One of the appeals of fan fiction is the opportunity it affords to move characters into new contexts without having a status quo to upset. Canons are something fans have typically taken more seriously than studios, though the latter are catching up to the demands of the former and being more cautious about tipping the applecart for no reason. Marvel’s solution in last year’s Spider-man: No Way Home was to establish the existence of several applecarts (based on the expansion of Disney’s applecart empire), and even ostensible remakes and reboots – like the endlessly retconning and rebooting Halloween franchise – declare their allegiance to particular lineages of sequels to the original property.
Now and then something gets made with the official seal of approval that still manages to take the characters on an adventure outside their usual milieu. I’ve always been fascinated by Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home in that way. Star Trek has incorporated time travel before, but a story about the Enterprise crew saving whales in the 1980s – causality be damned – in order to save future Earth from an alien threat that speaks whale… sounds like an idea ready to be killed in the conference room. Had the film bombed, there’s nowhere for a studio exec to hide when questioned why he would play so recklessly with company assets. That the film was a big success and one of the most popular of the franchise speaks to the enduring appeal of the characters, and the audience’s willingness to follow them into stranger territories (though maybe not to The Final Frontier).
Sometimes reaching a terminal point allows a fan fiction-like tangent to get explored, like in Logan, a brooding end to the Hugh Jackman/Patrick Stewart era of X-Men movies that plays out an endgame for the typically eternal comicbook characters. And there’s the occasional genre mashup. The haunted house theme of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom seems more than a world away from the dinosaur island adventures of the previous entries, and more like somebody’s cool idea for a place to play with dinosaurs.
Actors can seem they’re participating in their own fan fiction at times. The upcoming Nick Cage movie The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent certainly seems like it was dredged from one of his more elaborate fan letters. And more than one former James Bond has drafted off their association with the character when put into other spy adventures.
Your turn, Soluters. What films seem more like fan fiction (not to be confused with fan service!) than another step in a franchise saga? Should studios be cavalier with characters and continuity more often? How about stars and their personas?