By Anna Lucchinetti
In the last fifty years, sequels have played an important part in the cinema industry. In fact, some of the most well know sequels were born during the 60s and the 70s, such as, James Bond, Star Wars and Star Trek. In the modern age, it seems that the love for sequels has not only survived, but it has increased to unbelievable levels. It could be probable that the reason why film series are so popular is because the audience become affectionate to the characters of the saga. In addition to this affection, viewers are lured in by their curiosity to discover how the characters’ lives evolve, so they see it only fit to go and watch the following episodes. However, it is not for satisfying audience’s curiosity that Hollywood employs most of its time and money in creating film series. In fact, it is for economic reasons that production companies keep producing sequels. Firstly, sequels permit the production companies to draw on the same characters of the previous film, knowing that they will be loved as much as they were in the first episode. Secondly, it is easier for producers to create a continuance because they do not need to think about a new story, genre and if it is going to be appreciated by the audience, but simply they have to decide new adventures for the old characters, whilst still touching on the same topics. For example, Fast and Furious has been extremely loved by the audience as it follows the lives and stories of the same characters whilst always proposing the same themes: criminality, car races and love. The first episode of the franchise was released in 2001 and it cashed more than $207 million worldwide. As the following seven episodes were as successful as the first one, the Fast and Furious franchise has recently agreed with the Universal Pictures to produce three more episodes that will be out in cinemas in 2017, 2019 and 2021.
Furthermore, it could be said that the 21st Century has so far been the ‘Golden Age’ for film franchises. Indeed, in the last fifteen years Hollywood released some of the most appreciated and fruitful sequels in all of the history of cinema. For example, the Harry Potter series that occupied a place in the cinema calendars every year from 2001 to 2011 has profited $7.7 billion worldwide. Other examples that can prove the increase of the popularity of sequels in recent years are Twilight (2008 – 2012) which made $3.3 billion, Divergent (2014-2016) that earned over $2.65 billion and Hunger Games (2012-2015) that made more than $2.9 billion worldwide. These are only a few examples of the large amount of sequels produced in these recent years, but what is worth thinking about is why in Hollywood are sequels always so popular? The reason, as aforementioned, is money. In an article published in 2014 in The Financial, Matthew Garrahan commented that Hollywood box offices regained the amount of money lost in 2014 by increasing the production of sequels that were to be released in 2015. So it is plausible in arguing that for Hollywood, a film series is somewhat a ‘guarantee’ to make money. However, what scares me the most is that now every movie released seems to be the sequel of a previous movie. For example, most of the films that were released in 2016 are continuances of older films that were an initial success upon release. For example, The Huntsman: Winter’s War (April 2016), My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (March 2016) and Alice Through the Glass (May 2016) have all been created and advertised as the continuances of older films Snow White and the Huntsman (2012), My Big Fat Greek Wedding(2002) and Alice in Wonderland (2010). This is a short list of some of the sequels produced this year, but the list goes on.
The trend of creating sequels is also affecting children’s films alongside the wider areas of cinema. For example, when Shrek was released in 2001, it was so well-loved by the audience that it
became a franchise and now there are six films that belong to the overarching series. Another example is Toy Story’s franchise that counts five films including the one due to be released in 2018. Furthermore, one should consider all the fairy tales that have been reinterpreted and revived for the public, such as Cinderella, Maleficent, The Jungle Book, Oz the Great and Powerful, Hansel and Gretel – Witch Hunters, The Legend of Tarzan… The list also goes on in this case.
Conclusively, it seems that films proposed by the cinema industry are typically revamped versions of old and well known stories. The real question on my mind is where is the creativity in this recyclable process? Why do producers not take the risk to try something new and something innovative that may change cinema history? Finally, one must wonder if money and profit will always impede the evolution and variety of film.
This article was published in our September 2016 issue.