One of the funniest aspects of the recent movie 22 Jump Street is its self-deprecating nature. The comedy was a sequel of the rebooted franchise of the ‘80s, and is blatantly a sequel about sequels. The film, which stars Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, is an unabashedly formulaic buddy cop follow-up to its predecessor with an almost identical plot. The two best friends are literally told by their commanding officer in the movie to “Do the same thing as last time, and everyone will be happy.”
But will the audience be happy?
Hollywood is becoming infamous for the reboot. At this point in pop culture history, it’s hard to find a successful franchise that hasn’t been redone and remade twice over. Most of these films appear to be made with the sole intention of furthering the profits from their predecessors. With the release of countless reboots, remakes and sequels, people far and wide wonder, what exactly does Hollywood think they’re doing?
22 Jump Street, as a sequel of a reboot, should, in theory, be absolutely terrible and serve as a sign of the creative desperation of Hollywood. But instead, the audience ended up pretty happy. And that translated to the box office.
The audience knows exactly what 22 Jump Street is doing, and they’re supposed to. The bromance movie is shamelessly self aware, and self-mocking. This movie really is the typical sequel formula, where actors do the same thing on a larger budget, but the movie embraces it. And the end result is both a funny and profitable movie.
But these days it often feels like sequels, remakes and reboots are all we see from the film industry. More often that not, these films feel tired and desperate, and ordered by some out-of-touch movie executive who just wants to squeeze every last dollar out of the franchise.
Before we go any further, I’d like to clarify the difference between reboots, sequels and remakes. A remake is a recreation of a previously released film, such as Jaden Smith’s Karate Kid. A reboot is re-launching a previously established franchise or character, such as Superman: Man of Steel. And a sequel is a movie that continues the work of a previous one, like Transformers 4: The Age of Extinction.
Other examples include…pretty much every movie out there. Studios have increasingly become dependent on bankable, big-budget movie franchises like The Hobbit, Star Wars, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Pirates of the Caribbean, Superman, Batman, The Avengers, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, Godzilla, Footloose, Planet of the Apes, James Bond, Freaky Friday, Shrek, The Hunger Games… I could probably go on forever.
So why does Hollywood reboot constantly? Well, there are two reasons, and the first one is pretty obvious. Money. Reboots and remakes are a pretty tried and true formula, usually, even if the movie isn’t all that great, it will make money. It’s a lot less risky monetarily to recreate something that worked before than to try something new.
Secondly, despite public outcry of the constant and endless stream of remakes, sequels and reboots, people generally like what they know. Sure I kind of hate the fact that there are three Hobbit movies, seemingly to suck every last dollar out of the franchise. But I love The Lord of The Rings franchise, and you can bet that I have and will continue show up to the theaters.
Recreating a previously told story has been a part of literature and filmmaking forever. But lately, in Hollywood, it seems like a line has been crossed. Previously, it seemed like a new version of the franchise was reserved for a new generation. The density of reboots has increased dramatically over time, seemingly for the sole purpose of increasing profits.
Take the Spider-Man franchise. Most franchise reboots come after costly flops.
But Toby McGuire’s Spider-Man was a successful franchise with its last film Spider-Man 3 released in 2007, grossing $890 million worldwide. And less than five years later we got a new look at Spider-Man, with The Amazing Spider-Man. The new movie wasn’t terrible; instead it was actually pretty good.
But the return to Spiderman felt like the movie studios were duping the public. It felt like a desperate attempt to grab the public’s attention and dollars when the old franchise’s body wasn’t even cold in the ground.
The Amazing Spider-Man reboot did well in the box offices, bringing in $757 million worldwide. Despite the fact that it is Sony’s seventh highest-grossing film of all time, it didn’t make as much as the previous Spider-Man franchise. The Sam Raimi trilogy grossed nearly $2.5 billion worldwide. The new Spider-Man franchise competes with many other super hero movies, and feels overdone and less fresh.
Despite being arguably artistically superior to the previous Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man still remains trapped under the shadow of its predecessors. The new Spiderman franchise won’t reach the level of The Avengers. But despite these setbacks The Amazing Spiderman still managed to make money.
Even with the public’s avid protestations of sequels, most seem to make money, even with artistically inferior products. When Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides, was announced, the public collectively rolled its eyes. But the so-so, at best, film brought in over $1 billion at the box office.
In fact, seven of the top 10 highest-grossing films of all time are parts of a franchise. In the list of the top 50 highest-grossing films of all time you can scarcely find any that aren’t part of a franchise, or about to be. Franchising really does pay off.
Three of the four Transformers movies are in the top 40 highest grossing films of all time, and they keep making money, and loads of it, despite increasingly dismal reviews. For example, Transformers: Age of Extinction managed to pull $984 million in the box office, despite a Rotten Tomatoes score of 18 percent. It’s the franchise that pays, and audiences like what they know.
Film executives, too, find comfort in the familiar. Remakes or sequels of a previously successful film feel like less of a risk. If it worked the first time, why wouldn’t it work the second time?
Despite sequels, remakes and reboots potentially being incredibly profitable, they aren’t constant recipes for success. It’s important to not shove too much down the public’s throat at once, and actually create something of quality. But regardless, people crave what they know and find comfort in familiarity. And besides, isn’t everything really based on something else, no matter how indirectly? These kinds of movies are just a more obvious way of recycling stories. Remakes, reboots and sequels are profitable and popular, and they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
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