Let’s face it, now more than ever the film landscape is becoming increasingly cluttered with sequels, prequels and reboots. That is a fact. However we need to ask whether that is such a bad thing or not. In 2015, there will be the Avengers: Age of Ultron, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Jurassic World amongst other high profile releases.
“In those days, I know it’s hard to imagine, but you just didn’t do sequels. It was considered tacky.”1 Reading this quotation from a modern day perspective is hard to believe. But Sigourney Weaver highlights the reputation of sequels in relation to Aliens and why the film was made seven years after the first film. So the question arises: Are reboots,sequels and prequels damaging to the film industry? Let’s have a look at three case studies see whether there is a problem or not with reboots, sequels and prequels.
My belief is that you can’t judge a film before it has been released, however due to my attachment to the franchise, I felt it was a premature move and that there was a lot more that could have been explored in those films. Even director of The Amazing Spider-Man Marc Webb was sceptical at first concerning the reboot, “but then I went back to the comics, where there’s a constant reinvention. And I thought there was a wealth of material that hadn’t been explored.”2 So instead of using that wealth of material for Spider-Man 4 he used it for the 2012 reboot.
Personally I felt like Sony Studios and Sam Raimi had given up and to this day I feel like that Spider-Man 4 was a missed opportunity, Tobey Maguire was the perfect Spider-Man and his chemistry with Kirsten Dunst was natural and convincing. Fair enough if they rebooted it 10 years later or more, but a mere 3 years after the release of Spider-Man 3 to announce the reboot was premature and uncalled for.
However, upon its release, the film made $757 million worldwide and became the highest grossing reboot of all time. In the end, I actually enjoyed the new version of Spider-Man and thought that Andrew Garfield brought a different element to the character and that his chemistry with Emma Stones character Gwen Stacy was one of the highlights of the film. Yet to this day, the new direction for Spider-Man feels too early and the original trilogy is still fresh in my mind. This is an example where a reboot feels unnecessary.
An example of a sequel which didn’t have the spark of its previous film entries is The Bourne Legacy. Again, instead of focusing on developing an already successful film series Universal turned the tables and went in a direction that was not satisfactory. There’s nothing wrong with a sequel itself, but if the sequel taints the franchise then there’s a problem.
The film had a modest impact on the box office by grossing $257 million worldwide as opposed to the $442 million that The Bourne Ultimatum made. Also it only scored 55% on rotten tomatoes as opposed to the 94% the previous film scored.
The Bourne Legacy was parallel to the narrative of The Bourne Ultimatum, so when they referenced Jason Bourne’s character it made you realise that what made the franchise brilliant has been lost. To make my point even more concrete, it has been announced the Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass have decided to return to the franchise for the release date of July 2016. Whilst this is great news, you almost wish they had decided to bring Damon back before the released The Bourne Legacy.
However, in regards to prequels, they can go deeper into an established film series where we can have more depth to certain themes and ideas raised in certain films. Look at The Hobbit Trilogy, a prequel to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, the trilogy goes deeper into the character of Bilbo Baggins and his relationship with the One Ring.
Whilst The Hobbit Trilogy has not had the highly esteemed reception as The Lord of the Rings did, it still has been a huge success commercially and has received generally positive reviews. There have been criticisms about stretching the one book into three films, yet I would defend that decision by saying that you can allow the characters and narrative to flesh out and naturally progress throughout the films.
In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Bilbo is a content Shire bound Hobbit with no sense of adventure. In the upcoming The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Bilbo has developed in more of a warrior figure and has developed courage and strength. It would have been hard to show that in just one film. Plus, who can hate against more films about Middle Earth?
In defence of reboots, sequels and prequels, why should we be cynical to films that go deeper into an established film universe and allow us to go on a deeper journey with characters that have connected with audiences? Even so, there are still many original films that have their own place in cinema. Look at this years recent blockbuster Interstellar, an original idea directed by Christopher Nolan and written by Jonathan Nolan born out of scientific theories. Next year Pixar are releasing two original animations: Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur. Reboots, sequels and prequels aren’t damaging to the film industry, especially in terms of box office success, however they could cool down a little bit and make more room for original ideas.
Please leave a response of your opinions regarding sequels, prequels and reboots. All comments are welcome!
1 EMPIRE December 2014 issue
2 TOTAL FILM June 2012 issue