They say that late is better than never, but are those really words to live by when it comes to movie sequels? Hollywood studios are currently in a deep phase of mining existing properties for new material and, though this might seem like risk-averse behaviour at first glance, it really is a sizeable gamble.
The cynical view of this tendency to reboot is that corporations are trying to wring every last cent they can from ideas and icons that have proven successful in the past. There is some logic to it, because it works on the basis of what is essentially brand recognition – audiences will remember enjoying it last time, so they will feel compelled to return for more. The issue is in selecting the brand to be used, however – and this is not always as easy as it sounds.
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Star Wars: The Force Awakens – also known as Episode VII – is, perhaps, the ultimate example of a late movie sequel. It arrived a full three decades after 1983’s Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi and immediately became one of the biggest, most successful films of all-time. Its rapturous reception was by no means guaranteed, though – the previous Star Wars release had been 2005’s Revenge Of The Sith, and that remains a deeply loathed chapter of the franchise in many quarters.
By contrast, Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull – the sequel that arrived after a 19 year hiatus – did not do so well. The common denominator between Star Wars and the Indiana Jones franchise is the combination of George Lucas and Harrison Ford – and later in Star Wars, Indiana Jones co-writer, Lawrence Kasdan – but even these similarities of creative influence could not ensure the safe return to theatres of the legendary archaeologist and adventurer.
Despite the original trilogy enjoying vast adoration among audiences, 2008’s fourth franchise instalment could not muster the same level of appreciation, and the project fell somewhat flat upon release. It was by no means a financial failure, but it performed below expectation, given the revered status of the property in general.