After two failed wars, a decade, thousands of deaths and a trillion dollars gone, you’d think the American political class would give the war franchise IP a rest. Hollywood studios, which are really just IP arbitragers, might have counseled it.
But things change. And Hollywood could tell any White House 2012 is an eon away from 2003. Today, Hollywood is all about re-purposing and re-selling IP into new packages. No more waiting. Remember Bush CoS Card unartfully quipped -“From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August” to explain the September 2002 ramp up for war?
2003 Hollywood might have agreed. Studios used to wait before rebooting IP franchises. Then around 2005 they learned that they could reboot franchises within 6-7 years.
Social media tossed Hollywood’s now quaint 6-7 year reboot wait into the dustbin. Proof? By 2012 it’s normal to talk about rebooting Transformers for 2014 after Transformers 3 came out in 2011. Soon the reboot planning will begin at the same time as the original is in production. Television commercials blare at us ‘that’s so 40 seconds ago’. Why not selling war?
And so it goes. If the current war with Iran agitation feels familiar, you’ve got some remaining vestigial long term memory. Don’t worry. You’re not part of the IP’s demo.
So how does one reboot or create a sequel that did gangbusters at opening but suffered from poor word of mouth? First, a good reboot or sequel will cover the original’s basics but with casting changes and new SFX. Here’s our screenplay by the numbers.
- An ‘existential threat’
- From an irrational dictator/dark person
- Fantastical threats to the *American* ‘homeland’
- Lobbying for U.S. funding for vague ‘freedom group’
- Israel facing ‘extermination’
- Saudis and others loathe the ‘dictator’/regime
- Acting on belief is a moral imperative
- Those most ardent have never experienced war
A sequel with Iran sort of sells itself. Americans instinctively feel any strange country having nukes is an ‘existential’ nail – except Pakistan inexplicably. Ahmadinejad is pure bank, as the kidz say. He’s a figurehead without any role in Iranian foreign policy but – he’s an Iranian Newt when it comes to quote generation.
The original 2002-2003 run up featured a wholly fabricated Iraqi drone that could somehow attack Miami Beach. Pretty Goldfinger. A reboot/sequel has to amp things up. And it does. As per the Republican debate in Arizona, not only does Iran give nukes to ‘H’ groups (Hezbollah, Hamas). That’s bad. But there’s more. Nefarious ‘H’ groups are waiting in Mexico. Now with nukes. Ferriners, loose borders, nukes – it’s an American trifecta.
OK, now for the plucky freedom-lovers ignored by Democrats. Cue cable commercials demanding that the U.S. fund the MEK, an Iranian Marxist-Islamist group currently on the U.S. terrorism list. Shockingly, many Republicans are getting wealthy clamoring for this to happen. If you’re thinking Chalabi, for the reboot the MEK are even more marginal to Iranians. (It’s actually an old story. Micheal Ledeen complained to the Stiftung over lunch in the late 1990s/early 2000s how his plans for ‘unleashing’ the MEK were thwarted by State and CIA).
Israel facing [insert here] writes itself. Except unlike Saddam in the original, in this case their concerns for regional impact are plausible. And the potential for their (unsuccessful) unilateral action real. The Jerusalem Post is the go-to for ‘content’.
A sequel/reboot also offers the opportunity to streamline some roles. For example, the Intelligence Community. In the 2002-2003 original run-up, the Community famously relied on empirical analysis. A compliant Tenet and Scooter cobbled together that half-assed NIE (with Scooter’s lurid Executive Summary) to move the plot along. Audiences apparently found this bogged down.
So now, for the sequel, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testifies on February 16th before the Senate Armed Services Committee:
Clapper: We assess Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons . . . We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.
Chair Sen. Levin: Is it the intelligence community’s opinion that Tehran has yet to make that decision?
Clapper: That is the intelligence community’s assessment.
Secretary of Defense Panetta said pretty much that same thing. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs observed that military action, including by Israel, would not be desirable. And Iran is a rational actor. Unhelpful.
All on the record. But as cameos. In the sequel, since ‘everybody knows’ how a run up to war works, it saves screen time for some elaborate action stunt work.
And here is where a studio might counsel the White House to call a script doctor. Act One and Act Two, above, flow naturally. Introduction of the players, rising conflict. All good. But it’s the Third Act, conflict resolution, where things fall apart. All the SFX in the world can’t answer any audiences’ inevitable “And then what?” (See, e.g. “Transformers 2: Dark of The Moon”). If D.C. were truly Hollywood, that would be called “The Tommy Franks Problem”.
Not even all the Neocons are sold on the script. Besides the difficulty of assuring a sustained bombing campaign (of yet another Islamic country) could even successfully engage enough dispersed targets to impede a nuclear program. Or an assassination campaign capable of meaningfully attriting essential personnel. What happens the Day After?
Iranian nationalism and intractability responds how? Even the secular Iranian protesters from 2010 support a nuclear program with national pride. The reboot/sequel needs to clarify who benefits. And Israel — and the Saudis for that matter — are more secure.
So what do you think? Send “Iranian Nukes And The Drumbeat For War 2: Armed & Fabulous” (INATDFW2:A&F) back into development? Marketing already reserved some tentative opening dates. And there are the lead times needed to get the toys from China to Doublemeat Palace.