The Grave Misconception Surrounding Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’

With Once Upon a Time in Hollywood gracing silver screens — featuring Tarantino’s signature dialogic tendencies, camera quirks, and self-referential allusions — media publications have hit the resume button on Quentin conversations

As discussions surrounding the director often do, they bring in to question the concept of art for arts’ sake, Tarantino’s contentious career, and more. However, a new topic has entered Tarantino’s existential landscape this time around, and it has to do with the age of the franchise. 

'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood' Director Quentin Tarantino
‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ Director Quentin Tarantino | Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

Quentin Tarantino is receiving widespread acclaim since Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, eliciting a grand budget and an all-star cast, made it all the way to theaters without capes or wands. And, without being number two or three in a young adult dystopian saga. 

Many critics argue that he managed to produce a piece of content – so disparate from the franchise realm — yet so successful in its own, singular right. There is only one problem with this argument: Quentin Tarantino is the franchise.

How could a man who embodies what it means to be a franchise — “a general title or concept used for creating or marketing a series of products” — starkly contrast the very thing he is said to defy? Quentin Tarantino is a franchise, for he, without releasing another series in a series-dominated film era, obeys the rules of the landscape all the same. 

Why Quentin Tarantino – in and of himself – is a franchise 

Let’s start with the most obvious connections to franchise films and go from there. Franchises in showbiz are often a series of movies – leading up to a culmination point: The Hunger Games, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and finally, Mockingjay (parts one and two). 

Tarantino numbers his films! And, he has informed the world that he only plans to make ten; Tarantino’s final chapter will be his goodbye to the industry, just as a final movie in a series is a farewell to the story and its characters. 

Franchise films tend to feature similar elements across their span. If you think about the Marvel movies, the similar elements are at the surface level – the actors return, the narrative arcs remain consistent, and the same character dynamics (transforming with time) are spoonfed to fans, who eat them up like sugar. 

Quentin Tarantino: dialogue and violence

As for Tarantino, his consistencies exist in his approach to storytelling. The actors change, the characters change, and the underlying themes (if any exist) do not remain fixed. However, his approach to communicating with his audience remains stagnant. He has discovered what works and – like a franchise – delivers on the expectation with each round in the ring. 

One of Tarantino’s most signature elements is his dialogue. Iron Man is to the Avengers, as intricate and loquacious (yet never dull) language is to Tarantino. It’s not a Tarantino movie without the pledge – a promise to the audience that something big is about to happen – and some shotgun-loaded subtext. 

Quentin Tarantino also tends to incorporate violence in consistently atypical ways; though this may sound slightly antithetical, his depictions of violence are consistent across his movies, while atypical across the industry.

Mixing comedy with terror is a potion Tarantino perfectly concocts, as he often leaves audiences feeling uncomfortable – as if they must hold back laughter out of fear of social judgment. Tarantino inspires this sensation with ease. And, more importantly, he inspires it consistently, making it yet another “similar element” strung throughout his movies working to “market [his] series of products.”

Quentin Tarantino has transformed his own name into the franchise. His existence – his approach to storytelling is another version of Marvel. However, instead of a Marvel slideshow introducing the film, we get Tarantino’s movie count – letting us know how far along in his personal saga we have come.