Hollywood has a franchise addiction, and maybe that’s okay.
What was the last movie you saw in a theater? Was it a reboot? A hybrid prequel/sequel? The nth installment in your favorite series? Hollywood is obsessed with franchises and it is no secret why: they sell tickets.
For most contemporary audiences, the draw to visit a movie theater is coming from new additions to pre-existing properties, often those that are decades old. The mere availability of the latest and greatest films is not enough to fill seats, and it arguably never was. 3-D glasses and similar gimmicks used to attract customers date all the way back to the 1920’s. Revisiting older, well-received films works because audiences want to know what they are getting into. It is simply less of a risk. Even though they are successful at the box office , brushing the dust off an older title is usually met with fair amounts of skepticism from those who might call it repetitive or soulless. While some films of this variety can be evident of a lack in originality, they are not all unsatisfactory.
I would posit that franchise reboots/sequels can provide a vehicle for new, exciting, and worthwhile stories that may have not gotten recognition otherwise. Many argue that these films overshadow smaller-scale, more independent films in Hollywood. While this is true in some cases, I think it is also true that with their wide appeal, franchise films can provide an avenue for creative scripts, actors, or directors to shine in a spotlight. There have been instances in Hollywood where untouched ideas have been repurposed to fit into franchise installments . For example, The Cloverfield Paradox (dir. Julius Onah, 2018) was based on a script completely unrelated to the Cloverfield universe until it was purchased by Paramount. An association with a returning series does not detract from the merit of these ideas or from instances of exceptional filmmaking.
Although I admit, if a reboot/sequel is nothing more than a shell for a story that could be otherwise self-contained, a lack of integrity seems more evident. It can be difficult to remain engaged with a film if it is apparent that its connections to other films are superficial.
Subsequently, a question is raised: is it necessary for a reboot/sequel to be intricately connected to its original films? I would argue no, it is not necessary; a compelling story can still be told within a previously established on-screen world. But I would further argue that a reboot/sequel becomes truly effective when it can achieve a balance between the old and the new. Later this week, I will delve into Creed (dir. Ryan Coogler, 2015) to fully elaborate on this discussion.