Friday, 15 October 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #614: The Fox And The Hulk

Welcome to the show folks...


20th Century Fox, one of the biggest studios in Hollywood, is having a bit of a slump. Not an NBC-Universal type all out creative-financial slump, but a bad case of the creative doldrums. Almost half their upcoming slate are remakes, sequels, or rehashes, they're finding it hard to attract top talent, and outside of
Avatar (one of their few "original" productions*) a lot of their productions have under-performed with audiences.

Now the article cites 2 reasons for these doldrums.

1. Fox is obsessed with being the hardest bargainers in the business.

2. Fox's upper management think that all they need is "brand management" using and reusing familiar titles based more on meeting release schedules over the quality of the story being told.

Here's what I think...

1. Hard bargaining is fine, I support it. But there is a point where your desire to save ends up costing more than you bargained for. I suggest crunching the numbers and finding where to be a hard bastard, and how hard a bastard you should be, before it starts to cost you more than making the occasional concession.

2. Sure, everyone loves franchises, they're lovely, and for the most part reliable. However, they have expiration dates, and there's nothing worse than flogging a dead horse, just ask Universal Pictures in the 1940s when they killed all their classic monster franchises with increasingly inane sequels. You need fresh ideas for new franchises, and for that you need fresh blood.

How do they get this fresh blood?

I think Fox should aggressively seek out new talent, recruit them, and create a new low budget division to develop their work.

Now I'm not talking about a rehash of Fox Atomic. Fox Atomic was a mistake, the whole branding of that division created the impression that the films it released weren't good enough for the "real 20th Century Fox," and its frequent declarations of targeting the "youth market" did nothing but turn off the youth they were targeting.

This division must have no obvious public connection to 20th Century Fox. It must have a completely separate corporate identity, and must never openly say that they're targeting the youth market, because there's nothing youth hate more than people who obviously chase after their dollars. Its mission would be to produce modestly budgeted commercially oriented films that target not a demographic, but gaps in the market. I'm talking about mid-range action films that aim for suspense and thrills over cartoonish CGI, comedies, and horror films. It should also make these films for home video, television, and theatrical markets.

Talent will show, deadwood will fall to the side, and those that prove their mettle, both creatively and commercially, can graduate to working directly for Fox Studios.

But how can they keep them from going to work with another studio? Iron clad indentured servitude by contract? No.

You keep them by treating them right. Pay them what they're owed, when they're owed it, don't play any silly games with them, and also trust the filmmakers who prove themselves worthy of trust.

Then they will want to stay with Fox, create new material, and keep the company from getting stale, and turning into Universal.

*If any rehash of Pocahontas meets Ferngully in blue-face, can ever be called "original."


The ABC Network, which is owned by Disney, is working with Marvel Comics (another Disney property) to develop a live action Incredible Hulk TV series. They are currently looking for a show-runner, and there's a rumor that Guillermo Del Toro would like to get involved.

It's not the first time it's been done, but thanks to new technology, the Hulk can be the massive raw destructive force he's supposed to be instead of being just a large man in green body-paint.

Here are some of my suggestions for this new series:

1. Don't let David E. Kelley anywhere near it. Instead look for people with either a background in comics,, science-fiction and/or fantasy, or a passion for the source material.

2. Please let there be some villains. The original Hulk series eschewed the comic character's rogues gallery and in my opinion suffered for it. They could have just painted Lou Ferrigno blue, called it The Big Blue Angry Guy, and not paid Marvel at all. The Hulk shouldn't be a deus ex machina saving David Bruce Banner from whatever bland normal crook he happened to stumble across this week.

3. Let there be a supporting cast. The original series got very predictable because with Banner alone, and I mean truly alone, there were no really high stakes for him to face. You knew that whoever he met in any given episode wasn't going to be around for the next episode, so you didn't really worry about them.

And let's not forget the fact that in that TV series he was being pursued, not by the Army, but by a tabloid reporter. Just a tabloid reporter. That's it. Where is the army unit assigned to bring the monster under heel? What are the moral-ethical implications of their mission? Will they seek to weaponize the Hulk, or realize that the lack of control really does make him more of a threat than a potential resource? Perhaps some interaction with other elements of the Marvel Universe is in order? Could help promote the brand overall if you want to talk like an MBA yahoo.

4. Plan it all out before going on the air. I know I keep hammering at this, but you really need to have a serious plan. A well done sf-fantasy series can expect a 7 year run at the extreme most before it starts losing steam, and can only reach that goal if they have a definite narrative plan. No how it starts, how it flows, and then how it ends. It's not that hard, it just requires a little thought, and the ability to be flexible enough to face necessary changes in the situation when they happen.

That's what I think, what do you think?

1 comment:

  1. You are right franchises have expiration dates.

    Just look at Star Trek, Star Wars and terminator... especially trek.

    Look at the Call of Duty games, even though WWII is a huge subject matter, and the previous games including Medal Of Honor never really fully tapped the entire war, WWII games were getting old and they had to go Modern Era.

    As for Star trek, they really need to just stop. Sure the JJ Abrams film was not bad, how much longer can you still push a 40 year old sci-fi franchise.

    Which means one thing, when a franchise gets worn out, you can reboot it.

    But the allure is too hard to resist, to hard for a studio to try to squeeze every last dollar out of their property until the entire thing collapses.

    I just want to know, how many times can you just "reboot" it. To the point you just cannot breathe new life into it ever again.