Thursday, 20 January 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #662: Flogging A Dead Horse.... With A Lethal Weapon

Welcome to the show folks...

If there was something that Hollywood loves to do it's to flog a dead horse.

The latest deceased equine to get vigorously flailed is the
Lethal Weapon franchise. Yep, that's right, Warner Bros. is very keen to revive the buddy cop series, either as a sequel, or possibly a remake/reboot with a new cast.

Okay, normally I'd do one of my "no-no-no" rants, but since I'm in one of my more analytical moods, otherwise known as "sober" I'll analyze this idea coldly, clinically and impartially.

That means it's time again to play....



1. The original series was extremely lucrative. The last film 1998's
Lethal Weapon 4 made around $285 million worldwide at the box office, despite the verbal drubbing it got from critics and fans.

2. The original stars should be available. Both Mel Gibson and Danny Glover aren't exactly burning up the charts they way they once did. Gibson's now known more for boozing and batshit behavior, and Danny Glover's known more for campaigning for South American dictators than starring in commercially successful movies.


1. The films got increasingly more expensive.
The first Lethal Weapon cost $15 million, the third movie cost $35 million, and the fourth film, made 5-6 years later, cost $140 million. That's a huge leap cost-wise, and I suspect that Warner Bros. will probably end up spending way more than that on any sequel/reboot.

Gibson and Glover know that they're essential to the franchise, and they know that any back end deal is a joke these days, so they will demand huge pay-offs up front, and they're used to working as a united front when dealing with the studio.

Remember the formula, you have to at least double a film's production budget, to reflect the prints & advertising costs, then deduct that from the box office take to get a good look at the odds of profit and loss. The first film was relatively cheap, even by the standards of the 1980s, so it's $120+ million domestic take was pure gravy. The last film only made $130 domestically. It did better internationally with around $155 million, but even that's not as sweet as it sounds, because then you have your international distribution partners all taking their piece. So at best, LW4 might have broken even, and that's a big might.

2. The actors are old, but their characters are even older. Mel Gibson's 50+ and Danny Glover is 60+. While films like Red and Taken show that people like a little experience with their action heroes, their characters were written to be much older than the actors playing them. Remember, Murtaugh is 50 years old in the 1987 movie, and Rigg's supposed to be a Vietnam veteran. Basically they will both be beyond mandatory retirement age for police officers. Are they going to take on politically correct crooks in their retirement as well? Though I must say that a high speed walker vs. wheelchair chase might work.

3. The franchise is dusty. It's going on 13 years since the last movie, and folks really didn't care for the last movie.

But that's if they do a sequel, if they do a remake there's one big con:

The original films succeeded because of the great chemistry between Gibson and Glover and their director Richard Donner. That chemistry got diluted by way too much money by the fourth movie, but it was the secret to the film's success.

So what can Warner Bros. do?

Well, first, scrap the idea for a remake or a sequel. Sorry, I don't want to be cruel, but I have to be.

Second, look at what made the first film click:

1. Excellent chemistry between cast and director.

2. A clever, funny, script with a novel premise and an actual plot rather than a chain of excuses for shootouts and chases.

3. A reasonable budget, at least with the first three.

Then try to put together a new buddy cop franchise. How do they do that?

1. Look for a good script with an original premise, and good characters that people will want to see again.

2. Find a good cast and director who have their own appealing chemistry, rather than trying to copy the chemistry of other people.

3. Try to keep a high level of quality in the storytelling to keep audiences and cast/crew interested in sequels.

4. Keep costs reasonable. You don't need a huge budget to make an action movie, you just need skill and imagination.

Then maybe they might get lightning to strike twice. It's risky, but it's a hell of a lot cheaper than the idea they're planning.

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