Franchises, Films and Video Games

ImageDerek Johnson’s Media Franchising: Creative License and Collaboration in the Culture Industries shed new light on the franchises we can’t help but avoid in today’s society. To illustrate how franchises can be a means for celebration, an anonymous fan writes “I’ll almost certainly get Lost and any Indiana Jones games, just out of love for those franchises.” (Johnson, 54). I find this to be a key quote; this person is willing to, blindly, purchase a game because they enjoy the television of film the game is based on. Perhaps, “blindly” is not the right word, since they are being guided by their previous positive experience with the franchise. However, in another way, it is misguided. For example, a candy product made to coincide with an Indiana Jones film release will not necessarily be delicious (I tried for too long to think of a name for an Indiana Jones candy product, and I could not think of one. I encourage you to come up with one, “for candy,” as Talitha would say). The video games that are developed won’t necessarily be any good, either. I can relate to the person quoted above, because I myself own Indiana Jones and Lost videos games.

Both games, though made over twenty years apart, were developed by Ubisoft.  I don’t know if it’s Ubisoft’s fault or not, but both games are horrible. I have never made it past the first level of “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”, which came out 4 years after the film of the same title. While researching the game, I discovered that the movie was made into 3 different Game Boy games, all released by different video game developers! What?! I’d liked to know what you all, my fellow academics of FMN401, think of this. It is important to acknowledge successful video games that are based off of films, like Goldeneye for Nintendo 64, which took the first-person shooter and made it better than anything that came before. We must consider that it was not the adaptation of the film itself that made the game excellent– it was this new multiplayer first-person shooter component that made it worthy of hours and hours of gameplay.  Like the quoted person, importantly, I bought Lost: Via Domus regardless of hearing the game was awful. I had heard the game revealed some little interesting insights into the show, but it turns out the game was not canonical to the show– so the ending that made me go “Whaaaat?” was meaningless. Oh well.

Conversely, an onslaught of movies based on boardgames and video games have emerged. When I heard there would be a film based on Battleship, I nearly lost it. And now, with the news of an Angry Birds film in development, it is apparent the world will soon collapse under our feet and we will all be swallowed by Satan. It turns out that Battleship turned a profit of just under $100 million at the box office, and let’s be honest– that movie was made simply to make money, not to ever be praised as a piece of art.

“The so-called program-length commercials” for toys such as “G.I. Joe, Transformers, and My Little Pony,”(53) are a fascinating aspect of the discussion of franchises, especially after the discussion we had about product placement a couple classes ago. This is slightly different, in that these shows were actually produced by Hasbro– the company that also made the toys the shows were based on. Some “film-length commercial” examples like Battleship, Transformers, and The Lego Movie seem to operate on a market grounded in nostalgia, while Hasbro was trying to promote and sell products that were popular toys at the time.

Derek Johnson has a provocative assertion about the concept of franchising, saying

we could perhaps most radically look to works like the Christian Bible as an evolving franchise constituted by the exchange of its stories over centuries between different contexts of production, including not just translations of the text, but also religious painting and icons that reiterated those stories in new ways,” (Johnson, 50).

This had me thinking about the upcoming film Noah, starring Russell Crowe and directed by Darren Aronofsky (Jake Mahaffy almost got him to speak to our video production class two years ago, if he had not been busy working on this project). According to an article by the guardian,

Paramount is said to have come up with as many as half a dozen cuts of the film in its efforts to find a balanced proposition. In the meantime, Aronofsky sat tight, confident that the film only worked according to his original vision.

Paramount eventually gave Aronofsky final cut privileges, though it “disappointed Christians, who say that Aronofsky ‘stray[s] significantly from the core Biblical message of the actual story.’” We are uneasy thinking of the Bible as a franchise, but it is interesting to consider whether Aronofsky’s alterations are more problematic, or less problematic when thinking of it as such.

A last thought– I was puzzled by the graph on page 56, and was wondering if anyone had an idea as to why the discussion of franchises decreased between 2003 and 2006.

Works cited:

Child, Ben. “Darren Aronofsky Wins ‘battle’ with Paramount over Final Edit of Noah.” Theguardian.com. Guardian News and Media, 13 Feb. 2014. Web. 15 Feb. 2014.

Johnson, Derek. Media Franchising: Creative License and Collaboration in the Culture Industries. New York, NY: New York Univ., 2013. PDF.

Noske, Lauren N. “Hollywood Movie ‘Noah’ Strays from Bible, Disappoints Christians.” The Gospel Herald RSS. N.p., 18 Feb. 2014. Web. 18 Feb. 2014.

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