Casino Royale opens today and as you might have been able to tell from the trailers, it takes James Bond back to his roots, and no I'm not referring to his new blond hair color. This whole idea of reinventing the movie franchise is an emerging trend these days. It used to be that Hollywood couldn't come up with original ideas and decided that the safest investment was to make sequels to popular movies. The cheep sequel has been around for decades. Long before Disney decided to churn out straight-to-video sequels of its theatrical hits, studios took advantage of their actors' long-term contracts and basically told them what their next movie would be. Take Mickey Rooney for example. In 1937 he appeared in a low budget hit called A Family Affair which eventually spawned 15 sequels, all starring Rooney as the lovable Andy Hardy. Six of those sequels came out over a two-year span. Eventually Hollywood got a little more creative in its marketing efforts as George Lucas popularized the prequel. Today, the sequel and prequel movie conventions have been combined into the reinvented franchise and Casino Royale is just the latest example. Like Batman Begins, which is probably the best example, it takes place in the present day, which would suggest it follows the previous films, but it takes the character's story back to the beginning like a prequel. It's a way of hitting the reset button.
Another trend in Hollywood is the recent gluttony of movies featuring CGI (computer generated images), especially those with talking animals (by the way, if you're looking for good CGI movie, I recommend Monster House). It seems like every week a new CGI animal movie featuring the voice talents of today's A and B-list actors is coming out. First it was zoo animals, then barnyard animals. It appears the next wave of films will feature rodents. None of them really seem to stand out and as a result, the studios are cannibalizing each other's business.
That leads us to the topic of this post. Some genius has come up with the idea of using talking CGI animals to reinvent a movie franchise. March 2007 marks the release of the all new, feature-length movie The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and this time they're digitally enhanced. That's right, the movie franchise that brought us The Secret of the Ooze will see its fifth installment as the one that hits the reset button. I'd give you the premise of the movie, but something tells me the story isn't the most important element of this merchandising vehicle. In fact, a new futuristic TV show is on its way as are new toys and other commercial tie-ins. I will say this about the CGI turtles compared with the original ones that looked like Barney: they can move a lot better (see the advanced theatrical trailer below, 1:46). It's as if they were cartoons, which raises some concerns.
As a kid, I grew up a fan of the live-action Incredible Hulk television series. I also liked The Incredible Hulk cartoon (in fact, my aunt was one of the show's animators). However, when The Hulk movie came out in 2003 it was essentially a combination of the two with a CGI Hulk instead of a hand-drawn one. And let me tell you, it didn't really work that well (and don't even get me started on the Scooby-Doo movies). We could be seeing the same thing happen with the Ninja Turtles and since I was neither a fan of their Saturday morning cartoon nor their other four movies (I believe I saw the first one and part of the one where they go back in time), it's a pretty safe bet I won't be lined up to see TMNT on opening day. But, should they ever use talking CGI animals to reinvent the Air Bud franchise, I'm there.
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