Blockbuster Sequels V Reboots: Dawn of Requels

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Jason Bourne’s back punching dudes and unraveling conspiracies. The aliens resurged for another bout of Independence Day fireworks. In a galaxy far, far away, past becomes present as the new generation follows in the exact footsteps of the old while Jurassic World fulfilled John Hammond’s dream only to predictably go belly-up by the credits.

Hollywood has been trying to synthesize creative success down to a science since, well, ever and the latest step in that journey is the “requel,” a portmanteau of “remake-sequel” or “reboot-sequel” popular enough to have its own The Hollywood Reporter story.

A requel (usually) takes place in the same timeline as the original or preceding film, using the familiarity of the setting and returning creatives to anchor what amounts to a story reset, thus reinvigorating a dormant brand. Requels are popular because they have the potential to become a four-quadrant hit. Mad Max: Fury RoadJurassic World, Creed, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Independence Day: Resurgence and last weekend’s Jason Bourne are all recent films that fit this new category.

The studio and producers can get the best of both worlds; the older crowd on the nostalgia train and the younger crowd with youthful additions (Chris Pratt! Daisy Ridley! Liam Hemsworth?) and timely updates (The park is open! There’s a bigger Death Star! Matt Damon needed to get in shape!). It’s buffet-style filmmaking. Here’s what box office analyst Jeff Bock told THR.

“At least with a reboot that is also a sequel, the lineage of events stays intact. Bridging the old and the new is an easy way for studios to link generations of fans together and continue to grow an audience, all without having to market and sell a whole new world to ticket buyers. In other words, it’s easy money.”

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But it’s a tight-wire act as well. Filmmakers are constantly threading a needle between reinventing the wheel and just spinning the old one. It’s like living with a thermometer you can’t read until opening weekend. Only then does the production know if they balanced every contradictory element and sanded every edge.

The downside of is can render what was unique antiseptic. Take last weekend’s box office champ Jason Bourne for instance. As I wrote in my review, it was “mainlined fan service” with everything you could expect or want from a Bourne film, except, in my opinion, something new. Vox‘s Todd VanDerWerff called it a “greatest hits cover album” of the original trilogy.

Thanks day-to-day Hollywood machinations like that, few are the franchises that follow any sort of predetermined path or causation other than “follow the money.” As a film reporter and storyteller, my interest goes even further, with a fascination in the production process and story choices behind a franchise. I love wondering what-could-have-been with Edgar Wright before he left Ant-Man, what Darren Aronofsky would have done with The Wolverine or how Alien: Engineers became Prometheus.

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Sam Flynn

Sam Flynn

Sam is a writer and journalist whose passion for pop culture burns with the fire of a thousand suns and at least three LED lamps.