The past decade has delivered a better lineup of amazing films, record-shattering premieres, and nail-biting Oscars races than maybe ever before.
But while very recent film history has no doubt upped our movie standards, the past few years have also signaled another grandiose trend – the rise of the movie sequels.
As long as humans have told stories, we’ve had sequels. But in the past four years, the sheer amount of them has increased enormously.
We’ve gone from four major sequels in 2005 to ten blockbuster sequels in 2014. And 2016 is going to be a whopper, with a projected 17 sequels hitting blockbuster status (give or take).
Sure, nine of every ten blockbuster films released nowadays tend to fall under sequels, remakes, or adaptations. But the bigger trend here isn’t the number of adaptations or remakes we have – it’s the number of movies ‘required’ to tell those continuous storylines.
Between the amount of films being squeezed to death out of beaten dead horse franchises to the whole ‘let’s split the third movie into two parts’ movement, the blockbuster is no longer an event as much as a norm.
So why is this happening?
If you’re a pessimist, it’s because there are no more original ideas. As a realist, you’re thinking it’s because of the money aspect.
But me? I’m a film optimist. So I thought I’d try to look into other reasons why we’re seeing double in theaters these days.
The Golden Age of Television
Shows like Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad have brought film-level effects to our living rooms and iPhones.
If film-lovers have been having a good few years, TV bingers have had several years of Christmas.
But television has also made us greedy. We’re no longer happy with ‘one and done’ stories. Now, if we don’t have at least nine hour-long episodes to stream while never leaving our Iron Throne of a Couch, you’re gonna hear about it online.
‘Episodic films’ used to be reserved for franchises like 007 and Mission Impossible. But thanks to our new and overindulging ways, movies have changed to give the people what they want – three movies and a prequel on the side.
Flexing Our Special Effects Muscles
Is this real life? Or is this fantasy?
With every new franchise, the line between the two gets fuzzier and fuzzier. We are at a peak era in special effects, where studios can quickly push out beautifully realistic special effects without sacrificing quality. A film like 2009’s (still) stunning Avatar was so realistic that there was an actual depression disorder caused by people craving a more beautiful real world.
Improvements in special effects can help explain the insane number of reboots and 70’s/80’s/90’s remakes we’re seeing. Even though classics like Mad Max and Star Wars have a certain sacred charm to them, we all can’t deny wanting to see what they’d look like in 3D with hyper-real effects.
Serendipitous Parallel Thinking
Could it all just be a coincidence?
It’s certainly possible that the simultaneous combo of Hollywood flexing its special effects muscles, the amount of adaptation-worthy anthologies out there, and our TV culture has led to a perfect storm of multi-film culture.
But at the end of the day, I’m a film optimist – not a film idiot. I’d be lying if I said that the heart of the sequel wasn’t probably a darkened, money-hungry one at best.
If you’re getting sick of the blockbusters, fear not. The sequel inferno has also led to the rise of the indie film and trusty biopic, with people craving original stories. And sites like Netflix and Amazon mean you don’t need to have Hipster Sixth Sense to find these films.
Sequel-mania is not bound to end soon. And at this point, we’ve got sequels to our sequels to our remakes of sequels.
I’ll be setting up camp a little early in front of the ticket booth.