On the surface, the recent success of Halloween (2018) appears to be another instance of Hollywood salvaging a once captivating franchise by rebooting and erasing everything save for the beloved premiere entry. The film’s resonance with audiences in the form of earning more revenue at the box office than any other sequel to the 1978 original (and at a cost-effective budget to boot) serves as evidence that rebooting past properties is one of the most potent storytelling tools in a movie studio’s arsenal. More and more film franchises are becoming reliant on this technique. Just this week we will see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series receive a “soft” reboot of sorts, as despite featuring the same characters from the American 2011 Fincher film, The Girl in the Spider’s Web will have all new actors and will skip the two sequels of the original story.
In the past, reboots were an unheard-of process, as studios opted for a steady stream of sequels, even if the previous entry had made less money than the original. This was most notable with many horror franchises, such as Friday the 13th which reached an absurd number of 10 sequels before receiving a reboot of its own in 2009. Somewhere along the line, Hollywood decided that if a film is a critical or box office disappointment, the shrewdest move is to start over with the series, bringing in new actors and directors and removing past plot developments.
Despite Halloween benefitting from deleting the events of the sequels, this appears to be the exception rather than the rule. Here are the 3 key reasons why studios should reconsider starting over with popular franchises and instead continue the original story with sequels.
1. Historically It Can Lead to Losing Money
While a sequel earning less money at the box office than its predecessor may intuitively seem to indicate that audiences simply aren’t as interested in the series as they once were, this isn’t necessarily the case. Franchises such as The Fast and the Furious and Mission: Impossible each regressed considerably with their third instalments, as they both made considerably less than the original. Rather than reboot everything that came before this entry, however, each series continued with their core story to spectacular results. Every entry that has followed has received increasing or equivalent critical and financial success than the previous release (despite each reaching the 6th entry in their franchise).
In comparison, other franchises such as The Mummy and more notably the Spider-Man series experienced a similar quandary when each of their third entries earned less at the box office domestically and also experienced a sharp decline in critical reception from the first two. In a controversial move, the original Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy was essentially erased with the release of The Amazing Spider-Man after only a mere 5-year gap since Spider-Man 3. The franchise’s inability to surpass any of the original Sam Raimi films indicates that the studio would have benefitted from holding off on pressing the reset button and instead had trudged onward.
2. Viewers Want to See Characters Evolve
It can be argued that much of the appeal of following any series is in getting to know the main characters better and the satisfaction of seeing their personalities evolve over time. This factor is the cornerstone of all prestige television dramas, which may help explain why binge-watching has grown in popularity in recent years (with many even arguing that this is cutting into movie attendance).
If a movie series is constantly starting over with reboots and erasing past character development, this doesn’t allow the viewer to savour the thrill of seeing beloved characters make surprising decisions and personally grow. Despite being a reboot of sorts, the latest Halloween film largely thrived thanks to its focus on Laurie Strode’s character development after many years. The unexpected yet completely logical shift in personality from where the character last left off is arguably one of the biggest reasons for the film’s recent connection with audiences.
3. Lapses in Time Can Work to a Sequel’s Advantage
Although a long hiatus between entries may seem as though a sequel has missed the window of being relevant with fans, the gap in time can actually provide compellingly fresh material for the story. Picking up the story decades after the original ending worked tremendously well on a financial and creative level for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This storytelling angle also worked well for the critically heralded Blade Runner 2049 and had it not been for the film’s exorbitant budget the film would have turned a hefty profit as well. This strategy seems to be more effective than a complete reboot from a financial perspective.
Despite Hollywood’s recent proclivity for being overly trigger-happy with the reset button, there are plenty of instances where, either due to production issues or a series creatively running its course, a fresh start is the best choice. While I am personally disappointed that the next entry in the U.S. Millennium series won’t be a straight sequel to Fincher’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the approach is understandable considering that production issues got in the way (although I maintain that Rooney Mara should have at least remained as Lisbeth as a stronger connective thread). Overall, for the reasons stated above, it is generally in the studio’s best interest to not give up on a series after one financial or critical misstep, as moving forward with many instalments can be most profitable in the long-run.