With news of Linda Hamilton‘s return to the Terminator franchise, the idea of retooling a movie series is once again in the public eye. Arnie himself has made it clear the upcoming instalment will dispense with previous entries in order to follow on from James Cameron‘s Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
This presents new director Tim Miller with an intriguing problem – Terminators 3 – 5 aren’t the best-regarded sequels in the world, particularly Genisys. But can you simply gloss over the events of these films without so much as a backward glance? What about the fans who’ve invested their time and money in Schwarzenegger’s T-800 and his various missions? Is it advisable to revise what’s passed into legend, for better or worse reasons…?
I’ll be taking a look at those major movie franchises which skirted over canon and prayed audiences took to the new broom, guaranteeing them future box office returns. In doing so I’ll be considering whether going to all this narrative trouble pays off in the long run…
For the twentieth anniversary of John Carpenter‘s Halloween franchise, producers decided to take a gamble and bring back classic “scream queen” Jamie Lee Curtis. As star of the first two movies, Curtis’s Laurie Strode went from babysitter to slasher-battler, as her brother Michael Myers pursued her in his relentless quest for slaughter.
H20 forgot about Halloween III onwards (though in fairness the third chapter was a wholly original tale) and revealed Strode wasn’t dead but had actually faked her demise to escape Michael, though it wasn’t long till he was back on her case. For a seventh instalment it proved surprisingly effective… however part eight, the internet-fuelled Resurrection also featuring Curtis, was widely panned.
Overall whilst it was bloody nostalgic (quite literally) to see the actress back in action, the satisfaction was short-lived, leading to Rob Zombie‘s patchy reimaginings. Curtis returns for another pop, presumably the final one, at her rampaging relative next year.
STAR TREK (2009)
Writer/director J.J. Abrams did a decent job giving Star Wars a spruce up and cut his teeth for this working on Star Trek‘s big screen reboot. Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and Karl Urban were the principal players facing a seemingly impossible task of filling the Starfleet issue boots of William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley.
This new take on Trek not only recast beloved names but changed the course of history by setting the Starship Enterprise on a new course, with young Spock getting advice from his older counterpart. In some ways this was quite audacious, paying tribute to the origins of the franchise whilst beaming it out of existence at the same time, but it worked and more helpings of space opera soon followed.
Sadly these new voyages are showing signs of fatigue a mere three films in. Into Darkness was well-received, boosted by the presence of Benedict Cumberbatch‘s reworked Khan, but Beyond didn’t transport box office receipts to another dimension, leaving the warp engines of this series sounding rather rattly.
Terminator head honcho James Cameron may well have decided to take back creative control following Alan Taylor‘s Genisys, which was generally regarded as a disappointment, both critically and financially. The tangled plotline saw continuity abandoned and simultaneously added to in a mishmash of ill-considered elements.
That made it all the harder to warm to replacement cast members Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, Jason Clarke and Matt Smith. In working to accommodate Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s age we also contended with a pensionable T-800 called “Pops” who was the most entertaining part of the movie yet also the silliest. What next, the Terminator Retirement Home? It’ll be interesting to see how Cameron reinvents the character for his continuation.
Arguably Genisys inflicted a permanent wound on the franchise, reminding audiences that sometimes things are better left alone. I’d be amazed if the old magic was still there but at least you know you’re in safe, metallic hands for the foreseeable.
A textbook example of a franchise retooled was Bryan Singer‘s loving tribute to the Christopher Reeve movies of the Seventies and Eighties. As soon as John Williams’ iconic theme music began and the gleaming retro-font swooped over viewer’s heads, you were immediately reverted back to childhood, and there was spectacle aplenty for audiences new to proceedings. Brandon Routh captured Reeve’s vulnerability and Kevin Spacey added weight to the project with his resurgent Lex Luthor.
The result walked a fine line between homage and blockbuster thrills, making the wise decision to ignore what happened in Supermans III and IV. Pretending events never occurred doesn’t work that well in the movie sphere, but Singer had better reason than most to go back to basics. After all, The Quest For Peace tried to pass off Milton Keynes as Metropolis, something I don’t think even a fan film would have the balls to attempt!
On a negative note, the flick failed to capture the imagination enough to warrant further slices of escapism. Perhaps the all-consuming Dark Knight trilogy altered the landscape too much, though when the Man Of Steel reappeared as Henry Cavill for Zack Snyder, the darker approach divided aficionados. Singer’s desire to work on Superman Returns took him away from X-Men, leading to a dip in quality for that series. More positively, the era of original helmer Richard Donner was effortlessly evoked.
Franchise tinkering is an attractive prospect for those looking to squeeze further currency from long-standing movie sequences. However on the whole I’d say it’s a man hours-sapping mirage. In seeking to branch out from the established formula you more often than not highlight the reason it lost its oomph in the first place. Better to invent new tales perhaps, than garnish dishes that went cold some time ago.