2022 Was a Year of Franchise Falloff

Promo poster for Star Wars: Andor.

Image: Disney/Lucasfilm

From begin to end, 2022 felt like a bizarre yr, one the place the soundness of almost every thing we’ve taken with no consideration was significantly examined in some type or vogue. Southwest Airlines at the moment being in the course of an enormous journey nightmare appears like a reasonably apt comparability; everybody’s both confused or pissed off (or, properly, each), and there’s a basic sense of feeling misplaced as all of us attempt to course of what went down this yr. That collective need all of us have for the yr to finish is extra out of exhaustion than pleasure about what 2023 can deliver.

For the leisure trade, issues have been notably eventful, primarily over the past quarter of the yr. Between limitless reveals getting cancelled, mergers, and subsequent layoffs, there was sufficient occurring to fill a three-season status restricted sequence. And in their very own method, every of those subjects have been related to franchises: whether or not it was the tried beginnings (or confirmed finish of) sure blockbuster tentpoles, or discussions about how particular works can function within the equipment of their mothership sequence, we’ve all had franchises on the mind. We haven’t simply spilled limitless digital ink on what we wish from sure franchises going ahead—we’ve additionally endlessly questioned if the individuals concerned know what they’re doing with mentioned properties, and what it even means for a franchise to be a franchise within the first place. Try as you would possibly, you couldn’t actually get away from the speak of franchises, sequence, sagas, and the like.

Image for article titled 2022 Was a Year of Franchise Falloff

Image: Marvel Studios

Maybe that was inevitable; after 2020 noticed a lot of the trade kneecapped due to the pandemic, 2021 was largely about studios taking part in hen with launch dates in case there was one other flare-up of infections that resulted in manufacturing delays or audiences ready for a movie to hit VOD. If 2021’s Spider-Man: No Way Home was a gentle step again into franchise waters, then 2022 was extra like cannonballing into the pool from the excessive diving board: Disney got here in swinging with loads of Marvel and Star Wars, but additionally Avatar and a few surprisingly strong returns of older sequence through Prey and Willow. People who’re franchises unto themselves, corresponding to Tom Cruise and Jordan Peele, reminded audiences why they’re so beloved respectively through Top Gun: Maverick and Nope. New installments of Universal’s Shrek and Despicable Me franchises turned excessive earners, and perhaps even vital acclaim. Mobile Suit Gundam introduced in a complete new viewers because of The Witch from Mercury, and sequence like Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Owl House obtained (or will quickly be getting) some triumphant final hurrahs.

But it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, was it? Beyond the messy method that studios dealt with some franchises or how sure installments have been at greatest combined or straight up dangerous, audiences misplaced extra religion within the tentpoles and types which have turn out to be a giant a part of our lives (and in some situations, individuals’s complete identities). There was a lot dialogue all year long of the MCU’s Phase Four largely feeling so rudderless, or how Andor fails within the eyes of some by not feeling like different Star Wars sequence corresponding to The Mandalorian. Warner Bros. Discovery continues actively setting itself ablaze, whereas nonetheless managing to make of us take into consideration the viability of DC and a certain magical property going ahead into the brand new yr.

Sometimes that shattered religion was introduced upon by the standard of a movie or TV present; different occasions, it was due to the individuals concerned. Recall how Dwayne Johnson tried very laborious to let individuals know he wasn’t upset about Black Adam’s industrial efficiency and the way his efforts in the end blew up in his face. Think about Henry Cavill—he doesn’t have the cultural cache of Johnson, however you may’t deny that The Witcher made him a extra interesting actor within the eyes of many. Whatever the heck occurred over at Netflix along with his sudden exit from that present, it’s fairly clear that one thing is happening there that’s ready to be uncovered. And the latest launch of the Blood Origin miniseries isn’t fully instilling religion on the fantasy sequence’ future prospects with out him. Cavill, in the meantime, will in the end be wonderful, however that transient interval the place it appeared like he’d be Superman once more till he wasn’t didn’t precisely instill confidence in his profession selections.

Pokémon Scarlet and Violet may be a big seller, but it’s also torn Nintendo’s fanbase apart.

Pokémon Scarlet and Violet could also be a giant vendor, nevertheless it’s additionally torn Nintendo’s fanbase aside.
Image: GameFreak/Nintendo

Outside of films and TV, the same shift was occurring within the online game house. For some sequence, like Silent Hill and Cyberpunk 2077, followers had their religion renewed, however others wound up having their longtime flaws highlighted. Pokémon Scarlet and Violet and Pokémon Legends: Arceus had longtime followers at odds over what the franchise might or ought to be going ahead and who’s at fault for Scarlet & Violet’s launch points. Square Enix’s subsequent mainline Final Fantasy installment caught hearth when its director gave a reasonably horrible response to the sport’s lack of range, which served as a reminder that simply because a franchise is a blockbuster phenomenon, that doesn’t imply it’s for everybody. Games are normally off in their very own little world, however after they intersect with the bigger leisure panorama, you see how the medium is in the same odd state as builders are getting acquired (which despatched players into concern) or making an attempt to win again favor with their fanbases after bad PR.

The yr 2023 is wanting like but one other large one for franchises because of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, whichever DC motion pictures Warner Bros. decides to launch, and who is aware of what else. But will it’s as tumultuous a yr as 2022? I’m actually hoping that’s not the case. Even as I’ve loved and appreciated wholly new experiences from the yr like RRR and Barbarian, I do wish to chill with a dependable sequence and let it take me on a journey. That stability is simple to mock, and in addition laborious to interrupt off from. Sometimes you simply need what has a usually constant output. But this yr was fairly specific in displaying that the franchises themselves can now not coast on what they’ve reliably supplied for years on finish. They additionally must be prepared to shake issues up and even simply ease off the throttle in order to let new stewards take the reigns for a bit and let their explicit abilities shine.

For higher or worse, each foreseeable yr is simply fated to have franchises take up a lot of the oxygen within the room. Here’s hoping that both subsequent yr or within the years to come back, the cracks within the armor don’t present as badly as they did in 2022.

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