State of the Franchise: RED

By Jason Barney

July 24, 2013

This movie is *not* going to win an Academy Award for costumes.

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In today’s box office world, when a film makes money, studios will consider a sequel. Movie-making is a business and executives want profits. Sure, new ideas do get support and original stories come out all of the time. However, there is substantially less risk in bringing back established characters. People already bought tickets once; why wouldn’t they do so again? Within this discussion is the concept of a franchise. At what point does a film series become a franchise? Is the amount of money made part of the equation? Is the number of installments a factor?

The answer is in the eye of the beholder.

This summer, however, studios have given us a number of “part twos”. They have produced flicks that carry on stories from previous films. In some cases, this is exactly what fans want. In other instances, it’s a roll of the dice.

Grab a coffee, sit back, and enjoy the periodic discussion about which of this summer’s sequels may be expanding into the franchise territory.

The basic equation of box office success earning a sequel definitely applies here.


RED (2010) - 8/10

In the fall of 2010, Summit Entertainment released this adaptation of one of DC Comics' graphic novels. It featured an interesting mix of stars unlikely to come together for such a project. RED was billed as a combination of action and comedy and displayed a very memorable gun fight sequence in a few of the trailers. It wasn’t Batman, Transformers, or Star Wars, but this venture was never intended to be. It just made a lot of money.

October is a curious time for films to open. Studios generally try to muscle in their bigger projects in the summer months or around the holidays. As the leaves are turning, temperatures are falling, and Halloween approaches, there is usually some hack and slash on theater screens. The 10th month of the year lies in that transition between fall and winter and the box office releases reflect that.

RED was not a sure bet. Bruce Willis, who is one of the most recognizable names out there, has had his share of misses. He was all over the advertising, though, and was woven into a very bankable group of stars in an intriguing way. Willis plays Frank Moses, a retired special agent whom elements of the American government want eliminated. When those factions move against him, his talents and training as a killer are displayed. As he flees, he must rely on an odd mix of previous relationships and randomness for his survival. Mary Louise Parker plays his romantic interest, Sarah Ross, very well; her kind brown eyes and beautiful long hair contrast Willis nicely. The pairing works. Along for the ride are two well established talents, John Malkovich and Morgan Freeman. Freeman’s grandfather-like presence almost always shines, and Malkovich’s ability to portray random behaviors and intense frustration are priceless. Rising star Karl Urban plays the agent in charge of trying to dispatch Willis. Perhaps the oddest addition to the cast is Helen Mirren. Her name is always associated with quality and respectability. Her career started out with the Royal Shakespeare Company and has been marked by countless award nominations.

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