The Next Blockbuster Franchise and Ideal Director

The Next Blockbuster Franchise and Ideal Director

In the day and age of a Star Wars movie each year, Cameron planning four Avatar sequels, Phantom Menacing every BVS snippet, and everything being in a shared Cinematic, it needs to be asked "what is next?" Understanding that Hollywood likes proven brands, we need to look towards what franchise could open up a whole new world of possibilities ...and why there is only one Director/Producer that can do the franchise right.

                                                                                   

Welcome to the first of a 4-part series in pitching and conceiving what should be the big blockbuster franchise Hollywood could possibly cash in on ...and how to do it right. Only this one will appear in the editorials section because the other three are primarily fan casting and armchair script writing. They will be good companion pieces to seek out to elaborate on the argument I am going to make here for said franchise and the team that needs to be behind it. Without further ado, let's get it on...

 

I think back in time to my teens in the nineties and remember all that was heralded as the age of the blockbuster and in many ways, that era of movies have influenced our current crop of films. But, if you go back, even something like Independence Day seems low budget compared to something like Avengers: Age of Ultron and anything else in the past decade. We seem to be at a peak in movie making and it is hard to see how where we can go from here. But, more importantly, the question will be asked of “what is left to adapt into a lucrative money making franchise?” Yes, I know, we should be looking at original content, but that isn't the way Hollywood or we work for the most part. They are going to be looking for brand recognition and a built in fan base that appeal to a mass audience. On top of that, you need a franchise that is going to up the ante for big blockbuster films, proving that we have no reached the peak of what the film industry can do with a franchise.

 

Finding that property is tough these days because the biggest well to pull from isn't dry but claimed. Fox, Disney, WB, and Sony (kind of) all have their claim to most of the big name comic book characters. CBM's are being pumped out at maximum and finding a franchise to compete with those big names can be tricky. In addition, you have popular eighties and nineties brands already covered what with Transformers, Power Rangers, G.I Joe, and Ninja Turtles around these days. Essentially though, to sum it up, a studio is going to need something that can go up against Superman. Superman, in this case, represents the whole comic book blockbuster industry and how big name franchises are chosen for the most part. So, one needs to ask, just who in the world can beat Superman in a fight? What can prove to be the next big franchise that can step into the ring with these big names and earn that scratch that many studios want?

 

What character is more powerful than Super Man?

 

                                                                                

 

I know what you are going to say and perhaps it is a warranted concern. Dragon Ball: Evolution was an awful film and there is no denying that. The biggest flaw, and the biggest obstacle in adapting anything Dragon Ball in general, is that the studio was ashamed of what Dragon Ball was and wanted to “hip it up” for American movie going audiences. What do you get when you do that? A movie that is made for no one. You don't make the fans of the property happy because you are making cuts and changes just to fit in and you don't gain any new fans because they get a mixed bag of cartoon stuff and forced studio mandates. You can say what you want about the General Viewing Audience, but they can see through that bullshit. At the end of the day, that movie was made because Fox was losing the rights and wanted to make a cash in on the cheap. They clearly had NO IDEA what they had and that the best way to create some buzz for your adaptation is to win the fans over. It was a mistake, but proof on why it is a franchise that needs to be handled with care. Also, and here is the big one, it adapted the wrong series. Instead of the adapting the series with the characters that many people grew up with due to Toonami, they take the “everything is series and we need to work up to it” route and try to adapt the very first Dragon Ball series. Firstly, that thinking is flawed because to even warrant a series, you need to nail the first one by putting the best ideas into it. Secondly, in adaptations, sometimes the best route is NOT starting from the very beginning but beginning with the stuff you know is going to draw in the most eyes. Ask any fan who is the best all-around character is in all of Dragon Ball and odds are they will tell you Vegeta. He was nowhere to be found here nor was the mythology that really ties the series together. You shouldn't have to work up to the best character to make a movie. Also, they needlessly cut Krillin who is a bit more important to the series than Yamcha. All in all, Dragon Ball: Evolution was a fairly because it never embraced the content it was adapting and wasn't adapting the most American friendly material in the first place. Basically, they did it wrong.

