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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019) and AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021).

Friday, May 22, 2015

Ben Radford reviews Mad Max: Fury Road - and some thoughts about media franchises

Ben Radford has a good review here. Watch out for spoilers!

Toward the end, he has some interesting observations about tried and true franchises, with a plethora of movies coming out this year from the likes of Terminator, Star Wars, and Jurassic Park:

As I walked out of the theater, however, I noticed ads for upcoming films whose franchises began many decades ago, including Jurassic World, Star Wars, and the Terminator. As long as there's an audience for these characters and stories, the films will continue to be remade and inspire sequels (don't think for a moment that Peter Jackson's seemingly insuperable version of the Lord of the Rings trilogy won't be superceded in ten or twenty years by a new director with a different vision and a whole new suite of computer-generated tools at her disposal; similarly, the next generation will almost certainly have a Harry Potter not played by Daniel Radcliffe). There's nothing inherently wrong with this, aside from the countless new and original screenplays that would make great films if the studios were willing to take a chance on something that hadn't already proven to be a moneymaker.

Yup. I think some of these franchises have become so popular, and continue to generate stories, because they each speak to something deep in us - or at something least deep in Western culture. Just what that might be will vary in each case, but they have all become culturally resonant, iconic, almost mythic narratives, and it is difficult to create new stories and characters to compete with them for the public's imaginative investment.

Still, it happens. Look at the iconic status that has now been achieved by Game of Thrones (or A Song of Ice and Fire, if you prefer the prose fiction version). There will always be new ideas for characters, worlds, and situations that also achieve this kind of near-mythic status, but it's a challenge. Many very good ideas will likely fail just because of timing, failures of execution, and the like. But others will succeed imaginatively and commercially.

For a time, I wrote media tie-in novels with a bit of success - at least enough success to show that I can do the job competently and that I sort of know what I'm talking about with all this. The Terminator trilogy that I produced about 12 years ago gained some credibility with fans, but my King Kong novel, Kong Reborn, really had no impact - not because there was anything terribly wrong with it (I believe) so much as its timing. It appeared shortly after the tragic death of Byron Preiss, who had commissioned it, and shortly before his publishing empire went bankrupt. (Meanwhile, my main interests were moving in other directions.)

I'm glad to have had the opportunity to work with some of our era's great iconic characters and to create some characters of my own for their worlds. As for King Kong... Radford's point certainly applies. I expect that sooner or later someone will have another go at a King Kong movie, superseding the rather impressive 2005 one directed by Peter Jackson. Meanwhile, there's a sort of prequel, Kong: Skull Island, scheduled for release in 2017. I'll look forward to it.

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