Everyone’s who has ever tried to create anything has been told “Nothing is original anymore”. The statement can definitely be disheartening, especially if something you worked very hard on becomes summarized into “Westworld but with aliens” or something like “Game of Thrones meets H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine”. It’s as if people aren’t adventurous anymore in their film tastes.
Don’t give up. We can’t live off reboots, sequels, and remakes forever. Even now, with our box offices flooded with “two”s and “new and improved”s, anything actually new will stand out like sunshine on a dreary day.
This is clearly shown when originals like Get Out and Split were released and made the most profit against The Mummy (a remake) and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (the fifth in the series). Of course, the sequels in the Marvel Universe did well and so did Wonder Woman, but where will the original films be when superheroes tire out?
Hollywood is in a spiral now with the thought “if it made money, make it again”. From action movies like The Bourne Identity, Transformers, and Mission Impossible to animated comedies like Shrek, Ice Age, and Cars; no one knows when to stop. Sequels are known by all movie-goers to be potentially disastrous when compared to their main movie. Yet something called the Sequel Paradox shows that, although sequels are usually doomed, they somehow make tons of money, mostly overseas.
How does this work? A little bit of what the fans want to see and a whole lot of advertising.
The truth is: sequels are safe. Humans are naturally curious and like to see things for themselves so if there’s a second Baby Driver people who liked the first movie would flock there to see for themselves if it beat their expectations. Even if it didn’t and the reviews are awful people will go just to see for themselves. This brings in revenue. As long as there is a fan base for it, there are people buying tickets just to make their own judgement.
If you’re a big reader, then you know book-to-movie adaptations are tentative. If you’re looking for video game adaptations, most likely you’ll be disappointed. However, books are the fresh source of inspiration for Hollywood. For example, Game of Thrones, Hunger Games, and comic books.
These are stories that already come with fans attached who are excited to see these fictional worlds they’ve loved turn into something visible. There is always the pressure of disappointing the fans (The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising was another failed start), but the fans will always give it a shot, just like most sequels.
Adaptations are sometimes difficult to continue. The Chronicles of Narnia and Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief both fizzled after their sequels. While nothing seemed to be wrong with Narnia other than budget loss and then an unremarkable third movie, the first Percy Jackson movie, The Lightning Thief, was argued and ridiculed online by fans who thought the characters were completely wrong and the prophecy, which is at the core of the series, was tampered with to fit the age of the actors. It seems, not all adaptations can complete the full series like Harry Potter.
As time goes by and technology in the movie industry like CGI and animation improve, sometimes remakes are made to improve classics. Disney’s current plan for animated film remakes with live action casts is just one example of this trend. The worst part about this compared to the other types of tired films mentioned prior, is that remakes are usually the exact same film or TV except “improved”. Avatar: The Last Airbender had the worst backlash from fans (great soundtrack, though) and reminds many movie makers of how live action is easy to mess up.
Remakes in general, like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory from 2005, try to add something new to the classic and it backfires. Time-honored classics should remain the way they are despite their dated cinematography and special effects. If anything, take a leaf from Mad Max: Fury Road. Instead of remaking the series, they created a canon film that added to the series. Not only does it look amazing, but it adds interest for those who haven’t seen the originals, to watch those and bring back more interest to them.
Despite the urge for originality, these methods of money over quality are nothing new and actually date back to classical literature. All in all, the reason these sequels and reboots are so popular is that audiences like names they recognize.
Sequels have to start somewhere and your story could be one that launches a series and makes a name for itself. The answer is not to stop reboots and sequels, it’s to stop unnecessary reboots and sequels.
With your original screenplay, you can chart your own story’s course; just know where to draw the line. Keep it interesting and unique, but the moment it strays is when you should consider moving on to the next project. We don’t need another Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull.