Everyone has at least one movie they can watch again and again without tire. This concept, however, reflects the heightened creation of cookie-cutter franchise film productions that have only lately been challenged by the increase in acclaimed, individualistic indie films.
This repetitive movie-watching attitude is a result of a massive boom of sequential films that have been crowding movie theaters and Netflix queues. Big budget blockbuster series like Transformers, The Maze Runner and the Marvel Cinematic Universe have been juggernauts of the movie business, producing financial hit after financial hit. This is due in part to how formulaic these films are are.
All three companies take well-known properties with significant nostalgic appeal and make multiple films that expand their universes, while at the same time still retaining a very similar stylistic approach to each film. Yes, the plots may vary, but it’s hard to expect significant changes within the score, cinematography and the general look and feel of each film in a given movie company.
While this may have worked for a while, it’s clear that general audiences are taking annoyance with these formulas. Take for example Universal’s Dark Universe, a planned series of films putting famous monsters like Dracula, Frankenstein and the Creature from the Black Lagoon into one cinematic universe.
The first film in this series, 2017’s The Mummy, was met with negative reception from critics and the box office. Critiques of the film boil it down to a single point: the director and producers were so focused on building a cinematic universe, that they forgot to actually make an enjoyable movie.
21st Century Fox took advantage of the over-saturation of franchise films with the critical and box office hits Logan and Deadpool. Logan takes a much more serious and dramatic take on the X-Men, while Deadpool is filled to the brim with raunchy jokes, fourth-wall breaks and excellent pacing thanks to a nonlinear narrative. The different stylistic takes on two comic book characters was a refreshing change for moviegoers expecting a run-of-the-mill Marvel film.
In light of all of this, newly released indie films have been a standout in the throng of monotonous storylines. Films like Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Lady Bird have enjoyed financial success as well as significant recognition at the Oscars and the Golden Globes. While both films’ plots aren’t exactly revolutionary, it’s the talent and style that each director uses that sets each film apart.
Directors have one purpose when making Indie films: to create a competently made piece of art that expresses what they want to say rather than what will allow the next sequel to be made.
This shift to putting an emphasis on a director’s vision over a producer’s plan for 10 more films is a breath of fresh air for the film industry. While franchise films certainly aren’t in any financial danger, it’ll be great to see more directors have the chance to create their own original cinematic masterpieces.