With Finding Dory blowing up the box office at the moment, I realised something that I found a bit off-putting. Gone are the days of standard trilogies such as Star Wars or The Godfather. Now it seems that the cinema world is being dominated by (I guess we can call them) 4-ologies, or 5-ologies or even 10-ologies (I’m looking at you Fast and the Furious). Although we can’t deny that we’ve all fallen into temptation and purchased a ticket to one of these films-and hey maybe we really enjoyed it. It doesn’t change the fact that they are essentially remakes, sequels or prequels, and they are following the same formula previously used. But why? Why does originality seem to repeatedly be put on the back burner when it comes to new releases?
Let’s look at some of the facts. It’s no secret that many amazing film series were not intended to be these at the beginning. Some turned out to be quite successful such as Madagascar, Toy Story, and so forth. However, there have been many cases of sequels or prequels not expanding upon the existing subject, or simply being unnecessary. I mean how many Ice Age movies have we had already?
If we take a moment to think about some of the highest grossing films here in the UK, you can’t help but notice something. Jurassic World, Toy Story 3, Star Wars: The Force Awakens… you see a pattern going on here? Two prequels and one sequel of already-existing franchises. Heck, seven out of the ten top highest-grossing films in the UK in 2015 were sequels, prequels, reboots or part of franchises! Listen I’m not barreling my fist down on any of them, but we can‘t deny that there hasn’t been much new material set forth from major studios over the past decade.
There have also been the cases of a prequel or an extension to a series many years later that finally serves the original adaption justice. Think Creed, or the rebooted Star Trek franchise. But when is enough enough? Do these films become successful solely for their improved production and presumable acting? Or is it a well-formulated strategy to use the nostalgia effect to better bring in the monetary gain as well as critical gain? I mean let’s face it. Anything that reminds us of a simpler and more carefree time is going to resonate with us for years to come. We all remember walking into a movie theatre when we were younger, excited to watch the latest Disney movie. Now we’re lining up hours in advance to watch Finding Dory. What is the formula? What is this system that we so easily fall into and want to disregard, but we also want to embrace because it reminds us of a simpler and more joyful time in our lives?
When the question of whether these sequels tamper with creative input at all is up for interpretation to the film-watching public. However, let’s not pretend that some of the most generation-defining films weren’t also sequels. If we all think for a second, where would we be without The Dark Knight? Aliens? The Godfather: Part II? It’s unthinkable now because we know their influence and how important they are to the ongoing cinematic legacy. Sequels may not always be the most warmly-received output of the movie industry, but there is no denying the influence they have already had over the past few decades.
The problem could be the possible failures associated with the risks of treading into new territory. Studios are increasingly reluctant to take risks on big-budget films based on original scripts unfamiliar to the public, for example, Jupiter Ascending’s box-office failure is a prime example of a big financial risk that Warner Bros. must be really regretting – it probably didn’t help that that film was crap (although when has quality ever been a gauge of box office success). I mean did anybody actually see Jupiter Ascending?
But then again, there’s also Pacific Rim, which was a critical and box office success globally, proving that we can make great, original, big-budget movies – so why aren’t we seeing more of them?
The answer is this. Studios are increasingly relying on characters and stories that audiences are already familiar with – that they know are lucrative – in order to reduce financial risk – and who can really blame them? But it is at the expense of new and original stories and voices. It’s easy to recycle and redistribute as opposed to formulate a whole new concept and story. With yet another Marvel movie coming out what seems like every month, the two new Ghostbusters remakes in the works (although yes please to female Ghostbusters), or the new Ocean’s movie adaptions (when did the last one even come out?), it’s time to shed more light on the films that aren’t covering every billboard around – the one that has a limited release and barely makes back their budget. There are new stories out there; you just might not be able to watch at your local multiplex. So if you’re getting bored of the same old fare, visit your local art-house cinema or indie film festival to quench your thirst for new characters, new stories, new voices, and new ways of seeing the world.