Don’t get me wrong; there will be no shortage of or end to blockbusters and franchise extensions for the foreseeable future. There are plenty scheduled and countless more planned. AvP films bomb? Predators didn’t work? On with The Predator! Prometheus was pretty divisive so let’s change course and make Alien: Covenant. Didn’t like Alien 3 or Alien: Resurrection? Neill Blomkamp’s gonna make Aliens 2 for ya. Most recently Disney announced The Rocketeer would get “requelized” with a black woman taking over the role. (FWIW, I’m like/am looking forward to all of these films and hope they’re about more than the bottom line).
Even for the iconic, irreplaceable roles will, eventually, be replaced. Producer Frank Marshall may say there will be no Indiana Jones other than Harrison Ford (who’s really benefited from this requel kick, between Star Wars, Blade Runner and now Indy). Disney CEO Bob Iger sure seems to think differently. He confirmed to THR that they would continue to make Indiana Jones films and a whole Indy universe (yes, universe).
“Yes, I do [plan to make more Indiana Jones films after the fifth]. I don’t think it reaches the scale of the universe of Star Wars, but I see making more. It won’t be just a one-off.”
Someone see if Chris Pratt is available in 2025!
The point is, nothing is sacred and change is the only constant, not roles, not rules and not requels. Hollywood is a slow ship to steer and any lessons learned won’t be apparent for a year or two what reverberations these films’ successes and failures will bring. But it begs the question: where does this go? Does Disney adapt their way to the end of their catalog and loop back around like a snake eating its tale? Does king of the cinematic universe Marvel reboot its heroes (such as Robert Downey, Jr.’s iconic Tony Stark/Iron Man) or phase them out in favor of new ones (Squirrel Girl?)?
In my view, universe expansion works best if it flows steadily and purposefully. The Marvel Cinematic Universe was a great case study in (mostly) patient plotting and the company was rewarded for it with billions in profit and a dozen individual franchises. The DC universe’s roll-out, in contrast, has not been the smoothest; the Man of Steel/Batman v Superman/Justice League trilogy may be one of the most reactionary film trilogies yet.
It used to be that a big budget would “proof” a movie against failure, because audiences are drawn to spectacle. But now we’ve reached the point where spectacle is common and no longer gets the job done. What audiences are drawn to now is investment. Investment in characters like Jason Bourne and Matt Damon’s portrayal of him. Investment in expansive, interconnected worlds like the MCU. Investment in the stories of J.K. Rowling. And audiences, as customers, expect to see an emotional return.
To summarize, watch Mad Max: Fury Road.