Great piece yesterday in New York Magazine’s Vulture section on how Hollywood has basically decided to adopt the Edge of Tomorrow axiom when it comes to franchising tentpoles: LIVE. DIE. REPEAT. Consistently discarding and rewriting mythology to relaunch the SERIES when the audience doesn’t take to the previous installment.
But this also ties into a larger metaphysical issue in film. The death of DEATH. And “The Verge” uses Furious 7 to illustrate this point. The irony being that Paul Walker (actually dead) is in a film wherein EVERYONE IS IMPERVIOUS TO DEATH.
These two strains link (endless cycles and immortality) because NOTHING EVER DIES anymore. Franchises, successful or not, have been ZOMBIFIED. They will always come back. We have FRANKEN-FRANCHISED. The franchises are ZOMBIES and the characters inside them are IMMORTAL. But it actually makes perfect sense, because WITHOUT TIME THERE IS NO DEATH.
Franchises are MYTHOLOGIES, and MYTH is not supposed to be FLUID, it is supposed to be FOUNDATIONAL. Sure, myth was part of an oral history, but the Gods and humans they interacted with stayed FIRM regardless of the scenery changes. And people DIED in these mythologies. In fact, this is why GAME OF THRONES is the only series running today that could be considered a successful FOUNDATIONAL MYTH. They whack whole casts per season. This grounds it in TIME.
The collapse of both TIME AND DEATH has led to root ontological changes in how we INTAKE NARRATIVE. Since no one ever DIES, ergo there can be no TIME, so FORM has to fall apart.
Many commentators (Jonathan Carr to name one) feel that technology has destroyed our ability to FOCUS, but I don’t necessarily agree. We ingest narrative in anything from 6-second VINE CLIPS, to BINGE-WATCHING series, to stacking YouTube clips in a loop. This is more a question of DURATION. Since there’s no more DEATH, time has no meaning, so it doesn’t matter if content comes in six-second bursts or twenty hours. There will always be MORE. Even the IMAGE itself is caught in a time trap, where you have CHRONO-STACKING, several layers of time contained in the same FLUID SHOT. Steven Shaviro calls it the RHYTHM IMAGE.
Time, duration, immortality. We have fundamentally mutated the act of WATCHING into an act resembling Guy DeBord’s concept of the DERIVE. We refuse to OBEY THE RULES OF NARRATIVE anymore. No more linearity, no more cause and effect, hell no more CHARACTERS at times. We move from source to source of visual and sonic ambience at our own languorous pace. The entire digital sphere is our PRIVATE MIX TAPE. We don’t need someone to SHAPE THE NARRATIVE for us anymore. We’re doing it ourselves. And I’m not sure that’s a sign of ATTENTION DEFICIT. I think that’s the ABSENCE OF DEATH. The ZOMBIE IMAGE.
I want to close on Edge of Tomorrow and the Franken-Franchise for one last point. Repetition as a concept can also have a SPIRITUAL TINGE TO IT. Kierkegaard knew it. Buddhists know it. We repeat until we get things right. Is this entire glut of formless OR overly formalized narrative a SECRET SEARCH FOR TRANSCENDENCE even we haven’t put our finger on.