Reboots Vs. Comeback Cast Sequels: the Ultimate Nostalgia Showdown!
Each year, the Hollywood movie machine churns out hundreds of theatrical releases, and even more via digital distribution and streaming services. A common thread amongst a healthy sample of these movies are reboots of existing franchises. Whether it be big screen takes on older TV shows or complete reboots of existing films, it seems that we inevitably have to put up with a lot of poorly recycled content. Don’t believe me? Just this year the following reboots will hit the big screen: Ghostbusters, Ben-Hur, Pete’s Dragon, Jungle Book, and the Magnificent Seven – and that’s just theatrical releases. Already for 2017 we have reboots for Amityville, Friday the 13th, King Kong, Beauty and the Beast, Power Rangers, King Arthur, the Smurfs, Baywatch, the Mummy, Spider-Man, Jumanji, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, My Little Pony, Murder on the Orient Express and the Six Billion Dollar Man. Sheesh. Now, my default answer to this scenario is for Hollywood to invent new franchises and characters for movie going audiences to fall in love with.
I understand why the film industry loves reboots, they are bankable properties with instant brand recognition and deep nostalgia value. Most of these reboots have positive sentimental attachment with the target audiences and as such, many of them do well enough in the box office to justify more reboots being made. I get it, the world of feature films is a money making business and as such they want to make films that make a profit. That’s easy math. The problem I have with reboots is that so many of them are pale reflections of the original franchise. Sure, on occasion you get a Mad Max: Fury Road, but it is an exception to the rule. Most of the time you end up with Godzilla, Clash of the Titans, and the Fantastic Four. To be clear, I’m not arguing that reboots are bad ideas, however; I am stating that most reboots are poorly conceived films that are only made to turn a profit: low risk/high reward.
If originality isn’t the answer, what would I suggest? I’m glad that you asked. More sequels. That’s right, I said it: more sequels. Not just any old kind of sequels, more original cast comeback sequels! They are all the rage, don’tcha know and you know what? In many ways they are kind of awesome. I’m talking about films like Star Wars: The Force Awakens which brought back Star Wars veterans Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, and Mark Hamill along with a cast of brand new heroes and villains. It supplied the same marketing criteria: brand recognition and nostalgia, but by using that nostalgia as a means to promote new characters and ideas to the forefront. No reboot necessary because you are taking your audience to a movie world that already exists and is not being reset, it’s just starting a new chapter further down the line.I believe that this kind of film is a far better use of the major film studios’ resources. Other films have taken similar approaches, launching sequels with original cast members over a decade after the last film, and it has paid off exceptionally well for them. Most notably, Bad Boys II ($273 million box office), Tron Legacy ($400 million box office), Rocky Balboa ($155 million box office), and Men in Black 3 ($624 million box office). When done well, these type of sequels bridge the gap between the audience that originally found them and the newer viewers that they will take with them to see the new flick. Sequels tend to be disappointing (let’s be honest), which makes it so much easier to sell these nostalgia laden films with prolonged absences between iterations – there’s less expectation for a great movie and more excitement for returning to the fantasy worlds with characters they have grown to love in the past. In many ways it is win-win, as it mostly skips the questionable steps that reboots tend to take yet they still feel as if they are taking a bold step in a new direction for the franchise.The good news? There are a ton of Hollywood franchises ripe for the original cast comeback sequel! If you look at the most recent trajectory of film stars like Sylvester Stallone and Harrison Ford, you can see that they are dialed in to the potential of what I am talking about. Stallone has successfully revisited both Rambo and the Rocky franchises with critical and commercial success. Harrison Ford was a key figure in the relaunch of Star Wars, and has a new Indiana Jones film in the works, as well as a brand new Blade Runner (a follow up to the 1982 film, over 30 years ago!). J.J. Abrams relaunched Star Trek by having a new cast play younger versions of the original series cast, but tied it all together by having Leonard Nimoy reprise his roll as the original Mr. Spock, using his reappearance to bridge the new movies with the original continuity by explaining that time travel had created an alternate reality from the events of the original series, essentially using an original cast member to validate the relaunch of the series – and it worked beautifully! These are the types of success stories that the film industry should embrace. If they are going to go for the cash grab based on brand recognition and nostalgia, then do it with long overdo sequels that bring a new cast together with members of the original to make for a new and exciting story for us to fall in love with all over again.We don’t need another Will Ferrell reboot of a beloved series (I’m looking at you Starsky & Hutch, Bewitched, Land of the Lost, and the Producers). We need more awesome sequels to classic films that are in major need of being revisited. You know what I’m thinking? I’m thinking Kurt Russell for the win!A) Look at how undeniable amazing Kurt Russell still looks. He is a chiseled masterpiece of a man. B) Kurt Russell has a prominent roll in the new Guardians of the Galaxy film and will be on everyone’s mind. And C) Look at how incredibly deep his franchise catalog goes! There’s a veritable gold mine of sequels to be mined from:
- Escape From New York: you could have Snake be trapped in the partially submerged city of New Orleans for a secret to turning on the power that he stole from the planet in Escape From LA, replete with street gangs, weirdos and voodoo mysticism all over the place.
- Big Trouble in Little China: The world of Chinese Black Magic has rebuilt, and Lo Pan has reformed and not only does he want to gain a physical form, he wants to kill Jack Burton!
- Tango & Cash: Stallone is already in love with bringing back his old franchises, so this one is a no-brainer. It doesn’t even need me to come up with a convoluted plot based on the original, maybe have Tango & Cash be in charge of training cadets, but then they get sucked into a new case that has ties to one of their old busts.
- Tombstone: Who doesn’t want a follow up to see how Wyatt Earp and Josephine Marcus spent their days traveling America and eating room service?
- Sky High: The Stronghold family create an Avengers like Super Team and need to recruit the help of Sky High students when an enemy proves to be to powerful and well organized for even a small but focused super team to take down.
This is just scratching the surface. You could easily make sequels to Overboard, Used Cars, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, The Thing, and many more! Hollywood… bubby, Kurt Russell is your white knight. Put him in everything and watch the profits come in. OK. Maybe not everything, but make the sequels that I bolded above and I promise you will not be disappointed by the results.
Ultimately, I, and many other people, want a better overall movie going experience. Daring new I.P. seem to be in short supply, and if it comes down to reboots or sequels, well then I’ll say sequels every single time. Do the right thing Hollywood, make better nostalgia driven films that pay the proper respect to the franchises that you are pimping for that oh so important profit money. Make movies that reward the viewer for their dedication to a series. Also, take your time. Film enthusiasts are definitely willing to wait over a decade for a good sequel, as opposed to getting a mediocre sequel every 2 years. Whatever you do, put the reboots back on the shelf, and focus on creating original content and sequels that are worth our time and our money.
Also, put Kurt Russell in everything!