Sequel City: Hollywood’s Originality Problem

By Jennifer Morrow

Staff Writer

We’re four months into 2019. At this point, I think it’s safe to declare 2019 “The Year of Sequels.” Forgive me if I’m not more excited.

This is just a brief list of the movies that will be getting a subsequent film this year: Lego Movie, Happy Death Day, How to Train Your Dragon, Now You See Me, Split, Annabelle, American Pie, Frozen, Toy Story and of course, The Avengers.

Don’t get me wrong; I’ll be right there with the throngs of Marvel fans lining up outside the theatre to catch the highly anticipated phase three finale of the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Avengers End Game. I grew up with the MCU. I’ve been looking forward to this film for the past three years.  While End Game is technically another sequel in a long line of Marvel superhero films, I’ve always found Marvel films to be the exception to the rule about sequels: that they’re lazy and ultimately disappointing. In the case of the MCU, I can’t help but admire the beauty and scope of a narrative thread that weaves through over twenty films. That takes dedication, passion, and skill. However, even as a huge fan of the Marvel films, which are largely made up of sequels, I’m getting very frustrated with the lack of fresh, original content coming out of the film industry.

Even Pixar, a company that is widely admired for their devotion to creating unique, well-crafted stories, has fallen into trap of recycling old characters and stories. On March 19th, Disney Pixar released the official trailer for Toy Story 4. It hits all the correct emotional beats to tug at your nostalgia, complete with fun clips of the original Toy Story gang and “God Only Knows” by the Beach Boys playing in the background.

Toy Story 4 certainly doesn’t look like a bad film. I admit to laughing out loud at “Forky,” Bonnie’s new favorite toy that is literally just a spork with googly eyes. The problem is that it’s completely unnecessary. The Toy Story universe already had the perfect conclusion with the third movie—why on earth do we need another one?

The answer, of course, is simple: money. If three Toy Story films all made millions of dollars at the box office, what’s to say a fourth won’t as well? If a movie is successful, it’s considered a wasted opportunity not to capitalize on that initial buzz. Sequels are safe: they’re easy to market because the audience is already in love with the characters, and easy to make because it’s easier to build on a previous project than make something entirely new.

Sequels aren’t a new phenomenon. There have always been rehashes of films, and I suspect there always will be. Reboots aren’t inherently bad, but they leave us, as an audience, hungry for a new story. Where is the original content?

Fortunately, there is at least one diamond in the rough. On March 22nd, Jordan Peele’s new film, Us, hit theaters. Following the success of his award-winning horror film, Get Out, Peele brings us an entirely new story about a family vacation gone terribly wrong when they are confronted by their doppelgangers. Us is, thus far, the most original film to come out of 2019. It’s not perfect, but it succeeds by offering the audience a surprise at every turn, a rollercoaster ride fitting of its Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk setting.

If you need a break from the steady downpour of reboots and sequels of 2019, do yourself a favor and buy yourself a ticket to see Us. I promise it doesn’t disappoint. Also, through supporting filmmakers who are brave enough to try something different, like Jordan Peele, we are sending a powerful message as consumers and movie fans. The power is really in our hands: if we want fresh content, then we have to prove there is still a demand for original stories.

I’m not saying we need to boycott Avengers: End Game. A good sequel every now and then can be perfectly enjoyable. I want to see if Captain America and Iron Man defeat Thanos as much as everyone else.

But hey Hollywood, while you’re at it, can you give us something new?


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Jo Ann Kirby