The Problem With Fan-Pandering

Posted on Jul 11 2016 - 3:00pm by Ross Williamson

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In the current cinematic climate a lot (if not most) of the big films each year are based on already established properties, be it older franchises, books, comics or even video games. Obviously these franchises have fans, and with fans come expectations, a troubling prospect for the people behind the films. However I have always been in the mind-set tha these films are not made for the fans, they’re made for a general audience who, it has to be assumed, have no prior knowledge of the franchise.

This isn’t to say that the filmmakers don’t try and address the already established audience and include things that will go over the heads of the average cinema goer, but will be a nice addition for those familiar with the property. This being said, sometimes the filmmakers try too hard to please the fans and it can be very damaging. The film that inspired this article is this year’s TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS.

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I think it’s safe to say that fans of the turtles were less than impressed with the 2014 incarnation, and a lot of the complaints revolved around it being so different from the original cartoon. So leading up to the release of OUT OF THE SHADOWS it seemed like they were doing a lot to address the fan complaints; too dark and moody, well now it’s more colourful and fun, didn’t like Shreddertron, well here’s Shredder with more traditional armour, foot clan aren’t ninjas, well this time they are, and as a bonus for the first time in a live action turtles movie there’ll be Bebop and Rocksteady. This all seemed promising and a step in the right direction until it was revealed that Casey Jones, Baxter Stockman and Kraang would also be in the film, and honestly the end product just became overcrowded and cluttered, a desperate attempt to hope something would make the fans happy.

Was the fan pandering the only problem with the film? Of course not, but I do feel it was a key factor in creating a disappointing end product. There was just so much going on it honestly felt like every 5 minutes the film was turning to me saying “Is this what you want? Does this make you happy?” Obviously studios are going to hear the fans comments, and hopefully attempt to address them next time they have the chance, but doing this too much can turn a film into what is essentially big budget fan fiction.

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A film that I fear could really make this mistake is the upcoming GHOSTBUSTERS. Now, people being worried about this film is hardly news, but I’m one of the few who was excited when director Paul Feig talked about this being a film for a new generation, that they were making this their own. I don’t want the original GHOSTBUSTERS again, we already have that. The prospect of something new and something different interests me. It may not always work out but I appreciate it when they try new things. Yet as more promotional material comes out it doesn’t come across that way, with one of the latest adverts revealing the inclusion of Stay Puft, I’m getting concerned that the final product may spend too much time trying to win over the old fans.

In fact this concern came from the first trailer that started with “30 years ago, four scientists saved New York” (which is wrong because it was three scientists and Winston). This was confusing because they had already made it clear that this new film had nothing to do with the old one and wasn’t even set in the same universe. They claim it’s not a remake, and people may hate me for saying this, but the more promotional material that comes out sure makes it look like the original, just with more CGI and slapstick comedy. It could be just the adverts showing all of the easter eggs and nods to the franchise in a desperate attempt to win back the fans, but at this point it seems like they just picked out what they thought people want/remember from GHOSTBUSTERS and made a movie around it.

At the end of the day the new film could be good, and pretty soon we’ll find out. However I believe this will be a good film because it is made for a new audience like they originally promised. Fans can be brutal and are very picky about people “messing” with the franchises they love, but this isn’t GHOSTBUSTERS 3, or at least it’s not meant to be. Obviously it needs to resemble the franchise in some way otherwise it’s not GHOSTBUSTERS, but the more they imitate it the bigger the risk of them getting it torn apart.

Obviously there needs to be some respect for the source material but it is possible without crippling the film. For example in BATMAN BEGINS there is a court scene discussing the sentence of Victor Zsasz, the scene serves the plot because it introduces the character of Jonathan Crane and establishes his influence in getting people sent to Arkham Asylum, an element that resurfaces later in the film. The criminal being sentenced could be anyone and it doesn’t affect the scene, but the inclusion of Zsasz is a nod to fans without being a disruption.

The best films based on existing properties are those that work well on their own on a base level. Independent from their source materials and then, on top of that, service the fans. Films like THE DARK KNIGHT, RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, DREDD, and most of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are so well received and enjoyed because at their cores they are good, enjoyable films, regardless of which franchises they are based on. GHOSTBUSTERS may turn out to be a decent film, but if it does it’ll be because of the story and characters, not because Slimer shows up or the cameos from about 90% of the original cast.

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