Do we really need ‘The Walking Dead’ cinematic universe?
After friends’ holiday photos and chowing down on plain rice cakes, The Walking Dead is by far one of the most tedious phenomena of the modern world.
Let it be known that we watched the zombie show with fervent joy after it first hit AMC back in 2010, back when Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) was nothing more than a wounded sheriff’s deputy intent on reuniting with his family in the midst of an apocalyptic crisis. However, like many genre shows of a similar nature, The Walking Dead became a rotting corpse that dragged way past its sell-by date.
What started out as a character-driven zombie romp turned into a monotonous soap opera that replaced impressive dialogue and storytelling with bashing our favorite characters’ skulls in. (Did Glenn really deserve such a harrowing death? We know it was gruesome in the comic book, but jeez!)
As such, the show has seen a dramatic decline, jumping from 16 million viewers at the end of season five to just over seven million for S9. Yes, it’s still one of cable’s highest-rated dramas, but with The Walking Dead shedding viewers by the day, it’s clear many are dead bored of the show.
Why do those remaining continue to tune in? The Washington Post‘s Hack Stuever puts it down to the “no end in sight” aspect that keeps some people hooked, while slowly alienating the rest of us, wearied of the ever-circling plot. “The Walking Dead is a show for the video game era – resetting and rearranging players without any hope of true conclusion.”
It certainly would seem this way – that is, up until Sunday night’s episode. Throwing a big fat curveball our way (although we knew it was coming), the show said farewell to its most valuable character yet, as leading man Grimes flew off into the sunset, never to return to the show.
Before we even had a chance to consider whether The Walking Dead might be headed for a revamp, AMC announced it is preparing a trilogy of spinoff movies that will see Lincoln reprise his role as the series star.
Huh? So essentially the whole “Rick Grimes is dying” shpiel was just bait? Although opinions surrounding the news are mixed, we shouldn’t be surprised. AMC has been clutching onto its remaining franchise with gusto – and with Grimes contributing a significant share of the pull, the network sure as hell wasn’t going to let go that easily.
The question now is: are the films going to provide the franchise with the shot of adrenaline it needs, or simply turn into a hot mess? Let’s take a look.
Dead against: Not everything needs a cinematic universe
The Walking Dead film trilogy risks being yet another drop in the reboot ocean. Theaters are already full of superhero flicks, and no matter what new Star Wars film Disney’s hawking thanks to the precipitous fall of Hollywood’s movie studios, do we really need another franchise already showing signs of fatigue?
GQ’s Joshua Rivera put it beautifully. “AMC’s expansive new multi-year plan is said to include ‘additional films, specials, series, digital content and more,’ which makes The Walking Dead feel less like an entertainment franchise and more like the plague it depicts, infecting its network and slowly turning its entire output into a shambling, decaying corpse, hungrily grasping at the closest and easiest prey.”
The market’s already saturated with the likes of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, and Harry Potter. Is there room for this rotten corpse, too?
Dead set: AMC’s got time on its hands
One of the greatest mistakes made with the recent Star Wars movies: they were rushed. Disney itself has admitted its game plan is to launch a movie on the year, every year, until it becomes unprofitable to do so. Who needs quality & integrity when you can make millions, right?
It looks like AMC has no plans of rushing Grimes’s return, so that’s something at least. According to a report by Variety, the network will have plenty of time to develop new storylines, as Lincoln is contracted to multiple feature-length spinoffs. Elsewhere, the show’s chief content officer and writer of the first Grimes-centric feature, Scott Gimple, told EW: “[The films] are going to be big, so they’re going to take a minute to make.”
Dead against: Grimes was done a long time ago
Does Grimes’s arc really need a revisit? The dude’s been on our screens for over eight years, and during this time we’ve seen him evolve from the moralistic leader of a band of survivors to – let’s be real here – a growling jerk and an awful shot. His story was done after the first several seasons, yet here we are, facing another X amount of years with a continuation of his story.
If anything, the show’s reliance on Rick has been a hindrance – it’s holding it back, not keeping it going. “Even when Negan murdered Glenn, we didn’t get to see the death until the start of the following season,” kvetched Rolling Stone’s Noel Murray, “because – according to Gimple – that would’ve detracted from what really mattered: Rick’s arc.” If AMC wants to keep this franchise going, perhaps it should try a fresh approach.
Dead set: There’s opportunity to move away from the comics
As said, the movies do offer up a chance for Gimple et al. to try something new. A point of contention surrounding The Walking Dead is that the larger story arcs have remained more or less the same as the comic books. “The prison, the Governor, Alexandria, the Saviors – all of that is straight from the page,” added Murray.
The spinoffs could step away from the page and bring something entirely new to the table; Gimple has made his plans clear already. In his conversation with EW, he went on to explain the upcoming films will focus on Rick’s independent journey through the Walking Dead universe, rather than leaning on the narratives established by the show.
Dead against: Do we really need two hours of The Snoring Dead?
If the previous point comes true, this argument is redundant. Even so we can’t help but feel a little apprehensive over the thought of a feature-length film on a show nicknamed The Snoring Dead because of its endless scenes of characters grumbling to one another.
As Murray went on to point out, the characters are still having the same debates they did six seasons ago. A little tip for AMC when it comes to writing the films: focus more on the action-horror scenes, and less on the monotonous padding. It’s been nine seasons – time to shake things up.
Dead set: We might just see a powerful reunion
Grimes’s exit from the show might be permanent, but that doesn’t mean his connection with the family he’s forged over the years is over. Speaking about the film, Gimple offered up a tasty little tidbit about the plot:
“It is about Rick Grimes, it is about who he is and who he’s going to be. And certainly how he deals with the situation he’s in . . . I mean, we know Rick Grimes. He would want to be home.”
Although it remains to be seen whether Rick will return to Michonne (Danai Gurira), Daryl (Norman Reedus), and his other loved ones in Alexandria, AMC programming president David Madden recently hinted at a potential reunion: “I can’t really say to you what will exactly happen in the movie, but I have high hopes that . . . let me put it this way: I have high hopes that Rick and Michonne’s paths will cross again. I’ll just say that.”
Since Rick isn’t returning to the small screen version of the show, we can only assume that this means Rick & Michonne will meet again in the spinoffs. Although this hasn’t been confirmed, just the mention of their reconciliation will put a smile on the face of the remaining The Walking Dead fans.