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July 12, 2019

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In Defence of Sequels, Spin-offs, Reboots, and Remakes

There’s a photo that’s been making its rounds on the internet lately and it’s reigniting a popular debate amongst film buffs, Disney purists, and nostalgia critics.

This month movie theatre marquees were filled with familiar blockbuster titles like Toy Story, Men in Black, and Child’s Play, all made for a new generation of movie-goers. Before the end of the year, we’ll be seeing the release of the live-action remake of The Lion King, the sequel for the modern Jumanji, a re-imagined Charlie’s Angels, and a continuation of the Terminator saga. This onslaught of sequels, spin-offs, remakes, and reboots has gotten people debating once again about the merits of this nostalgia-based content.

Read any comment section for the announcements or the trailers of these movies and you’ll find plenty of people whom, without having seen these new movies, will confidently declare that the originals will always be better, that Hollywood has run out of creativity, and that these titles are nothing but cash-grabs. Despite all of the naysayers, audiences are continually making successes out of these films. So what are the redeeming qualities? What keeps people coming back to see these movies? Here’s our defence of sequels, spin-offs, remakes, and reboots.

New versions don’t ruin the original. 

We’re protective of the things we love. It’s easy to nod and agree with the internet hordes, given the fondness that we hold for some of our most beloved, long-time childhood favourites. It’s hard to imagine that any other interpretation could come close to what our younger selves have seen as perfect. More times than not, when you mention that someone’s favourite childhood TV show or film is being remade, you’ll get a defensive response. Really? Why would they do that? The original is fine as it is! 

In actuality, movies are not often remade because anyone thought that the original was lacking. They’re remade because they were great in some way, and great stories deserve to be retold or built upon. The simple act of retelling or adding to a story does not “ruin your childhood,” as many have exaggerated. Whether the new film is good or bad, it has little bearing on the source material. It doesn’t change the quality of the original film, and it shouldn’t change our views of it retroactively either.

When a movie is being remade, our immediate reactions shouldn’t be to grimace and question why the original might not have been good enough. It should be to acknowledge that the stories we loved deserve another run in the spotlight.

Movies adapt to changing tastes and changing technology. 

Why don’t we just watch the originals?

It can be difficult for today’s average moviegoer to watch older films. Knowing what to look for and where to find them is one thing, but learning to truly appreciate them is another. Public tastes change with advancing trends, techniques and technology in the industry. Audiences now come with built-in expectations and higher standards because of their ample exposure to sleek, modern productions. Special effects that were groundbreaking just a decade ago can now look glaringly fake and campy. People are not going to be impressed by a man dressed in a gorilla suit knocking down cardboard buildings, but they might be with a fully realized King Kong built from cutting-edge visual effects artists, creative sound design, and motion-capture technology. Standards, tastes and expectations have changed over the years.

Even writing for film has changed significantly. From general pacing to political correctness, screenwriting for modern audiences comes with a whole new set of standards and expectations. There are subjects that were once taboo that no longer are, and vice versa. Older films often come with cultural references that have been lost to the times, sometimes references to even older films. There are countless reasons why, even an award-winning, universally highly regarded film may have aged poorly over the years. That doesn’t mean the story isn’t worth revisiting. 

Audiences’ tastes change over time, and that includes everything from aesthetics to subject matter. That’s not to say that all of these changes in modern filmmaking will guarantee in a better movie overall, but it will result in a movie better suited for the audience of the time. One day, when movies are fully immersive VR experiences, audiences will be talking about how primitive today’s filmmaking and tastes were. 

New movies keep old stories alive. 

Did you know that Ocean’s 11 (2001) is a remake? How about The Departed? Scarface? The Sound of Music? A lot of us would never have been familiar with these stories had they not been remade for a new audience, be it for a new generation or a market with a different language.

We didn’t all grow up as movie aficionados that actively sought out the classics or foreign language films. For many people, these new remakes and reboots will be their entryway into an established franchise. Some might seek out the originals after the new films spark their interest. Most probably won’t. And that’s absolutely fine. Remakes make an older property accessible again, and by that way, it keeps beloved stories, characters, and make-believe worlds alive. For many families, these movies are a chance for parents to introduce something familiar to their kids and find a new way to bond and relate.

Isn’t it better for our favourite stories and characters to be adapted for another generation to enjoy, rather than disappear from the public consciousness altogether?

Give new talent a chance to shine. 

Having an existing legacy as a platform is a massive stepping stone for some of the young stars involved in new productions. Disney’s live-action remakes are particularly notable for this with the casting of up-and-coming actors in lead roles for Aladdin as well as the forthcoming Mulan and The Little Mermaid. This is especially important today as representation continues to be a struggle within Hollywood. The impact on youth seeing themselves in Mena Massoud, a young actor from Markham, Ontario, in the title role of the massive blockbuster Aladdin, and not just as an animated character, can be hugely profound.

This is also a chance to shine for an entirely new generation of writers, designers, animators, special effects artists, and other behind-the-scenes roles. These are probably the people that grew up watching the originals and were inspired in some way by them to work within the industry. To rule out the merits of an entire production and the efforts of hundreds of cast and crew members based solely on the fact you have some sentimental attachment to an older version is more than unfair.

There are plenty of awesome movies that were based on previous titles.

While the perceived trend is that each subsequent film made after the original is more poorly received, this isn’t always the case. There have been many sequels, spin-offs, remakes, and reboots that are equally worth your time. The third remake of A Star is Born gave us the Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper duet that we never knew we needed. Toy Story is a film franchise that started off strong and still got progressively better with each release. Mad Max: Fury Road won six Academy Awards. Heath Ledger’s dark and imaginative Joker is and forever will be one of the best onscreen interpretations of a comic book villain. There are so many outstanding achievements from non-original films.

Imagine how much spectacular content we would be depriving ourselves of if we had just stopped with a single movie.

Try something new-ish.

There are people that pride themselves at having watched their favourite movies numerous times over and reject anything that comes subsequent to it. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, it does often hold us back from discovering something else exciting or expanding on the films that we’ve come to love so much. If taking two hours to watch a new interpretation on something you love is too big of a risk on your precious time, too far out of your comfort zone, and too much of an assault on your childhood memories, then modern audiences have got other issues to deal with. 

Sequels, spin-offs, remakes, and reboots are going to continue to populate the movie marquees, and they are in fact not an attack on the original fans. Let’s try to keep a positive outlook instead of immediately rejecting a new production based on its origins. Let’s not allow our attachment to the past prevent us from discovering something potentially worthwhile, thought-provoking or just plain entertaining.

Let’s put a new lens on our nostalgia goggles and genuinely try to enjoy something new-ish for once.

Movies, Uncategorised