First, some good news: a lot of the film franchises slated for revamp in 2015 look more than promising. Harrison Ford reunited with Chewbacca, actual 35mm film, and practical special effects!? Emilia Clarke as the mother of not just dragons, but terminators!? The over-under odds place more than half of our office attending both midnight premieres.
Still, we can’t fight the fact that often when you make a copy of a copy, the result is a loss of quality from the original. Great sequels like The Godfather: Part II, unfortunately, are the exceptions and not the rule.
Of the top twenty-five films to come out of 1984, just three were sequels or reboots. Thirty years later in 2014, that number quadrupled—and if you also count big-screen adaptations of books and major brands (even though The LEGO Movie was spectacularly original), it becomes easier to count the movies that weren’t revamps last year: just four out of the top twenty-five.
Thirty years ago, we were entering a year that would bring us four cult classics starting with the letter B alone: Back to the Future, Better Off Dead, The Breakfast Club, and Brazil. Fast forward to today, and we have this to look forward to: another Alvin and the Chipmunks, another James Bond, another Smurfs, another Jurassic Park, another Mad Max, another Mission: Impossible, another Fast and Furious, another Pitch Perfect, another Magic Mike, another Transporter, another Friday the 13th, another Mall Cop, another Paranormal Activity, another Hot Tub Time Machine, another Ted, another Insidious, another Bourne, another Hotel Transylvania, and what seems like another dozen comic book reboots, to name just a few.
The Back to the Future series promised us hoverboards and auto-lacing sneakers in 2015, and yet it seems we can hardly find original movie premises.
Fortunately, originality is not yet dead—and, like The Goonies (yet another classic to hit theatres exactly three decades ago), it will never die. While major studios might be fully immersed in a difficult sequel phase at the moment, they will eventually grow out of it. In the interim, so will new outlets for stubbornly original filmmakers.
From the successful crowdfunding of films like Wish I Was Here and Veronica Mars to network television’s embrace of live musicals like The Sound of Music and Peter Pan to Amazon’s pursuit of silver screen directors and theatrical releases, there are new homes for filmmakers that didn’t exist just a few years ago.
In unison, we’re also seeing new opportunities from across the pond. With BBC finally finding its following in the United States and British talent taking impressive leads in everything from Yorkshire-based Downton Abbey to Georgia-based The Walking Dead, we’re in the midst of another British invasion—this time in the areas of film and television.
Finally, there’s the uptick among female leads. Thanks to directors like Paul Feig, who laid the groundwork with Bridesmaids and The Heat, and author-actresses like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, we’re seeing a much-deserved increase in comedy films with female leads. Add to this the chatter over multiple female superheroines rumored to be in the works following Captain Marvel, and the scales begin to tip far more in the favor of new film territory than old.
As we learned from Jurassic Park (the first one), “life finds a way.” From a distance, it might appear studios have spliced the DNA of movies to create nothing but safe box-office bets—but look closer, and you’ll find new signs of life thriving in the undergrowth.
Matt Siegel writes about film trends, 80s movies, and stock footage for VideoBlocks.