Lightyear and the Curse of Franchise Fatigue

 

Very few things in the film-going experience match the excitement of knowing that a new entry in your favorite franchise is coming down the pipeline. Big box office sequels to majorly successful movies can more often than not print money when released at just the right time, satiating audiences’ appetite for more. However, what happens when even the die-hard fans’ attentions begin to wain, and the theater seats stop being sold out?

Coined “franchise fatigue” by media outlets, the term refers to when general viewers have grown tired of a particular film series, causing it to no longer rake in the success and profits it may have once received. No matter how popular it may be, every series must come to an end (or at least a pregnant pause) at some point, and what causes such fatigue can be one of several reasons. Timing is usually an issue, as a new entry may come out too late, years after the initial spark of interest, or perhaps in some cases even too soon; oftentimes, the film is ultimately considered to be an unnecessary addition. Both reasons could apply to the most recent example of franchise fatigue, Pixar’s Lightyear.

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Far Short of Infinity

 

Underperforming by Pixar’s standards and bringing in a worldwide gross of $225 million on its $200 million budget, it seems as if revisiting the Toy Story franchise with a spinoff of a major character wasn’t a direction that audiences wanted to go down. Considered a relative failurethe movie itself fell short of providing a new and original story to justify its own creation, feeling instead like a melting pot of various space movie tropes plucked out of their own films with a Buzz Lightyear coat of paint. Disappointing, though not unexpected given the lukewarm response from fans upon the animated adventure’s announcement.

Though due in part to its own flaws, the lackluster box office performance of Lightyear can also be blamed upon an acute case of franchise fatigue, with the previous entry under the Toy Story umbrella coming out only three years prior, and already having mixed receptions towards its addition to the beloved saga.

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The movie’s somewhat complicated placement in the timeline caused yet another rift between Pixar and movie-going audiences. Meant to be a film within the world of the original films, many weren’t on board with, or were confused by, the concept out of the gate, leading to the project being written off as a tacked on addition rather than an inspired off-shoot. Finally, a more depressing and less addressed reason people didn’t see Lightyear is simply because of its same-sex kissing scene, something attested to by the endless angry comments on articles and videos.

Heroes to Zeroes

 

One can look elsewhere for strong examples of franchise fatigue, practically in every direction. The complete and total disarray of the DC Extended Universe is an oft-discussed series of big-screen blunders. Going up against the massive success of Marvel’s record-breaking hits, it’s clear that the mismanagement of the DC properties have led to a confused and disjointed collection of films based around superheroes that seem to be played by a different actor every few years.

The fatigue of these films comes less from their over-abundance, and more from their lack of polish. With Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice being ridiculed and parodied relentlessly by fans, not to mention the infamous Justice League movie, it seemed as if most fans were calling for a complete reset of the cinematic universe all together, which may be what they’re getting after DC’s recently announced Marvel-inspired 10-year plan.

 

Though not every film has been a miss from the studio, multiple versions of the same character in different movies and a lack of over-arching narrative makes the collection a confusing mess to try to make sense of. When compared to the MCU, the difference is night and day, though Marvel is not without its own fatigued audience.

Over-abundance being a natural source of franchise fatigue, no other franchise in recent film history has reached the level of releases that the MCU has. Spreading to television shows, animated spin-off series, and multiple movie releases a year, it’s only a matter of time before the Marvel train runs out of steam, reaching ‘peak superhero’ in an oversaturated marketwith many speculating what could take the MCU’s place.

Going Out on Top

 

The ultimate way to best the curse of franchise fatigue would be knowing when to call it quits. Very often in films, less is more, and creating just the right amount of movies or content in general to tell the best story possible is always the ideal way to please an audience. Instead of milking success for all it’s worth until the people stop showing up, giving those same people a reason to come back and watch for years to come carries far more value.


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Nothing can sour the taste of a great movie more than a disappointing sequelconsidering how tempting it is for studios and filmmakers to go back to that well. These unwelcome revisits can be churned out immediately, rushed and missing the spark of creativity from the original, or years later to capitalize on that sweet, sweet nostalgia. Films such as the newest Star Wars trilogy are the recipients of endless fan debates on their quality, and in a similar case to the MCU, causing many to feel there’s far more content than necessary being made for the franchise.

It’s become more and more abundant, studios attempting to make their own franchise deals, hoping to siphon off some of that massive success that Disney is enjoying by striking while the iron is hot. Though it may seem exhausting to fans and viewers alike, what made us love these franchises in the first place will always still be there to enjoy, no matter how much extra content may get piled on top of it.



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