An idea to change movie franchises forever

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Posted March 30, 2016

A 15 minute short story, where the stakes are lower and the focus is on ideas and characterization (rather than the spectacle), could be fairly economical especially where visual effects are used conservatively and/or borrowed from the feature film.

Kirk. Spock. McCoy. etc. Audiences were blessed with these characters and their actors for three seasons on television and through six feature films. We squeezed quite a bit from this Star Trek cast. It was the ultimate franchise through the 80’s, joined in part by Christopher Reeves’ four Superman movies.

These were outliers, and have become even moreso in today’s cinema.

It’s tough to keep a franchise chugging along, for many reasons. Modern franchises on film are massive undertakings, which juggle budgets, contracts, release dates, and the schedules of their actors. Not that these challenges didn’t exist in the 80’s, but where Star Trek and Superman movies could be churned out almost every two years during that time, today’s sequels more commonly are taking between 3 and 4 years to get from paper to film.

the Narrows from Batman Begins

“The Narrows” from Batman Begins. How did Batman and Lieutenant Gordon work together to clean this place up after? Image courtesy of MoviePilot.


There are a few negative consequences to these more sporadic release dates. Let’s take Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy for example. What began filming in 2004 ended its run when released in 2012. For the actors and production team at play, that’s eight years of people’s lives consumed by a franchise, and there’s not often an appetite to keep things going beyond three movies. In addition, real life goes on and the actors age considerably between installments; as a result it is difficult for sequels to realistically pick up right where the last movie left off.

Asking for big budget sequels to be churned out every couple of years in a franchise is unreasonable, and would probably produce some pretty crappy movies anyways. But if you’re like me, you still want more of the story and comic-book or novel tie-ins just don’t do the trick.

A Solution

What about episodic entries for film franchises? While the entire Star Trek cast is on set anyways, could there be an opportunity to film short stories? A 15 minute short story, where the stakes are lower and the focus is on ideas and characterization (rather than the spectacle), could be fairly economical especially where visual effects are used conservatively and/or borrowed from the feature film.

These short stories could do a lot to fill in the gaps between movies, give the fans a nod by incorporating characters or gizmos that the feature films don’t reference, and contribute to the overall ‘story’ of the franchise.

The first fifteen minutes of Into Darkness was probably the best part of the whole movie. Image courtesy of Collider.


Moreover, they could be a source of significant income for the studios. Yes, there will of course be production costs associated with the added footage – from scripting, to actor contracts, etc. However, these short stories could be sold separately either digitally or through some paid service like Netflix. Consumers would likely pay a few dollars to get their hands on these installments between feature films. New toys could be sold. Etc.

Personally, I keep looking to the Batman franchise. How great would it have been to get a short one-off filling in some of the gaps between those films? How did Batman clean up the Narrows? How did Commissioner Gordon and Batman work together to cut the mob down to size? You can’t tell me there was no Batman on the streets whatsoever between part 2 and 3. Maybe the Riddler existed in this universe?

The opportunities are endless. Frankly, the more grounded storytelling forced into a 15-minute time frame would be refreshing. It would be nice to see the Star Trek cast complete a mission or face a challenge that didn’t threaten Earth, humanity, or the destruction of the Enterprise. The best part of Into Darkness was probably the James Bond style introductory mission.

What do you think?

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