a big deal out of it not having Henstridge, and the plot, and that it sounds unpromising.

    2) The next Bond film (after Casino): the director the producers were looking at threw in the towel; Rod’s question was “Was Martin Campell that bad on Royale that they didn’t ask him back?” And my counter was: the Brosnan films had different directors (starting with Campbell) …what’s the problem?

    3) And again, I think he covers a real broad area in this post. I also gave an example of one script that was turned into a film that had nothing to do originally with that script. Then years ago, this was a very popular trend in Hollywood. Is this trend making a comeback?

    Then he goes on about that pile of crap film franchise “Dungeons And Dragons” and then “Hitman” and other ADAPTATIONS. Which is another subject. Then remakes. I am not putting words in his mouth; it’s all there above. So I narrowed it down to what I believed he was talking about:

    Built in audiences and/or Hollywood exploiting a name brand to make a quick buck and to simply wink to the fanbase, when in truth it is nothing more than a shell game with viewers.

    My only negative here was ONLY…ONLY that Rod didn’t, in my opinion, get to the point. However at the same time if I was correct in my deduction, then I DID UNDERSTAND him.

    Your point to me, Tristan, is odd.

    Maybe at first, I’ll admit, I seem a bit at odds with some of Rod’s posts. But is possible that one day he will post something that I 100% agree with? Of course. Do I agree with John Campea all the time? No. But I will always say why. Sometimes I am right, sometimes he is. Will I always agree with Rod? Maybe, maybe not.

    Yes, I see how it looks on one angle. If I’m out out line, my apologies to Rod. But, I do make my points. To suggest I’m making personal attacks, mudslinging etc. is insanity.
    Not to mention when I respond to John’s posts (or other commenters) I also give debate and bring up stuff. Now I won’t do that on Rod’s posts?

    Hmmmm….very odd indeed.

  12. What the fuck is seeley’s problem? I don’t chime in here too often, but I’ve read your last couple of comments on Rodney’s posts (Welcome to TMB by the way Rodney) and you seem to be doing what John is always complaining about. If you agree, say you agree and why. If you disagree, say you disagree and why. Leave the snide comments and cheap shots at the door.

  13. Man, you are all over the map with this thought. Wayyyyy too general.
    I’m not even sure what the heck you are griping about. Too much inner thought, Rod.

    But let me take a small guess at what I can pick up:

    About ten years ago, there was a common trend in Hollywood, although it seems to have died down now, to take original screenplays that are unconnected to a given franchise, buy ithe script, and rename the characters. The best example of course, is the script “Simon Says” by Jonathan Hensleigh, about a mad bomber terrorizing NYC. It was bought, a Fprt Knox bank robbery was added; and with the characters changing names…it became “Die Hard With A Vengeance”

    I was disappointed with the third ‘Die Hard’, because there was no room for returning supporting actors, specifically Bonnie Bedelia. You would think after Die Hards 1 and 2 John and Holly’s marraige would have been strengthened, not apart as mention in “Vengeance”. I was also disappointed that the villian just had to be the brother of Hans, the baddie from the first film. The tagged on ending was also lame. I hope the next film will be better (but Holly better be there or I’m skipping it! The last thing I want to hear is ‘she died in a car accident’ or some stuff like that)

    As for “D&D”, if they took out the references, it would not have made a better film. The actors all (especially, oddly enough, Jeremy Irons) over acted and then there’s Wayans, who made one liners at a Beholder. So a bad movie is a bad movie.

    The majority of Fantasy films are connected to a novel or series of novels, such as Lord Of The Rings, Conan…and while they are respected now, back in the 80’s “Dragonslayer” “Labryrith” and “Legend” didn’t fare well, having not being a pre-sold concept.

    It is easier for a studio to pick up on a pre-sold concept whether it be a remake of a movie or TV show, novel, comic book, videogame, toyline, board/RPG game, or sequel in name only for it should have, or will have, a built in audience. That is the idea, and most of the time, the idea is solid. Is there too many remakes right now? Yes. But I also believe that many proposed ‘remakes’ will never come to pass.

    But there are original stories/scripts getting produced, getting made and while they may not have the advantage have always having a pre-sold concept on it…it is not unusual if you have a crowded market with sequels and remakes…and there’s the one film that is fresh and new. And that film is the hit…

    …out comes its netherspawn…

    Anyway, I think your post is really about nothing.


    -Schizo Sealer

  14. I think the newer Italian Job is a perfect example of this. Let’s face it, the only thing it had in common with the original is that it was a heist and mini’s were in it.

    It’s a different film, with different characters, with a different plot. It is unrelated to be honest and could have been marketed as a completly different film. Instead it just drew comparisons to the classic original.

    I think it was a solid film, which dosn’t have a wonderful reputation due to it’s predecessor.

  15. Halloween 3 was in my opinion a fairly entertaining movie that tried to make the franchise more intresting with taking michael myers out and making each movie that followed about a different event pertaining to halloween. They would of had an endless amount of directions to take with each movie and wouldn’t have to be tied to any sort of continuity or characters for that matter but just that each movie had to involve halloween in some way. but of course the movie gets released and everyone says it sucks because there was no michael myers in it so they just go back to the same forumla with michael myers over and over again and it’s just the same old movie again and again. If people had just watched the movie it was actually pretty good and the premise was pretty original at the time. granted it isn’t a fine piece of cinema or anything but i still found it rather entertaining and if it was just released a movie with no ties to halloween i think it would of been far better recieved.

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