By Molly Freeman
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
“There aren’t enough original movies being released in theaters.”
That’s one major complaint–especially in recent years, though it’s not a new phenomenon–about the film industry. Hollywood, particularly during the summer blockbuster season, releases an array of sequels, trilogies, franchises, reboots, remakes, shared universe building, as well as adaptations from television, novels, and comic books.
Now, another trend has sprung up in the movie industry: reviving long-dead or not-quite-successful properties to reboot a franchise and launch a new series.
For instance, Legendary Pictures is reviving Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park franchise with the release of Jurassic World in 2015. The new movie will be the fourth film in the series and will pick up 22 years after the original. However, the plot details are still somewhat murky and it’s unclear how the events of the first three Jurassic Park films will factor in to Jurassic World.
Another beloved science fiction franchise rising from the dead is Paramount Pictures’ Terminator series. The fifth film, Terminator: Genesis is scheduled to hit theaters in July 2015. Additionally, a new television series will tie in with the franchise’s reboot next year.
However, the most controversial case is Lucasfilm’s Star Wars series. Episode VII, directed by J.J. Abrams, is set to release in 2015. Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) and Josh Trank (Chronicle) are also directing related spinoff films.
Fans of these franchises are left wondering why movie studios are extending these series at all. It’s especially unclear in the cases of Jurassic Park and Terminator, given that their final films were extremely underwhelming in terms of critical reception.
It all boils down to the obvious answer: money.
Although neither Jurassic Park III nor Terminator Salvation was pleasing to fans or critics, both films did well enough at the box office–the blockbusters grossed $368 million and $371 million worldwide respectively–to prove a sufficient number of people are willing to see the movies in theaters.
From a business standpoint, it makes more sense to release a movie that can guarantee the studio will reap profit. If the known franchise already has an established fanbase, it’s safer to continue on an old idea than risk producing an original film that entails unpredictable box office results.
But, amidst the cynicism of looking at a form of art through a business lens, there is a bright side for fans: they’re getting sequels to movies that they love. A sequel to Robin Williams’ Mrs. Doubtfire is in the works at Fox. Disney and the producer of Mighty Ducks–as well as many of the original cast members–are open to a fourth film in the children’s hockey series.
Movie studios aren’t the only companies jumping on the revival trend. Netflix is in talks to resurrect the cult comedy favorite, Wet Hot American Summer, for an exclusive television series to be produced by the film’s creators David Wain and Michael Showalter. The streaming service also recently announced they would be creating new episodes of the classic children’s series, The Magic School Bus, set to launch in 2016.
So what do all these revivals mean for fans? Will these new sequels, reboots, and continuations of series many thought had finished taint the original franchise? Or, will they be fantastic additions to the canon?
Of course, it’s hard to tell, but there are a few instances we can use as examples: the Veronica Mars movie and the fourth season of Arrested Development. While Veronica Mars is a special case because the film was partly funded by fans, it was well received by critics and diehard supporters alike, despite seven years between the series and movie. Similarly, Arrested Development was off air for seven years and received mostly favorable reviews from critics and fans.
Although Veronica Mars and Arrested Development are by no means blockbusters on the level of Jurassic Park, Terminator, or Star Wars, they do provide some optimism for fans awaiting new films in those series. If a studio can approach a beloved property with respect and tell a new, interesting story, there’s hope for Jurassic World, Terminator: Genesis, and Star Wars Episode VII yet.
Realizing the current Hollywood climate in which we live, no film property is safe. Although we may find remakes like 2011’s Footloose and 2012’s Red Dawn to be useless, Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s 21 Jump Street was a comedy hit and received its own sequel: 22 Jump Street.
Ultimately, the quality of new additions to established franchises differs from case to case and largely depends on the writers, directors, and producers involved in each product. However, it would be detrimental for fans to write off all these new films for the simple reason of disliking reboots and sequels on principle.
With that mentality, closed-minded fans may be missing out on their new favorite movie.