Late last week, Hitfix broke the news that Mike Myers will return to his most popular character for yet another installment. That’s right: The Love Guru 2! Ha, ha, just kidding, it’s Austin Powers 4. Meanwhile, the latest film of the durable Planet of the Apes franchise held on to the top spot at the box office for a second week, though a little further down the list, Final Destination 5 (the follow-up to The Final Destination, which apparently was not the final destination) disappointed, opening with the series’ lowest attendance to date.
That little dip appears to be an anomaly, though; the fact of the matter is, the top six highest-grossing films of the year to date (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 2, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, The Hangover Part II, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Fast Five, and Cars 2) are all sequels, which means the trend isn’t going away anytime soon. We here at Flavorwire spend an awful lot of time complaining about the glut of film franchises, but what about you, the moviegoer? Are you as burned out as we are?
Despairing of the lack of new and original ideas in mainstream cinema is not a new phenomenon; last week, /Film unearthed a great clip of Gene Siskel complaining about the onslaught of sequels and remakes… in 1976. Still, a look at that 2011-to-date top ten (and at the release schedules of major studio pictures for next couple of years) indicates that the problem is reaching critical mass. Mark Harris’s brilliant Esquire piece from last spring, “The Day the Movies Died,” pinpointed the reasons why: namely, production, distribution, and marketing have become so exorbitantly expensive that studios are terrified to take a financial risk on anything but a sure-fire “brand” (hence sequels, remakes, “reboots,” movies based on TV shows, movies based on cartoons, and, God help us, movies based on board games). The go-to argument for this trend is always, “hey, we’re just giving audiences what they want,” and those aforementioned box-office numbers bear that out; the question, however, becomes at what point these are the only choices audiences are being given (if we haven’t passed that point already).
It must be said, of course, that the mere idea of sequels isn’t inherently evil; there have been great cinematic series throughout film history, from the Thin Man movies to the Road pictures to the Rathbone-Bruce Sherlock Holmes films to (some of) the Pink Panther flicks. It would be hard to argue against the steadily increasing quality of the Harry Potter films, a series that many would argue actually got better with each entry. A similar argument could be mounted for the Bourne movies, as well as (amongst a small but vocal minority, of which your author is a member) for the Soderbergh Ocean’s series. And then, of course, there is the “holy trinity” of sequels that matched (or, in some cases, topped) their originals: The Godfather Part II, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and Aliens — though most would agree that there was rather a precipitous drop in quality by the time each of those series reached part three.
But there’s no arguing that those pictures are the exceptions to the rule. Does anyone expect anything fresh or interesting from yet another Final Destination movie, other than a new batch of slapstick-y “kills”? Were there really that many unanswered questions from The Hangover, other than “how much more cash can we squeeze out of this?” Is anyone laboring under the delusion that a fourth Austin Powers picture is going to yield anything more than the same tired catchphrases? Yet, those are the movies that keep getting the green-lights — often with budgets bloated to accommodate their now in-demand stars. The next time you have the misfortune to sit through an uninspired, money-grubbing sequel, try not to think about how many potentially unique or original ideas didn’t get the go-ahead because of the money that the studios had committed to some half-assed sequel, because it’s rather depressing.
But that’s just our two cents. What do you think? Are you tired of the sequel parade? What film series do you wish would disappear — or which would you like to see more of?