Sequels: Is it Ever Time to Quit?
Ever since the announcement of another Star Wars film going into production, the internet has been awash with questions about it. Where will it be filming? Will all of the original cast be involved? Will it include content from the post-Jedi books, or will it create its own canon?
Of course, Star Wars isn’t the only film franchise that’s in talks to produce more films. There are three more Avatar films on the way from James Cameron. Jurassic Park 4 is in development as we speak. And although it may be some time before we see a Ghostbusters 3, the director Ivan Reitman remains hopeful.
There are seven Planet of the Apes films, six movies in the Star Wars, Saw and Fast and the Furious franchises, five Nightmare on Elm Street movies (not including the recent remakes), and four Jaws films. There’s even twelve Friday the 13th movies (including the remakes).
The question then is: when is time to throw in the towel? How many is too many? When, frankly, is it enough?
To many, the answer is never. For some, it’s about continuing the story of the character(s). For others, it’s a bit more cynical. As long as Hollywood is making any kind of money off of the continuation of these films, then the response is to keep making them. This includes anything from sequels with only one character carrying over and replacing full casts to simply keeping one primary element of the story going (see Jaws). The Fast and the Furious 6 made over $500 million dollars in sales and was one of the top grossing films this year. James Bond has had dozens of films made about him (although one can argue that those aren’t considered ‘sequels’ so much as varying stories, especially with the changing face of Bond).
Okay, so Hollywood has the right to bleed as much as it can out of an idea, especially if that idea is a good idea and stays pumping with popularity longer than people expected. But what about the films that have a significant lapse between sequels, the ones that are distinctly sequels and not remakes? How far should we push?
A prime example of this is the final Indiana Jones film. George Lucas and Steven Spielberg were on top of the world with their hit, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The film encompassed all of the elements that made the previous films popular: ancient relics, real dangers and familial ties. Most in the Indiana Jones fan community consider it to be the best of the films.
Unfortunately, the phrase “quitting while you’re ahead” doesn’t really apply to the film industry. And so, nineteen years later, Indiana Jones was back making another film. And unfortunately again, it was a film that most of the fans ignore. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was definitely not The Last Crusade, and many feel that it not only ended the series on a bad note, but strayed from what was ultimately the good parts of Indiana Jones.
Should Lucas and Spielberg have quit while they were ahead? On the one side, they introduced the character to another generation of filmgoers. On the other side, they ruined what could have been considered the perfect ending to a pretty incredible trilogy.
Of course, it shouldn’t go without saying that much of the fan population can be considered part of the problem. As fans, we want as much as we can of something we love. Of course what happens then is that the studios answer our prayers, make sequels, and then suffer the consequences as we complain about how they’ve ruined the thing we love. Studios don’t like to lose money, and so when they feel that there’s still a market, they will try to deliver. You can’t make a product without a consumer, and nobody likes to fill their plate more than a moviegoer.
So what do you think? Should the studios be allowed to serve up a buffet as long as there’s a willing crowd? Or should they save us from ourselves and make only what we need to enjoy and survive?