Thursday, December 17, 2009

Iron Man 2: First Preview

Over the past 5 years, just a few truly enjoyable and outstanding movies have come out during blockbuster season. One of those films was Iron Man (1). I loved the comic. I loved the movie. Now we are about to get the SQL. It is due out in just about 5 months: May 2, 2010 to be precise.

Paramount and just tag-teamed to release the first movie preview from that upcoming release. It looks a tad silly, but very fun. However, this preview has done nothing to ease my anxiety that we are about to witness another example of Truly Rancid Sequel Syndrome.

As I have mention several times before, I actually took a film appreciation course at UCLA film school. It was my only 'fun' course while at the University. I took it when I was suffering a serious case of burnout senior-itice in my final quarter. It was very memorable. It was a lot of fun.

Probably my favorite chapter in the text book was titled Truly Rancid Sequel Syndrome. As text book explained, truly rancid sequels are those horrible follow-ups to very good movies. Movies like the last two Pirates of the Caribbean certainly qualify. The first was very good. The last two were unmitigated catastrophes. That might be too charitable a description for the final installment. The last was an unqualified motion picture disaster; a movie guaranteed to terminate careers and ruin lives. It's almost as bad as the Rams 2009 season.

Steve Sabol will make a worse film when he has to do the highlight real for the Rams 2009 season. That one will ruin careers and terminate lives.

So why am I sweating Iron Man 2? Why should a I fear a rancid sequel in this case? Let me just coach you up on TRSS and you can reach a conclusion on your own. The following sequence of events almost always gives rise to TRSS:
  1. You have an unexpected hit, you make a ton of money, and the critics praise you.
  2. The studio owns or has perpetual rights on all the intellectual property.
  3. The studio has binding contracts on all the talent on the roster: Director, actors, etc.
  4. The studio immediately orders up a sequel, and wants it delivered in 2 years or less.
  5. A budget is cut and printed prior to the script being written.
  6. A lot of re-writes occuring during the course of the production.
  7. Because of weaknesses in the story and continuity breaks, a certain amount of re-shooting goes on after primary production wraps.
  8. Because of weaknesses in the story and continuity breaks, sound room re-recording of dialog occurs, and their dubs on the sound track.
  9. Because of continuity breaks in the story, editors continue to try to make story edits on the cutting room floor.
Let's examine Iron Man 2. Let's first declare what we know to be a fact:
  1. Paramount had a somewhat surprising hit with Iron Man 1, slightly out of season.
  2. The critics praised Iron Man with a 93% T-Meter on
  3. The people loved it.
  4. It made a ton of money.
  5. People bought the Blu-Ray and loved it some more
  6. Paramount held and still holds perpetual franchise rights on Iron Man movies.
  7. Paramount had binding contracts with the director and almost all the members of the cast.
  8. After just one big opening week, Paramount did an official press release indicating that they were going to do Iron Man 2. They were already doing the legal and budget paperwork to make it happen.
  9. The delivery date was supposed to be late in 2009, or perhaps early in 2010.
  10. The date has been pushed out to almost exactly 2 years from initial release.
  11. The normal time-table for delivery of a movie is 5 years.
Now for the rumors and rumors of rumors:
  1. There was no script for Iron Man 2 before the sequel was ordered.
  2. The legal and budget paperwork was done before the first draft of the script was ever written. (AWE SHIT!)
  3. There are rumors and rumors of rumors that they did some re-writes as they shot.
  4. There are rumors and rumors of rumors that they did some studio dub work.
  5. There are rumors and rumors of rumors that the editors are cleaning up the mess; kinda like my knee surgeon removing a bit of torn cartilage and trimming my meniscus.
Of these things, by far the most important risk factor in TRSS is the printing of the budget before the screen play is even written. How can you print a budget before you have written the screen play? This leads to all manner of problems. I am talking about big time problems.

Now the authorities at Paramount would certainly pooh-poo this whole analysis. They would tell me I don't understand the business. This is how the business works. You can leverage the work you did before to produce a movie faster in sequel. Iron Man has a thousand stories pre-rolled and visualized with story boards, etc., bullshit, etc.

None of these excuses explains why there are so many dreadful sequels when you print the budget before the screen play. You need to explain the deadly correlation between printing the budget before the screen play and TRSS. Then come talk to me about how I don't understand the business.