Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Sequels, Reboots and Remakes – Movies Spotlight – June 2015

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Sequel/Reboot/Remake

We all know that Hollywood is overrun with sequels, reboots and remakes. Just look at the films we are most excited to see this year: Avengers: Age of Ultron (sequel), Mad Max: Fury Road (sequel/reboot), Jurassic World (sequel/reboot), Terminator: Genisys (sequel/reboot), Ant-Man (sequel of sorts), Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (sequel) Fantastic Four (reboot), Spectre (James Bond sequel), The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (sequel), Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (sequel). Why all the sequels and reboots? Plainly, if a Hollywood studio is going to spend a bunch of money on a film, they would like it to be as secure a bet as possible, so why not bet on established properties. Original blockbusters are often based on successful books, comics, video games, television series, or something that came prior. There are very few truly original blockbusters. And when Hollywood does give us a good one, like Disney’s Tomorrowland, which came out in May to mixed reviews and mild box office returns (not reaching its audience – I genuinely think it is great film), no one goes to see it. Or worse, Jupiter Ascending, an original blockbuster from the Wachowskis that bombed in every way. This only increases the likeliness of Hollywood to stay away from original ideas, as there is much more risk.

So, we are likely stuck in a world of constant sequels and rehashes of the same established characters, stories and properties.

At first, I was annoyed by the very idea of someone making a new film based on an old film or character that I loved. A good example is Steve Martin’s The Pink Panther. Steve Martin is a very funny comedian and a good actor, but why would he ever want to attempt Inspector Clouseau – a losing proposition at best? A character made famous in the 1960s by Peter Sellers (probably film’s greatest comedic actor to this day). Martin could never approach what Sellers brought to the character, all this new film could do is soil the reputation of the character (is what I initially thought).

This is an overreaction. At worst, the new Pink Panther films scar younger viewers, preventing them from seeing the Peter Sellers’ films (but let us be honest, they were not going to watch them anyway). At best, the new viewers would love the character of Inspector Clouseau and seek him out in other films, finding their way to Sellers’ genius. Also, do not forget that the Clouseau character has been played by other actors before Martin took over in 2006 (Alan Arkin in the 60s and Roger Moore in the 80s, as well as Roberti Benigni, in spirit, in 1993’s Son of the Pink Panther). Martin was in no way tarnishing a character that was not already grinded up and spit out in many other subpar forms.

I came to understand that remaking or reboot a beloved character/series/film really has no effect on the original (or the version I love most). If I do not like the new vision for the character then I still have the original, and if the actors and filmmakers bring something new or different to the story/character then all the better. I take more of a wait and see approach now than one that finds me immediately upset before seeing how the new film even turns out (and if it does turn out to be terrible, I do not have to see it or even acknowledge its existence – like the Star Wars Prequels or Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, I just live my life as if they do not exist). I will always have the version I love.

Now on to sequels. So many sequels. They crowd our summers and holiday seasons. Yet, many of them are films I love. I love The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I love the Harry Potter film series. I love Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2. I love Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy. I love what the Marvel Cinematic Universe has become during Phase II (especially Joss Whedon’s brilliant Avengers films) and cannot wait for Phase III. Of course I love these big adventure/action/fantasy films. I grew up on Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Ghostbusters. When these big films are done well, they capture all that film can be.

So why is there such a stigma? Well, I think it is twofold. First, and chiefly, for each sequel, reboot or remake there is money not going to an original idea film, blockbuster or otherwise, which has led many of our great auteurs today to work solely in indie film (for better or worse). Secondly, many of these tent pole blockbuster sequels, reboot and remakes are just not good. For every great film like The Dark Knight, there many more films like Catwoman or Batman and Robin. Or forgetting the downright terrible, most of these blockbusters are just the same old thing, nothing special and bland. Even Jurassic World, which just opened to the biggest box office weekend ever, is painfully banal and uninteresting. It is entertainment for the moment but not good enough to be lasting (like Jurassic Park).

We are just tired of the endless parade of these boring action films that try to thrill us by being massive, but offer little in the important areas of character and emotional resonance. They may grab us in the moment, but they fail to stay with us, inspire us or capture our imaginations.

How does this change? The answer is easy. If we do not give our money to these films, Hollywood will stop making them; but as Jurassic World proves, audiences are just fine with thrills over substance. Thus, I say take a similar approach to blockbuster sequels as you do with reboots and remakes. Revel in the films that are great and ignore and move past the ones that are marginal or bad.

Because honestly, who is not passionately eager to see the new James Bond film, the new Star Wars, the next Marvel Cinematic Universe film (Captain America: Civil War), Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Warner Bros.’s new Harry Potter prequel series), Disney’s live-action version of Beauty and the Beast, Pixar’s Finding Dory, the conclusion of The Hunger Games series, or the third iteration of Spider-Man (now a part of the MCU)? I know I cannot wait to see all of these.


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