 

With that out of the way, there is no denying that Dragon Ball Z has the power to not just be better than Evolution, but to be a big name in the Superhero/Blockbuster genre. The most important thing is that it DOES have a fan base; a fairly rabid one at that. To many, not just people in Japan, Goku is their Superman. The last two animated feature film releases, Battle of Gods and Resurrection of F, did quite well in their limited releases. It is a series that have several fan films (all of which do miss the point for the most part), fan dubs, and fan art. The best thing is it is an easy series to watch because there are not just several translations of them on the web, but a very popular parody fan dub, Team Four Star's DBZ Abridged, that is done in a way that is funny but also introduces the material to an audience that would otherwise write it off. You want that easy access in choosing a property. Now, the other important factor is if the material is ripe with material that will engage an audience for up to two hours and the answer to that is an emphatic yes. From the history of the Saiyan race, to the mythology of the Dragon Balls, to incredible action scenes that features guys kicking the shit out of each other complete with Beam Battles, giant monkey metamorphosis, and Super Saiyan transformations. There is plethora of a content to present to a current American audience to adapt. Also, it fits in well with the current crop of popular action films, but can actually raise the stakes due to how in depth the action scenes are in the cartoon. Finally, a property is not worth anything without compelling characters. Yes, Goku is a Marty Stu ...but even the cartoon acknowledges this by having him out of commission a lot. But, even then, he is a likable character mostly due to his child-like nature when he was meant to destroy the human race. Really, having him be a flawed person (low intelligence, horrible father, even worse husband) makes a little for the fact that he is SO OP'ed. With him though, comes a great supporting cast of characters that all have interesting motivations or quirks. Many of his supporting cast start out as villains and eventually join his side ...giving them a lot of depth even for an anime. These are characters that can easily be brought to the big screen.

                                                 

 

Now, the fans, the content, and the characters are there, but that doesn't mean that bringing it to an American Audience is going to be easy. Evolution was proof of that, but they weren't even trying. But, it is more complicated than even that. There have been fan films that never seem to get the feel of Dragon Ball right. Why? Because they make the same mistake in reverse: they try to make the property something it isn't. The fan films are all a dark and gritty take on DBZ, always concentrating on the Android stuff which is a tiny part of the series. Let's be honest, Dragon Ball Z is goofy. While, yes, there will need to be modifications due to cultural differences, there is no reason to change the overall feel of the property. The studio is going to need to be okay with that and understand that things like everyone having a transformation and Dragon Balls that grant wishes is part of the appeal. Therefore, they need a person who DOES have his own vision, but with a film making style that lends itself to the feel of the franchise which is harder to find than one might think.

 

This whole article began as a basic fan-cast for the Android's saga but grew into something more when I asked myself “Who in the world would be able to direct this?” Only one named popped into my head almost immediately. Though, I tried to think of anybody that could do it better than him. I thought of Mathew Vaughn, but I feel that he might be a bit too gritty for this project and he is a one movie guy while this would require a trilogy. He would certainly have a hard time adapting the look and feel. I then considered maybe someone more out of the box like a Kevin Smith ...but, with the utmost respect to him, I just do not think he is stylized enough in the action department to make this work. There was another director I considered and I AM using him, but not as the overseer of the project. It is something better suited to his friend and co-writer. In the end, there is only one director that can do a DBZ movie justice with it being both true to the material and lucrative.

                                       

 

That man is, of course, Edgar Wright.

 

There is absolutely no one else that has the vision and ability to pull this off. However, the best movie to use to make this case, is also the worst. Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World was probably one of the best adaptations ever made in that kept the spirit of the books with the changes, cuts, and alterations keeping with that meta. Sounds easy, right? Until you look at the material he had to translate to the big screen and realize that other people would have done it wrong. A guy fighting evil ex's in a pseudo video game universe that is also a character piece about the character and love interest psyche is not something you typically see on the big screen for a reason. What Wright did with it was unbelievable. Not only did it make sense, but it was both funny and action packed. Like DBZ, it had roots in manga and anime in its influence and he stayed true to that without sacrificing the film's dignity. The problem is that, no matter that it was an excellent film that should have changed the way movies were made, it flopped BIG TIME. I don't think any of that was Wright's or the film's fault, but all in Universal's marketing. They had no idea who the target audience was or how to promote that to outsiders. But the nail in that coffin was that they released it on the same weekend as Eat, Pray, Love and The Expendables. OF COURSE IT GOT KILLED. They split the audience. It was in no way an indication that he was not a blockbuster director. If the studio is not behind you, you are screwed.

