Daily #34: Trip down

I wanted to build on the ‘nostalgia’ topic that I discussed yesterday, as I feel there’s another aspect I’d like to explore. For the record, I’m currently quite under the weather, so apologies if I do not make much sense (not that I’m sure that I make sense when I’m healthy).

I came across another nostalgia-related piece of media today, in the form of the trailer for the new Top Gun film. I haven’t personally seen Top Gun (sorry), but I watched the trailer. The new film will join the ranks of movies, games and TV programmes that only make sense when they are watched in the context of their original work. While this isn’t a problem in itself, all too often the recreations, reboots, remasters, and re-everything-elses are simply of poor quality.

Of course, this stems from nostalgia driving almost a guaranteed profit for these new iterations. It’s not always a sequel – just something based on an already-familiar franchise can create an audience that a standalone film wouldn’t be able to. Some examples of these are:

  • Disney’s many, many live action remakes: The Lion King, Dumbo, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin just to name a few;
  • Large-scale movie sequels, made many years after the original, standalone film – such as the aforementioned Top Gun and Ghostbusters;
  • The much-cursed field of movies based on video games, such as Detective Pikachu and the upcoming (and highly controversial) Sonic film.

In all of these examples, the creators know that there will be a set of people who will go and see this film no matter how well it’s marketed, what the reviews are like or whether it’s suitable for their demographic. Fans familiar with the Pokemon universe flocked to see Detective Pikachu (myself included). Fortunately, the film was all-in-all quite good, but even if it hadn’t been, Warner Bros. would have made their money back just on that established audience.

That brings me to another point – just because the media is created with a nostalgic purpose, it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily bad. We can all agree that the recent remake of Ghostbusters was a poor show, and did not live up to the original film’s quality. On the other hand, while not specifically driven by nostalgia, Joker, which is based in the Batman universe, was critically-acclaimed. It stands alone, and you don’t need to be familiar with the existing universe for it to make sense.

However, it is rare for media created in this way to have reach that high a quality. Due to the ease in which it can draw in a large audience, studios do not need to spend the budget or put in too high of an effort to create something that fans will consume. Conversely, in the current age of widely-available reviews and self-certified movie critics, an original, standalone movie requires much more effort to draw in a substantial audience. Thus, in the film industry at least, the shift is palpable. Almost all of Disney’s 2019 movies were either sequels, ‘spiritual sequels’ or live-action remakes.

It’s a frustrating reality, but it seems that this shift is starting to become noticed by many consumers of media. Hopefully, we start to see more imaginitive originals. Otherwise, in 40 years we’ll find ourselves with nothing to reboot.

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