Directors such as Christopher Nolan and J.J. Abrams have earned reputations as being extremely secretive filmmakers. This extends to their decision to only discuss their current film publicly to the media. When asked about the possibility of Star Trek 3 before this summer’s sequel hit theaters, Abrams said:
“I wouldn’t say there has been a [Star Trek] trilogy planned. … We really are taking this journey one step at a time, and while there are a lot of ideas we have now for what might be a third movie, it’s really up to the audience to determine if that is something that comes to pass."
This is actually the ideal way to go about running a film franchise. In any film – no matter the genre – we are supposed to live vicariously through the main characters, learning things as they learn them. When the movie begins, they (the characters) have no idea if they’ll live to see another day, so why should the audience? By taking things one movie at a time, it forces the audience to become more invested in that particular film. Even if common sense dictates the “franchise” will go on, in the back of our minds there's one small thought: "They haven’t officially announced the sequel… what if there isn’t one? What if this is it?" There's no law that says every film franchise must be at least three movies.
That thought is what fuels the dramatic tension of a big action movie. Series that run this way (The Dark Knight, Star Trek, and now Man of Steel) are much more engrossing because they involve the audience by making them feel different emotions throughout the course of the film. Honestly, what was more interesting: Tony Stark throwing a nuke in a wormhole or seeing Bruce Wayne fly a bomb over the bay? If you’re going to tease moviegoers with death, it helps if they don’t already know a sequel is in production.
When Ben Affleck was cast as Batman for Man of Steel 2, the official press release only mentioned that one film. This differs from the Marvel Studios method of announcing long-term multi-picture contracts for their actors. Sure, WB could be planning things behind the scenes, but we wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t publicly green light a new DC film until after the Batman/Superman team-up hits theaters. If the audience goes into this sequel with the knowledge that no other film is (publicly) in development, then there’s a greater chance they are more invested in the characters and their actions. The filmmakers will have fun with the character dynamics to make things fascinating, but that very basic question of “does he live or does he die?” going unanswered allows everything to be that more suspenseful. Since action set-pieces are a large part of any tentpole film, it would be nice if there was some actual excitement behind them.
Dramatic tension is a tricky aspect to completely nail down. After we watch a movie for the first time, we know what happens and the tension is lifted. Films based on books or true stories are a Google search away from revealing everything. Still, in the case of fictional franchises where anything can happen, we would like to see more filmmakers and studios use the Nolan and Abrams method of taking things one film at a time so when we sit down for that all-important first viewing, we know that anything could happen.
What do you think Screen Ranters? Would you rather know a block of sequels is on the way or have your favorite franchises take things one film at a time?
Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisAgar90.