                                                               

 

Disregarding that for right now, SPVTW proves that not only can he adapt but he can make the most off the wall stuff work which is what you are going to need for a live action DBZ movie. Obviously, there will be things that need to be altered with the most important being that dying needs to mean something because you need stakes in movies, but all in all, there is no person better for the job. Him being on board is not just important for great action scenes, but for fleshing out characters as well. Wright balances character development and action very well. The action affects the character and they react accordingly. This is something that foreign content absolutely needs because sometimes that is hard to convey in straight translations. If a normal director took a look at a character like Goku, he would be cardboard. In Wright, he is a character with major flaws who IS the bad parent and husband because that is what happens in real life. The same can goes double for what he can do for someone like Vegeta who is conflicted and prideful to say the very least.

 

In many ways, Wright is just the perfect director in general because not only is great with conveying character, he is amazing at putting together action set pieces. My top three favorite actions scenes of all time is something that he had a hand in: the Roxy fight from Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, the Bee Hive Brawl in The World's End, and Boyega's final sprint in Attack the Block (Wright produced). The magic isn't just in the fight choreography but the way he shoots, knowing where the camera needs to be at all times. Also, because he is so good at establishing character, it isn't just a bunch of guys throwing punches in a stylistic setting, instead they throw punches and we watch them react. Not just that, but their character dictates their fighting style in many ways. Look at the characters from World's End or Shaun of the Dead and how they differ from each other. He understands that differing characters and emotions dictates how they will approach a situation, including fight scenes. Finally, he compliments those qualities with perfectly chosen music. He knows when music should be in the background and when it should be apart of the fight scene (Shaun of the Dead, The World's End, etc.). Now, look at the fight scenes in Dragon Ball Z: the Android 18/ Vegeta fight on a highway, Super Saiyan Goku fighting Freeza on a dying planet Namek, Gohan's final battle with Cell. Picture those and then imagine what someone like Wright can do with those scenes. Again, with any other director, it would be guys punching each other, but with Wright at the Helm each of those could be something very special and unique from the other.

                                                

 

Finally, Edgar Wright has the comedy chops to be able to realize that there are elements of the source material that is silly, but will never make it a parody of itself. In the hands of any other director, Shaun of the Dead would have been a spoof on zombie films, but he did a movie that was as much a love letter to the genre as it was funny. Again, respecting the source material is key here and Wright will know the difference between respect and having fun with the lore he is working with. As said, DBZ isn't really super serious in the first and is going to need someone that can do comedy just as well as he does action, because there are elements that are just absurd. Goku's eating habits, the talking animals, and even some of the random pratfalls do not have to be cut because Wright knows how to play stuff like that up for yucks. It also works because Dragon Ball Z does have a few characters that seem designated for comedy, namely Krillin and Mr. Satan. That way the serious stuff can stay serious, but there will always be someone around to provide the funny. Frankly, I would be excited to see how Edgar Wright handles Mr. Satan.

 

As good as he might be as a director and probably executive producer, the crux of this working is a studio that is going to trust him and the property's legs. There would need to be a commitment to make this their Lord of the Rings or MCU and support the director as such by giving him that budget and not questioning things or forcing changes. Peter Jackson, Sam Raimi, and John Favreau did not have big hits before LOTR, Spider-Man, and Iron Man respectively (at least in terms of Box Office), but studios saw their potential and trusted them with these projects and each started something much bigger. In many ways, Wright has proven more than the three of them proved before their big breaks. Why is this important? Because Wright doesn't do well with having to work with a studio's vision. Who would that isn't a Brett Ratner-like tool? He was never going to work in the MCU because he had to sync up with the other movies. Here, he might work because he can create the world, he just can't have some suits tell him what a focus group wants or other jibber jabber that destroys vision. The only approval he should need is that of Toriyama. Again, in a perfect world this would all happen and he would be able to produce this for the big screen with no strings attached.

 

Now, how I would like to see a GOOD Live Action Blockbuster be done will be answered in the fan fiction section. That is where I will go into the in depth plot synopsis of all three films, the casting (Bill Nighe is so playing Freeza), and the semantics of Wright doing a trilogy (I.E Joe Cornish will direct one of them). That will hopefully be up in the next day or so. But, what do you think? Is there a better director for a Live Action DBZ trilogy? Is Wright just someone who is never going to catch on as far Box Office goes? Is Dragon Ball Z just impossible to do? Share your opinions in the comment section below and if you enjoyed this analysis please hit the thumbs up.

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