Some stories are so complex or larger-than-life that it is impossible to contain them to a single book or film. The Godfather, the Terminator, Harry Potter, Star Wars and Toy Story are examples of stories that are so profound that even a 700-page novel or three hour movie wouldn’t do their stories justice.
Some stories examine themes that are so universal or so innovative that they are before their time, or build worlds that are too advanced for the technology available, so presenting them to a new audience capable of appreciating these aspects gives the story more impact, for example Ocean’s Eleven, the Planet of the Apes, Freaky Friday, and the Departed.
But let’s be honest – most stories are told so perfectly the first time that updating or “fixing” them is almost sacrilegious. And when an ending brings both the story and its characters full circle, the audience feels as if equilibrium has been restored to the world.
In today’s instant-fix society, film studios don’t have the patience or even the desire to wait for a quality story. They’re no longer in the business of bringing stories to life, they’re in the business of milking a story for all its worth and then some. If an original idea is successful enough, a sequel (or two, or three) is commissioned within days of release; and if an idea was considered successful once, then it stands to reason that a remake will also be successful, right?
- Most sequels, remakes and reboots are unoriginal
Hollywood clings to trends like a 13 year old budding fashionista. Superhero franchises, teenage girl/vampire romances, films based on old TV shows and low-budget “found footage” horrors have all enjoyed more than their fifteen minutes in the spotlight.
Gender-swapping roles in remakes is the most recent Hollywood trend (and admittedly, it is a fresh spin on the genre), and live action remakes of animated films are also enjoying a current boost in popularity, with expectations high for the live action adaptation of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast set to be released later this month.
It is said that there are only 7 truly original plots in storytelling, and anything else is just a variation. But because studio executives are dull, greedy vultures who wouldn’t appreciate a quality story if it bit them on the ass, Hollywood enjoys thrashing out any and every variation until artistic integrity has been fully compromised and audiences are looking elsewhere for creative stimulation.
- Most remakes, sequels and reboots are unnecessary
Reboots are the television equivalent of film remakes and sequels. There’s a 50/50 chance a reboot will be successful; and what unsuccessful reboots such as The X-Files and 90210 failed to realise, is that it was a specific combination of actors, directors and writers at a particular time that made the original series successful in the first place.
Last year’s reboots of Gilmore Girls and Fuller House understood this; they played on viewers’ sense of nostalgia and took into consideration the real life time that had passed – the same actors, playing the same characters, in a fresh, “where are they now” approach to the plot. However, most television shows end in a way that would make it impossible to follow this pattern, such asSons of Anarchy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Sopranos.
Unless a cast and crew can expand upon world-building, character or plot development, or the plot of a story is so timeless that a fresh audience will be able to comprehend its relevance, remakes and reboots are unnecessary and a complete waste of time and money. And with the exception of a handful of franchises, this also applies to sequels. Prior to the late 1990s, sequels had a (well-deserved) stigma attached to them. The general rule during this time was that a follow-up would bring in only around 65 percent profit compared the first film, and blockbuster flops such as Batman & Robin, Speed 2:Cruise Control, and The Lost World: Jurassic Park 2 did little to change audience or studio perceptions of sequels.
- Timing is everything
Speaking of 90s films that really, really didn’t need a sequel, the twenty years between Dumb and Dumber and Dumb and Dumber To is far too long between an original film and its sequel. Finding Dory is another sequel that pushes the boundaries between long-awaited and waited-too-long.
When the gap between films is too large, the tone – whether it is horror or humour – feels forced, as if the writers are milking the innovative concepts that made the original film successful in the first place.
On the other hand, news of a remake of Jumanji sent fans into a rage, as many felt it was too soon after the 2014 passing of Robin Williams. Additionally, the announcement of an eighth film in the Fast and the Furious franchise caused controversy among fans, as many feel it is disrespectful to continue the franchise without star Paul Walker, who passed away in a car accident in 2013.
Some stories and characters – and even those who bring these characters to life on the screen – evoke such strong emotional reactions in their audience that when a remake is made too soon after its predecessor, fans can be viciously protective of the original work.
To put it bluntly, sequels, remakes and reboots are insulting to the thousands of struggling and emerging writers who have brilliant, ORIGINAL ideas but none of the big-name studio funding or marketing clout.
Audiences, too, are over the wave of sequels, remakes and reboots being churned out by the Hollywood factory. In addition to criticisms about Hollywood’s lack of creativity, the inevitable comparison to originals has many sequels, remakes and reboots (justifiably) falling short of fans’ expectations.
To paraphrase Nick Carraway from the Great Gatsby (which, ironically, was subjected to a critically-panned remake in 2013) – you can’t repeat the past, even in Hollywood.
Do you think that Hollywood should produce more original ideas? Or are you a fan of sequels, remakes and reboots? Leave a comment below.
© Tara Jenkinson 2017