Anyway, to wander back to the point, I watched two of the big summer franchise movies this week (I'm not going to name them to minimise spoilers) and in both of them, a major character dies at the climax of the story, thus motivating the protagonist to battle with and defeat the antagonist at the final showdown. But in both films it was blindingly clear to me:
- That they were going to resurrect the fallen character before the end of the movie
- How they were going to do it
So, what to make of this bit of apparently lazy screenwriting within two actually pretty good films? Well, I think it demonstrates a major weakness of the story franchise model - it's the characters that audiences get attached to, not the plot. So in order to keep stoking the fire and rolling out new product, those characters must be present in each new adventure. As a result, the element of surprise is lost and with it, crucially, the jeopardy that comes from not knowing who will be alive at the end of the story.
This isn't a new problem - we've all known for fifty years that James Bond could never die. But at least every other character was up for grabs (see Skyfall for proof of that). If you look at a big ensemble movie like Avengers Assemble though, you could pretty much predict that all of the superhero characters were going to make it through, because they each had their own films to go back to. And the only key character they did kill off is being resurrected less than a year later in the SHIELD TV series.
For all this, however, there's something weirdly addictive about these story franchises, as each installment digs deeper and deeper into a fictional world. And the writers do manage to fill them with tension and excitement, despite the artificial limitations of the form. But overall, perhaps this is a moment to feel glad that you're writing children's books and not screenplays for blockbuster movies. And if you want to follow that thought into action, why not kill off your favourite character in a horrible way and never, ever bring them back to life? That'll show everyone you mean business!