If you’ve been keeping up with the current trends of Hollywood, you might notice something alarming. The fact that the summer movie line-up might look eerily familiar to years past. Just this year we had Jurassic World, Mad Max: Fury Road, Terminator: Genisys, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Furious 7, and more that I’d rather not take the time to list. It’s been an increasing trend in Hollywood to simply update a film rather than start something new. Now first and foremost this isn’t a bad thing, however if the current strategy continues it won’t be sustained.
Now, the simple explanation for this recent trend is because studios like to make money. SURPRISE! This simple idea is largely why we have so many re-do’s. Why spend the money and take the risk on an untried property when there is a host of great franchises that have already proved to be money-makers? That’s just smart business. The problem that occurs is when they rely too heavily on audience nostalgia. That the fond feelings audiences have give studios the excuse to scoot by with either a reused or rehashed plot. Unsurprisingly, this doesn’t work. Especially when studios decide to tweak the original stories. All that built up nostalgia can quickly turn the audience against the studios.
Let’s look at Jurassic World and Mad Max: Fury Road. These two films are easily the two big budget standouts of the summer. Jurassic World made all the money there was while Mad Max preceded to take people by their ears and drag them along on a thrill ride that has redefined the very word. Why did these two films work? Jurassic World had essentially the same plot as Jurassic Park just with more dinosaurs and more people. While Mad Max‘s plot was simply a more violent depiction of your parents turning the car around on the family road trip. The reason why both these films worked so well is they knew who they were making them for.
Jurassic World being the lesser of the two, had it easier. Everyone loves dinosaurs and as long as the dinosaurs looked good enough, people won’t grumble to much. That’s part of what made Jurassic Park so great. It made us believe Steven Spielberg had made some demonic pact to bring dinosaurs back from extinction so he could make a movie. Not only that, but Speilberg put those dinosaurs at the top of the food chain and made humans the prey. Making us irrationally fear Raptors bursting into our kitchens. Ultimately Jurassic World relied on including more dinosaurs and having them fight. Going for more spectacle rather than suspense. With characters just deep enough to make us care about them over the dinosaurs, the movie came out with a pretty positive result.
Mad Max was a completely different story. Cracked.com does a much better job at praising Mad Max: Fury Road, which you can read on their site. The basic thing I want to get across is that Mad Max was made to a specific audience. It didn’t try to water anything down to make it PG-13, thus hitting a bigger market. Unlike Terminator: Genysis, Mad Max knew that their loudest audience members are old enough to see an R-rated film and made a film for them. Which is how we got the masterpiece that is Mad Max: Fury Road.
This all boils down to one thing, know your audience. If you are going to make a sequel or a reboot, know who loved the original and why. It’s partly why there is so much excitement around the the new Star Wars. If you read any of the hundreds of hype articles out there you’ll see that J.J. Abrams has an understanding of why people loved the originals and built of off them. It also helps that while making his second Star Trek film he went on record of being more of a Star Wars fan.