Jokes are never as funny the second time are they? Sure all the ingredients are there to make you laugh, but if you already know what the punchline is, it kills off the expectation, and the laughter ends up forced. It’s kind of the same when yet another film in the same franchise comes out.
You’re not as excited, just left thinking ‘oh well, if there’s nothing better to watch…’ Sometimes that means a great film doesn’t do anywhere as well as it deserves because its audience is too busy fighting franchise fatigue to care. Other times it means that bad films make it to the screen simply because the studio behind it still believes there’s money to be squeezed out of people’s wallets. The result is that the sequel bombs at the box office, and audiences end up choosing more innovative, and saga friendly, platforms of entertainment like Netflix and Amazon Prime to cinema’s detriment.
Consequently studios get nervous, as franchises that look promising morph into another disaster waiting to happen. All to the tunes of the commentariat producing endless articles about how Hollywood no longer has the creative mojo to produce the kind of original films audiences crave (and I’ve written more than a few such demolition jobs).
Thankfully Hollywood still has the likes of remakes and tribute films such as The Italian Job, True Grit or The Magnificent Seven to rank alongside the inspiring true stories and the animated films to just about keep the old, knackered hamster of creativity turning that wheel. And if the old fella needs a pick me up then there’s always the other old fellas to help out; classic films that seemed to have an ending but all of a sudden have discovered that their stories just NEED to be continued, despite the fact that twenty or thirty years have passed. Whether it’s Love Actually getting a Comic Relief continuation, the writer of Dirty Dancing talking about bringing out Baby for another twirl, or Harrison Ford still proving that he can thrill audiences, you can bet Hollywood is going to milk this for all it’s worth, which is, needless to say, just beyond the point where the cow has given up the ghost and the milk’s turned sour.
Sure, the likes of Harrison Ford and Arnold Schwarzenegger can still make great films; no one was complaining about seeing Han back in the Falcon, or watching as Arnie fought his somewhat younger self in Terminator Genesys back in 2015, but both of those films had the good sense to know how to treat their audience. Star Wars gave the new characters in The Force Awakens precedence over the classic cast, and rewarded our delight at seeing Han by having his own son kill him off. Terminator Genesys pretty much retconned its last two installments to take us back to the halcyon days of the first two films. In other words both franchises had the grace to acknowledge they’d made mistakes and to learn from those mistakes.
Last year’s Independence Day Resurgence on the other hand, like 28 Weeks Later, tried to stick additional meat onto bones that already had enough flesh to produce classics; classics which had already found their endings. The result were films that came across as crass money-makers rather than clever, thought out plots that genuinely cared about the stories they were telling.
Sadly the trend is very much set to continue, with Ford adding Blade Runner to form his hatrick (alongside Star Wars and Indiana Jones, which is set for its fifth chapter in 2019, and talk of a sixth installment sometime in the next decade). Blade Runner 2049 may yet turn out to be a good film, along the lines of say the second Trainspotting film, but like that sequel, the question still lingers. Did it really need to be told? Decker had an ending; we had an ending. One made even more bittersweet by Ridley Scott’s release of his Director’s cut. We didn’t need another chapter, and even if Hollywood does pull this one off, it doesn’t chance the underlying truth for them.
More from Gareth: Fifty Shades Darker: “Not every good film has to have a great plot…”
Making sequels to films that are decades old may be exciting, and it may even seem the panacea for Tinseltown’s problems. It doesn’t change the fact that Hollywood is losing people with endless sequels and a lack of originality. The sooner the studios realise that, and move on, the better for them, and the better for us.
By Gareth Wood