Let’s face it, franchises are not going anywhere. Every month there seems to be another sequel coming and going from theatres. As an example: January had Kung Fu Panda 3, February had Deadpool, March had Batman V Superman, and April will see the release of The Huntsman: Winter’s War. And while that last one is a prequel it’s still set up from previous material. The problem is that some franchises take missteps forcing studios into rejuvenating them. Today we’ll talk about the options and the pros/cons of each of them.
Sometimes you’ve exhausted material to the point where a sequel is so terrible (i.e Die Another Day, Batman & Robin, Spider-Man 3) that there’s nothing left to do, but wipe the slate completely clean. No longer are creators constrained by the films that came before them this opens doors to a lot more options. On the other hand sometimes reboots are rushed into production to keep the rights to an intellectual property. After Spider-Man 3 was released Sony pressured Sam Raimi to have a 4th film ready by 2011. Once he realized the deadline would hinder the final project he bowed out. Following his departure and Tobey Maguire’s indifference to returning Sony decided it’d be easier to hit the re-set button. From that came The Amazing Spider-Man, an okay film that feels like a project created by a committee. Many plot points were re-hashed with new villains and that’s about it.
More often a franchise can have a great foundation that a few bad sequels get built upon. What you need to do is find a way to stay in the established universe while ignoring problematic sequels. After X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine 20th Century Fox had to right the ship. From this came the prequel X-Men: First Class and se/prequel X-Men: Days of Future Past. Both of these films planted a flag in a new chapter of the story while keeping tropes from previous films. With the Bond series every few years they needed to re-cast the lead role while keeping past films in continuity. By the time we hit the Brosnan era it had decades worth of history tied to the franchise. This bogged down everything in Die Another Day to the point where it felt like a greatest hits album at times. Thankfully they decided to go full reboot with the next film.
Sometimes when you craft a film you can nail some aspects and yet get other things completely wrong. Jonathan Liebesman’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crafted a decent take on the title characters and their family dynamic, but the Shredder in the film felt like he was pigeonholed in without any idea what to make of him. They also tried to craft a darker atmosphere around these characters who have become associated with children’s entertainment. While all we’ve seen of the upcoming sequel (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows) are trailers it feels like the new director has heard the criticisms of the previous film and is applying them to this film. This could be a bad thing for the series, but I’m going to hope that this is going to make up for past mistakes.
Occasionally there are times when a series either goes on hiatus or has so many sequels that don’t do the original justice that after decades of waiting we see a new sequel trumpeting the return. Last year gave us the superb Mad Max: Fury Road, the first Mad in thirty years. What George Miller gave us was a new chapter that acknowledged the previous films, but set up a new future for this character. Last year also gave us Terminator Genisys, a film that tried to ignore the previous two sequels and become more in tone with the original two films. Unfortunately while the look emulated those films the story and cast weren’t up to par.
So what are your thoughts on sequels? Do you think we need more originality? Is there a franchise you want to see make a comeback?