HOLLYWOOD — The new trailer for Afghanistan 17: Back to Kandahar, the latest installment of America Studios long-running Afghan war franchise, has been met with disapproval by many critics.
Studio officials are reportedly concerned that the public may have grown weary of the once-popular campaign series, especially following generally negative critical reception of 2010’s much-hyped Afghanistan 9: Helmand Boogalo.
“The original benefited from superb direction and sophisticated writing,” said James Russell, a senior analyst at Rand who focuses on interminable Central Asian conflicts, referring to the 1982 surprise hit Afghanistan: Evil Empire.
“Taking the franchise in a more action-oriented direction definitely paid off with Afghanistan II: The Revenge,” he explained, recalling 2001’s blockbuster hit. However, Russell cited a decline in public appetite for counterinsurgency dramas as well as an almost entirely fresh cast for the upcoming fourth installment.
Russell was dismissive of the trailer's hinted return of the Pakistanis, who were not seen since the 2001 film.
“Even the confirmed cameo appearance by fan favorite Jim Mattis is unlikely to gain much of a new audience," he said, “especially in light of the death of antagonist Osama bin Laden during the climactic battle scene at the end of Helmand Boogaloo." (The Boogaloo director confirmed in 2012 that the bin Laden character would not be returning for a sequel.)
Still, the production team remains optimistic. “We've got a new director, and we're doubling the budget for this one," one source said.
"Plus, this chapter of the Afghanistan story marks the beginning of a shared universe with the Islamic State franchise" he added, referring to the big-budget series that debuted with 2014's critically and financially successful The Caliphate Rises.
"From tribal intrigue to opium, we've barely begun to scratch the surface of the Afghanistan story."
Even if the film flops in theaters, sources say the studio is planning to make at least five additional films in the series with no major changes to the plot line.