“I’ve left pretty explicit instructions for there not to be any more features,” George Lucas said in regards to a Star Wars sequel trilogy in 2008. “There will definitely be no Episodes VII–IX.” These were admirable words.
Disney’s acquisition in 2012 of Lucasfilms solidified the future of the nerf herder and the adventures of Indy. They will crawl on for the next decade. With these films’ creator in the far, far away galaxy—taking only a backseat production role—Disney purports to create new stories and spin-offs, like the newly announced Rogue One. The Disney monolith is not known to sit on its IP for any considerable amount of time (we needed another Cinderella) and likely will run with Star Wars until is profitability sinks deep into the swamps of Dagobah.
Unfortunately, it is not just Lucasfilm that will soon experience the Disney treatment. This kind of serialization of content is a pervasive move in Hollywood as of late. New content follows leagues behind the established brands of stars and young adult literature, as name recognition puts people in seats. There is a sense of security in brands that allows for rebooting, repackaging, and reselling. The slated releases of 2015 are ripe with an inordinate amount of reboots and sequels. Long awaited follow ups like Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, Sinister 2, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Terminator Genysis, Ted 2, and Jurassic World will surely delight, scare, and thrill audiences everywhere. We’ll surely not be left in the dark with all these lovable characters making a summer pilgrimage.
And let’s not forget, long cherished films that need the big screen treatment yet again, to tell us the same or similar story again, like Poltergeist, Mad Max: Fury Road, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Pan, and for some reason, more Steve Jobs in Steve Jobs.
Now, it would be easy to blame the industry for churning out more of the same, but they are merely capitalizing on the wants of the viewers. The average viewer subscribes to that kind of base brand loyalty that influences what clothes we wear and what food we eat. The visual media we consume is no different. In an industry where advertising and marketing plays an important role in the success at the box office, it is a much more secure investment to take on a brand that already has a viewership than another fresh off the writer’s desk. In many ways, it is as much our fault as it is the fault of the studios. We’ll be happy to see Liam Neeson rescue the family goldfish in Taken 12, as opposed to more obscure or unvalidated content. There is a sense of security in knowing exactly what we are going to get. The homologous landscape reflects our own desires in film.
As filmgoers, at a certain point, we need to let things die. When a story has been told, we need to close the book. As much as we would love to see our favorite characters grow and live on indefinitely, at some time their stories needs to end. Letting go can be hard. We need to ask the hard questions. Do we need to see more? As much as we would love to see Judge Dredd file some paperwork and as much as we would enjoy seeing more of the Ghostbusters enacting paranormal justice, some things are best left to the imagination.
This is not just for the benefit of the works themselves, giving them proper closure so their eventual end actually means something, but for newer films that never get to shine. Living in the shadows of existing franchises can prove to be difficult. To get momentum in the industry, it is a race for audiences. This may be reason for the influx of book adaptations (The Hunger Games, Divergent), trying to translate readership into viewership with no effort on part of the studio. It’s a head start wherever you can get it.
For the younger generations, will they ever have a Star Wars of their own, so long as Star Wars is still around? Not everything can be like that space opera, but newer films could certainly try if given the opportunity. Films like Jupiter Ascending are important to look at as they are original screenplays that are attempting to break the mold, at least in science fiction. The Wachowskis took a risk. It did not pay off, but it was an honest attempt. It certainly doesn’t serve as any motivation for directors, writers and producers to helm original content, but that area of Hollywood has been vacant for some time now, without the Wachowski’s aid.
It is these kinds of risks that bring forth great ideas and great movies—something so crazy and so different it just might work. These are the films that live on past their release, and not just because of incessant sequels.
In the wise words of Vin Diesel, “When I first did The Fast and the Furious, I didn’t want there to be a sequel on the first one. I thought, ‘Why would you rush to do a sequel—just because your first film is successful?”
Good thought, Vin. See you in Furious 7.
Featured Image By Breck Wills/ Heights Graphics