During a commercial for The Walking Dead over the holiday, my parents brought up that they have no interest in the big blockbuster movies and TV shows due to the prominence of science fiction and fantasy. Aside from bringing up the fear that one day I won’t find popular movies and TV shows appealing, I also realized that Science Fiction and Fantasy – one of the most alienating genres – has fully merged with the most prominent forms of entertainment. TV drama’s have had trouble bringing in new audiences after the first season and with the rise of the two aforementioned genre’s, considered by many to be modern American myth, the forces behind many blockbuster film franchises feel a need to retell origin stories, even if they are common knowledge.
It’s no coincidence that the most popular of these are based in comic books, one of the more alienating mediums. Only with movements like digital distribution and more, importantly, DC Comics own reboot with ” The New 52″ have these become more accessible. One modern myth that is no stranger to new beginnings are the James Bond films which saw the successful last third of its latest reboot in Skyfall.
While those involved with the films will likely deny it, Skyfall is the third part of a trilogy which created the modern James Bond. Casino Royale created James Bond, the man. Solace created James Bond, the agent and the latest combined the modern Bond with elements from the past franchise, creating the myth. This problematic form of myth building – it took seven and a half hours to build a slightly varied character and his relationships when it shouldn’t have taken more than three. However it’s admirable that a blockbuster franchise took as much time to build its universe especially since the last 50 years, audiences are as well versed, if not more so, in 007 lore as they are King Arthur.
While I haven’t seen every Bond film, the fact that there isn’t a canonical origin story in the mainstream circulation is unfounded by today’s standards and the reason we got one in these last three films, but also why the franchise has survive . 007 is a super hero for all intents and purposes, and there is a belief that audiences their origin stories constantly retold. Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider for the second time in eight years. Similarly inclusion of the origin story in Batman Begins – albeit varied from past incarnations – is an example of why the second film in a trilogy is often the better portion. It focuses on expanding the universe rather than introducing or closing the overarching narrative.
All of these examples, with the exception of Bond and Batman, show an unnecessary need to reinforce origin stories into modern American myth. There’s a reason why the middle parts of the franchise, save Quantum of Solace, is the best regarded of their series. They expand the myth rather than begin or close their worlds. The Marvel-Avengers series is successful up to this point because they are constantly building to their universe with their commitment to future films and no end in sight.
This commitment to mythology building will eventually ruin a franchise. Now that Marvel is releasing Ant-Man and The Guardians of the Galaxy films, the odds the universe becomes a convoluted mess are significantly increased. They only need to look to the upcoming Prometheus sequel to see the dangers ahead. The Bond origin trilogy succeeds because we have returned to the familiar until it begins again after two more films, though we won’t need it.
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