How Much is Too Much?

So, the news broke out today that another Harry Potter film is in the works. That’s great but my question is: how many films, either theatrical or direct-to-video/DVD can you make for a franchise before everyone becomes sick of it or the story line derails?

When I hear the news of a sequel in the works, most of the time it’s for a movie that I never saw. By that time, I would have already read the reactions and seen the box office results. If I did see the movie, I may be excited if I thought that story left enough room for more situations or complain that it will be continued because I didn’t like it. Even if I did like the movie and a sequel is in the works, I make the assumption that it won’t be good because I felt the story was complete. Case in point: Toy Story.

The trilogy is a strong story with a fair ending. The shorts that they do now involving the characters are great because even though there is no overreaching plot, we see the characters become involved in scenarios that work within a six or seven minute time frame. A Halloween special will be released next month. The problem? A fourth movie. True, this is a rumor but I hope that the idea of a fourth thing means the Halloween special. There is nothing more that can be done on a large scale for the Toy Story universe. As a kid, I didn’t care about the story, I just wanted more things with the characters I liked. Now, I can tell when I’ve had enough of something and will leave it be, even if it means it was something I liked.

Then there’s the joke that a franchise just won’t die. I’ve seen jokes made when Rocky was popular that it would continue for many, many years. I actually have an ad for a VCR that said in 2007 A.D. (that’s how it was printed) I would watch Rocky XVI or something like that. Underneath, it showed the VCR I would watch it on. Of course, the Rocky franchise has stopped since then with less installments than what was theorized. But even then, the idea for an exhaustive franchise still stays with us today. It’s not a bad thing necessarily; look at James Bond and Star Trek. The number of films reaches into the double digits and for the most part are still successful in telling a story that people want to see continue. On the other hand (let’s see how I can say this), the horror genre seems to do quite well with creating new ways to “end” the terror. Or, if you look at direct-to-video, how long is it until time begins in The Land Before Time? Wait, I can’t measure that in time if it doesn’t exist yet.

How many movies do you consider to be enough for a solid franchise? For me, it’s two or three at most before it starts to become a real commitment. What about you?

Movie Review: The Birth of a Nation

I knew it was coming. Sooner or later, I needed to see it. As the basis of all filmmaking, The Birth of a Nation is one of those films that is important to study and evaluate, even with the troubling subject matter.

In the film courses I’ve taken, the film was mentioned and discussed but with no visuals shown. It boiled down to “This is important but if you want more information, read the book and/or study his work on your own time.” So, I went to my library where I knew there was a copy. Preparing myself for a three-hour session, I sat down and opened the case to find a pink and white disc, an odd choice of colors for something so serious. This particular print, besides being distributed by a third party as the film is public domain, is one of the worst cases of DVD manufacturing. I’ll explain why later.

The first act was not bad but I had a hard time figuring out who was from which family. Sure, there were title cards in the beginning but the actors looked too similar to the point where I couldn’t distinguish one from the other. Name tags would have been a good idea.

An hour in, I paused the DVD for a brief intermission. When I returned, my DVD player had a hiccup and had to restart. Keep in mind this is a three hour movie. I access the scene selection menu, the only thing besides “Play”, and I find a glaring issue that should have been resolved before the release. There are only six chapters to choose from in a three-hour span. Who in their right mind thought 6 was enough? There should have been at least five or six times that amount with labels to boot. Nope. I had to guess where I left off and either spend a few minutes fast-forwarding or rewinding to where I paused. This would happen five more times throughout the movie.

Of course, there’s the second half that remains. The Klan comes in and saves the day as there is a brief parade at the end. I sat there in silence. Before I watched it, I knew that this movie was problematic today was because of the presence of the KKK. I must have skipped over the fact as to how they were praised at the end of the film and hailed as the saviors. No, just no.

This movie is one where it has not aged well due to the content. Yet at the same time, we cannot ignore what was captured. It’s a part of film history and that cannot be changed. I can’t imagine what it was like when it first premiered. It will be a long time before I sit down and watch it again. If you haven’t seen it, be prepared for three hours of challenging silent cinema.


1001 MYMSBYD selection

#44 on AFI Top 100 (1997)

400 Nominations for AFI Top 100 selection for 1997 and 2007