“The economy stinks, bees are dying, and movies are pretty much all sequels now” gripes Schmidt in Fox’s hit TV comedy series New Girl. There is not a more appropriate time for this quote to be relevant. Granted, the economy is slowly improving and honeybee colonies hit a 20-year high last summer, but that last bit about movies holds true now, and has been holding true for the past few years. It seems like Hollywood is churning out nothing but sequels, reboots, and ‘based on’ entertainment on both the silver screen and the small screen, and it’s far from beneficial for society.
This epidemic cannot be attributed solely to Hollywood, although a good portion of it is their fault, as writers are seemingly running out of original ideas (Battleship, anyone?). Consumers hold an equal amount of blame; they flock to the theaters and their TVs and willingly spend their money on the assembly-line produced entertainment. But perhaps the biggest culprit, and the amalgamation of these factors, behind this dearth of originality is nostalgia.
For some reason, nostalgia has become a fad. A fad that is dire need of dying out. Society today is in the midst of a heated love affair with nostalgia. And sooner or later, hopefully sooner, society is going to realize that nostalgia is not a concept worth committing to and they’ll call off this disgusting little fling.
One of the major flaws with nostalgia is that production companies think they can get away with mediocre production value because fans only care about the warmth and pleasure they get from watching something nostalgic, like Fuller House.
The Netflix original series is a continuation of Full House, a sitcom that ended in 1995. Unfortunately, the spinoff relied on constantly reusing jokes from the original series that fell flat in the first episode, the plot was nothing short of pedestrian, and the laugh track was overused and cringe-worthy. Somehow though, it’s already been renewed for a second season. Does any fan of quality TV want this? No. Can, and should, Netflix put their money towards more promising original series? Absolutely. But the older generation is so enamored with the idea of nostalgia that the new generation suffers as a result. The older generation must cut their ties with nostalgia if they want to bring even an ounce of originality back to the entertainment world.
The Transformers franchise is another great example of nostalgia gone sour. The purpose of the first entry in the series, Transformers, was to get the adults who played with the original generation of toys in the 1980s to fall in love all over again, and to usher in a new generation of fans. Mission accomplished? Yes. A new line of toys rolled out, and unfortunately, so did a steady stream of movies decreasing in quality with each new release. All four Transformers films, including the most recent one, 2014’s Transformers: Age of Extinction, were extremely poorly received by both critics and moviegoers. And yet, there are three more in planning, along with a G.I. Joe crossover and the establishment of a dedicated Transformers cinematic universe. Why? Because the movies sell. Despite the reception, all four movies made at least $245 million at the box office.
And that’s why sequels are dangerous. Hollywood keeps producing them, and fans will go in with rejuvenated expectations and a continuous attachment to nostalgia, thinking to themselves that this one will be better than the last one. But it won’t. Not with Transformers, and not with My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.
The original film went beyond expectations, bringing in $241.3 million, making it the highest-grossing romantic comedy of all time, and Hollywood thought a sequel would produce the same results. But it hasn’t. The movie has been in theaters for almost a month and has only grossed $6.5 million so far.
MBFGW2 isn’t the only recent cinematic sequel. 14 of the top 25 highest-grossing films of 2015 were either sequels, spin-offs, or reboots. Among them are Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man, the two latest entries in the never-ending Marvel Cinematic Universe. Obscure superheroes, weak plots, it doesn’t matter. As long as a movie has Marvel attached to it, the money will keep rolling in. Moviegoers have grown complacent. They’re used to living among an oversaturation of superhero flicks, so when Doctor Strange comes out later this year, it’ll be a box office hit, even though only the serious Marvel Comics fanboys know who he is. Marvel Studios could make the decision to kill off every Avenger in 2018’s Infinity War. Comic book fans and movie fans alike will riot, and the movie could be the worst movie Marvel Studios has ever produced, but if it is as much of a box office hit as the rest, the same fans that swore off Marvel will be back in their seats for the next installment.
What this all boils down to is fear. Entertainment consumers are afraid of experiencing something new. They clamor for the rebirth of childhood favorites because it’s what they know. They’ve settled into a comfort zone of familiar worlds and characters. And it’s unhealthy. They’re spending wads of cash to stay in this comfort zone.
They need to force themselves out and embrace the refreshing change of an original screenplay, something that Hollywood needs more of, especially with 250 sequels planned between now and 2020 (see this IMDb list for the titles: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls056448769/).
But it’s up to the consumers to put their collective foot down and tell Hollywood that it’s time to stop slapping a number on the end of everything. Otherwise, Hollywood will keep listening to the idealistic sounds of cha-chinging cash registers, and not the realistic sounds of the people.