It is getting rarer for a genius like Nolan to be given substantial sums of money to put their vision on the screen. Instead, the substantial sums go to “franchise films.” The pursuit of blockbuster movies is becoming less of an act of creation, and more an exercise in brand management. Franchises generate box office revenue, merchandising revenue and what economists call option value: “Furious 7” does not simply bring ticket revenue for the studio, but also the ability to make more revenue through Fast and Furious Episodes 8, 9, 10 and onward to “The Fast and the Furious 987.”
Naturally, such valuable properties cannot be left to the quirky whims of some individual; studios have intervened more and more heavily to ensure that no director goes too far off the rails. As with other markets where mass franchises have taken over, the result is a sort of flattening of the available quality: There aren’t so many truly awful blockbusters being made anymore, but there aren’t so many truly great ones either. Indeed, there aren’t so many big movies being made at all, because studios find it much more attractive to rake in cash off of a predictable comic book film with a big global audience than to make risky bets on greatness.