(MENAFN- Khaleej Times) Published: Thu 8 Jun 2023, 7:41 PM
I often think what would have happened if the 'franchise movies' culture was big in Bollywood, like it has been in Hollywood. Say a hypothetical Sholay franchise or a Mughal-e-Azam franchise. A possible thriller about a face-off between Viru and Gabbar's kids in 'Sholay 2' or a story about Salim-Anarkali's new adventure in something called 'Mughal-e-Azam-Returns'. Then instantly, I am thankful that these franchise movies do not exist. I adore these classics and their climactic sequences. I love how definitive and memorable the end of these stories have been.
There's a reason for these thoughts. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny had its world premiere at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival a few days ago. This fifth edition of the Indian Jones series will be releasing in theatres on June 30 and with it, the iconic franchise will end for good. The much-loved series began in 1981 with the blockbuster Raiders of the Lost Ark. It was followed by Temple of Doom (1984) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989). Then after a break of more than two decades, the adventurous archaeologist Indy came back with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008). So, this has been a five-movie franchise that ran for 42 years. Yes, that long.
To give you an idea of how deep the franchise roots have been in the movie business, just look at the number of years they are churning the same plots and characters with different titles. Halloween is going on since four decades (13 films), the Jurassic Park series since last 30 years, the James Bond franchise consists of 25 films in 60 years. But do you know which is the longest running film franchise in the movie history? It is the Godzilla film franchise. In fact, this franchise had begun with the Japanese film Gojira (1954). It originally had a strong political statement from Japan's perspective where Godzilla's rampage in Tokyo symbolised the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Then Hollywood realised the 'commercial' potential of this character and the political symbolism took a backseat. In the subsequent films, Godzilla started fighting a variety of monsters to save earth. There've been 38 films since 1954 with a 39th installment releasing next year. Like Godzilla, the franchise movies just go on and on, crossing decades, technologies and presenting almost similar plots that made the first movie a rage. There's no intent of putting an end to the story because that's what people are paying to watch. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is currently the highest-grossing movie franchise, earning a combined $28.56 billion through 31 films.
With that kind of history, the Indiana Jones announcement came as a major surprise, putting an end to an eminent franchise in an era when such movies are actually saving the theatre business. There are valid reasons for this decision. Harrison Ford once famously said something like - when he dies, Indiana Jones dies. He will be 81 by the time the film is released, perhaps the oldest action star in this physically demanding role. Ford is Indy and no one can and should replace him in some obscure CGI-laden franchise movie years later. The last film Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was a major misfire and questions were raised if these characters and subject can still charm the audiences. Another major change is that Steven Spielberg is not directing this installment. James Mangold (Ford v Ferrari, Logan) is the new director. There will be no further reboots or spinoffs. It's ending for good.
There are other famous examples of ending movie franchise. Remember how Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 became special, as the audience knew it was going to be the final installment. The Harry Potter film franchise lasted for 10 years. It was a major money spinner for Hollywood studio Warner Bros, but they stuck to their decision of ending the franchise with the last film having a definitive ending without leaving any door open. It made it even more memorable.
Recently, John Wick 4 received great reviews and did splendid business. This one is, arguably, the best movie in the series with magnificent set action pieces ever seen. Yet, director Chad Stahelski and Reeves went on record to say the only reason to make the movie was that Wick had to die. The film ends with a confirmed death of John Wick in a glorious last sequence filmed in Paris. We see him take his final breath and even his gravestone. It's a deeply satisfying experience, a powerful culmination of the story of John Wick and of the nine-year-old trendsetting action franchise. If the studio ever decides to make a 'John Wick 5', it would feel like a deceit to see John Wick alive and will surely dilute the beauty of this ending.
My friends who have watched Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny in Cannes Festival tell me that though the snide remarks of Indy have the same flavour, this feels more like a James Bond action film than Indiana Jones. It also has the British actor Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Indy's accomplice and cameos by Antonio Banderas and John Rhys-Davies.
So I am keeping my fingers crossed for an unforgettable end to the Indiana Jones story. Hoping this is not a marketing gimmick to emotionally pull viewers to theatres and announcing the next installment/spinoff later. There's nothing like a well-told story with a strong ending. Like life, characters and stories must conclude. Like Indy says in one of the Indiana Jones movies,“It's not the years, honey; it's the mileage.”
Yasser is a London-based film commentator and author