In 1993, VARIETY announced that George Lucas would begin work on the STAR WARS PREQUELS. Despite sequels being common, Lucas’s actions redefined the film industry.
Towards the end of the 1980’s, Lucas had lost the majority of his fortune to a divorce settlement with his ex-wife. Despite not intending to make future Star Wars films, he changed his mind after seeing a revival in the franchise. Rather than based on ticket sales and VHS rentals, the popularity of STAR WARS was measured by its continual growth in video games, comic-books and novels. This encouraged Lucas to create THE PHANTOM MENACE.
Similar to the original STAR WARS, a sequel was only commissioned by a studio after it was proven to be successful at the box-office. Sequels that were in high demand rarely strayed from the tradition of being a standalone film. It was a foreign concept, to proceed with the production of sequels prior to the first film being released. It was, in many respects, the kiss of death to a franchise, a way to provoke the fury of the CINEMA GODS.
Lucas’s decision as to how he structured his prequels marked the beginning of plots progressing over multiple films. The highly successful HARRY POTTER series is by far the most ambitious project of this nature and has encouraged a desire to find the next progressive saga.
While there have been many successes, including THE LORD OF THE RINGS and THE HUNGER GAMES, there have been numerous failures too. This failure was usually due to critic and fan backlash, as well as a poor performance at the box-office. This has resulted in studios halting production on sequels, despite multiple films being engineered to tell a single story. This has left audiences without a satisfied ending and resulted in caution when investing interest in other films of a similar nature.
In recent years, MARVEL has created a Universe that encompasses multiple films that coexist and cross over. This has had a profound impact on how films are constructed as well as redefining a film franchise. Looking to expand upon this concept, MARVEL have begun to include television and animation to coincide with their film franchise.
Traditionally, films involving comic-book characters were described as SUPERHERO MOVIES. Much like COCA COLA and HOOVER, MARVEL’s brand became so dominant within the film industry that they unintentionally created a new genre called; ‘MARVEL FLICKS’. This is an extraordinary occurrence that very few films or brands have ever emulated, the most recent example being the genre TECH NOIR.
Unlike MARVEL FLICK’s, TECH NOIR is a manufactured term, first established by Ridley Scott. It is a term that was created to describe the cyberpunk reiteration of FILM NOIR, as well as being a method to establish with viewers that it’s visuals are unlike anything they have ever seen before.
BLADE RUNNER started as a cult film which slowly progressed into a cultural phenomenon. This is partly due to BLADE RUNNER’s continual reinvention by the release of multiple cuts; however, similar to the recent revival of GRINDHOUSE, audiences became more adjusted to the film’s visuals. This is due to the film’s influence on British comic-books and AMERICAN CINEMA throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s.
With MARVEL’s undeniable success, studios are constantly looking for a comparable franchise on which to capitalise. STAR WARS and DC COMICS are perhaps the only franchises with the potential to face-off against MARVEL.
STAR WARS has been a part of popular culture since the 1970’s, while the infiltration by DC COMICS has been far less successful.
WARNER BROS, who are the parent company of DC COMICS, have long been associated with the popular comic-book JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA. JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA (or JLA for short) is DC COMICS’ answer to MARVEL’s AVENGERS. It is comprised of a number of different superheroes that each have their own series of comic-books; however, there are many reasons as to why this film has not been made.
WARNER have attempted to establish a number of franchises related to JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA. Unlike MARVEL, WARNER’s films struggled at the box-office, with the only notable exception being the BATMAN trilogy. This is in part due to BATMAN being a household name, as well as being well received by critics and fans alike.
While DC COMICS do have some comparable characters to MARVEL including BATMAN, THE JOKER and SUPERMAN, few know of THE GREEN LANTERN, AQUAMAN or CYBORG. WARNER made the mistake of not establishing their lesser known brands prior to the release of their films. This led to a low volume of ticket sales, as the impact of poor reviews and word of mouth was not softened by audiences having a vested interest in the franchise.
Comparably, MARVEL’s efforts first began with their animated television shows in the 1960’s. Throughout the decades, MARVEL has continued to provide high quality children’s television that evokes brand awareness as well as audience nostalgia. MARVEL was also quick to expand into arcade video games, releasing highly popular titles including MARVEL vs CAPCOM and UNCANNY X-MEN.
Due to the rising popularity in video games, and more importantly BEAT EM UPS, a generation became accustomed to the entire roster of MARVEL characters. This resulted in MARVEL’s brand expanding to a new audience ,whilst also creating a new list of household names. A prime example is the character THE SILVER SAMURAI. The vast majority of gamers have never read a WOLVERINE comic-book or graphic novel, yet the character is well recognised due to its involvement in video games. This has led to a vested interest in the character that in turn has built hype for James Mangold’s film THE WOLVERINE.
Towards the late 1990s, production began on the highly successful SPIDER-MAN and X-MEN trilogies. This led to MARVEL not only dominating comic-book sales, but made comic-books fashionable. MARVEL’s influence through cinema was so profound that the once ostricised term GEEK has now become desirable to both sexes.
Until recently, DC COMICS was hesitant to venture into video games or to make a concerted effort to expand into children’s television. While their efforts are encouraging, it is safe to presume that their impact on popular culture will not be immediate.
We are now on the verge of WARNER BROS and DC COMICS reintroducing their character SUPERMAN to the big screen. Providing that MAN OF STEEL does not emulate the failure of SUPERMAN RETURNS, it will establish the beginnings of a new DC COMICS Universe. It’s a responsibility that burdens the team behind the film, most notably the film’s director, Zach Snyder.
Zach Snyder is constantly asked about potential sequels to MAN OF STEEL, the direction the franchise will take in the future as well as the possibility of being involved in JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA.
Snyder recently responded:
Look … completely hypothetically, I feel like you need … to get Superman a little further down the road, I think, before you can do a Justice League movie… I don’t know. All I’m saying is that you’ve got to get Superman further down the road.
The composer Hans Zimmer added:
“I just had a conversation recently with Zack where I was trying to look at my life in the future. He was going, ‘Well, we want to go and do this and we want to go and [do this].’ I was thinking, ‘Oh my god. Here we go again.”
Much like MARVEL, I believe that it may take an entire generation to misspend their youth playing video games and watching television before they will be in a position to make JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA. Where WARNER BROS and DC COMICS have failed, the entrepreneurial spirit of the team behind STAR WARS have ensured that their brand is relevant to today’s audience whilst also retaining its status of being a household name.