Sequels – I Hate It

Written by Kayla Delaney

What’s new with Hollywood? Apparently, nothing.

The movie industry has made a habit of taking old intellectual property, or IPs, and remaking them, creating sequels, and using a pre-existing idea for the next big project. The last few years have seen a slew of remade movies, long-lost sequels and spin-offs coming to our screens. Evidently, these renewals of old ideas have varied greatly in their success of either recapturing the original magic or reinventing the story. 

The question is – is this evidence that the industry might be running out of ideas?

Remakes or reinterpretations of stories are not a new concept – the movie 10 Things I Hate About You was based on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. The movie Carrie, based on the Stephen King novel, has been remade three times, with the first having a sequel. Books inspiring movies are a key example of remade ideas, though normally with creative tweaks and adaptations. However, many of the latest or upcoming releases are remakes or sequels: Mean Girls, with Reneé Rapp taking her Regina George from Broadway to the cinema; Megamind: The Doom Syndicate, alongside a promised TV series; Inside Out 2; The Garfield Movie; Kung Fu Panda 4; and the list could go on. 

So many IPs with such immense success in their time – why not recapture it?

Sequels and remakes are invitations for original fans to see their favourites given another showing, normally with a brand-new cast, perspective, style, or context. It is, overall, a lower risk to reuse iconic IPs rather than present something new. This doesn’t mean that these remakes will be immediate blockbusters. If anything, the backlash from original fans can be just as vitriolic as that of new ideas. Giving something a new spin or angle can keep it interesting. Sometimes, though, a remake is just that and nothing else. 

So, why is Hollywood so focused on remakes?

Three reasons, in particular, can be suggested: one, as previously mentioned, to profit from what the industry knows has worked before; two, to keep things simple for the audience’s attention span; and three, because creativity and imagination, in the age of technology and AI, are slowly becoming obsolete.

Research into attention spans is dubious at best, but there is an argument to be made regarding the ease of access creating less demand for focus. We have the option of taking in multiple sources of information at the press of a few buttons. New knowledge that is not quickly obtainable, therefore, is more of a burden than it might have been before. An example might be new ideas in the film industry – new IPs, stories and characters take time and commitment. Alongside this plethora of access, there are more opportunities to pursue things, and hobbies and interests are more accessible than ever. To put a new TV show or two hours of a new film on top of all of that would be substantially tough for the mind to balance. Rewatching, however, can become dull quickly, and some novelty is always interesting. Hence, remakes – the perfect solution of something familiar but new, like a new pair of the exact same shoes that you wore out. Compared to brand-new IPs, the variety of remakes, sequels and spin-offs are ultimately smaller, easier quantities of new information.

Then there is AI. It is still in progress, and already a source of interesting ideas generated from years of coding, training, and receiving information from which to work and learn. The quality, however, is very hit-and-miss, where generated pictures present a person with an extra hand or text is generated with false or invalid information, as has occurred in some legal proceedings in the US and the UK. Though an effortless resource, AI is not quite at the point where it can be a reliable, regular source of material. Neither, I believe, should it become one – a piece of work by an AI will always lack the personal touch. 

Ultimately, these factors make pursuing old IPs an easier, cheaper, and less risky choice for the film industry – they can work with previous successes and almost guarantee an audience made up of the originals’ fans. But it marks a concerning future for TV and movies, as those remakes are not all winners, and some of the new ideas coming out of the works are not successful either. For example, Disney’s latest original, Wish, has been found by critics to be “soulless”, and even though it acknowledges the need for “new characters, not merely sequels”, it “retread[s] classic storylines”.

Is movie magic a thing of the past? Is creativity in the film industry simply not around anymore? The last few years of reproduced IPs suggest that many may be taking the route that demands less creativity legwork. What does that mean for the industry, for the people who want to bring their imagination to it and for the audiences that still want something new on the screen?

I hope that the industry remembers why creativity is so important – things can only be reused so many times, and eventually, your audience is going to get frustrated and bored with the same stuff. The opportunity that film provides for the imagination to thrive is something so special and so magical to witness. 

Please, Hollywood, remember that new things, and new ideas, are sometimes worth the risk of not catching – because, sometimes, those new things can spark and create something so brilliant and beautiful that remakes, sequels, and spin-offs cannot ever truly ignite.

If you’d like to read more about this phenomenon, please go to BBC or Burges Salmon.

Written by Kayla Delaney, Edited by Sangeeta Raja, Photography by Kayla DelaneyPublished by Paige Tamasi.