Sequels, prequels, reboots and remakes: When they work—and when they don’t

hr_Terminator_Genisys_4Although we’re still only halfway through July, it’s probably safe to say “Jurassic World” will likely end the summer as king of this year’s blockbuster season. It’s about a month since the movie’s release, and Chris Pratt and his team of dinosaurs don’t appear to be slowing down. In fact, the movie still topped the holiday weekend box office, which was good news for Universal but bad news for the high-profile new releases that weren’t able to break past it.

“Terminator Genisys” pulled in a little less than $45 million its opening week and only scored about 30 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Both are continuations of well-loved franchises, but were received very differently. “Genisys” also received less critical praise than its fellow 1980s action reboot of the summer, “Mad Max: Fury Road.” So, what’s the magic formula that determines what sequels, prequels, reboots and remakes succeed, and which ones flop?

First off, I did enjoy watching “Terminator Genisys” in theaters. While it won’t make my “best in 2015” list at the end of the year, I thought it was a fun summer popcorn flick. I liked seeing Arnold Schwarzenegger back in action as the Terminator, and it was good to see Emilia Clarke in a strong female action role. The Rotten Tomatoes score of 27 percent seems a bit too harsh (audiences scored it 68 percent). However, I did enjoy “Jurassic World” more, and perhaps “Terminator Genisys” just wasn’t able to build up as much buzz.

There’s no one magic formula that guarantees box office success—sometimes great films slip under the radar, and sometimes so-so films pull in hundreds of millions of dollars. While critical reviews don’t always make or break a movie, they can help—or hurt. The negative reviews for “Terminator Genisys” probably hurt the film’s box office take, while the glowing reviews for “Mad Max: Fury Road” resulted in some valuable word of mouth advertising (the movie’s 98 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating made me extra motivated to catch this in theaters).

Second, when it comes to reboots, which “Jurassic World” essentially is, don’t underestimate the power of nostalgia. This movie, more than any of the other sequels in the franchise, threw nods to fans of the original film. You have to be careful that these nods are seen as a tribute to, rather than a rip-off of a previous movie. Audiences don’t want a rehash of the original; they want to see something new that still makes them feel the same way the old movie felt.

Third, the wider your appeal, the more money you’ll probably make. “Jurassic World” appeals more to families, and parents + kids equals more ticket sales. Though both “Jurassic World” and “Terminator Genisys” were rated PG-13, the original Terminator films were rated R and aren’t as known to kids who are pressuring their parents to take them to the theater. “Jurassic World” also has plenty of tie-in toys to offer.

Sequels, prequels, reboots and remakes are tricky. In May, “Age of Ultron” took some flak from fans for not living up to its potential. Later on this summer, “Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation” and “Fantastic Four” will be tested, the former to see if it can top its very solid predecessor “Ghost Protocol” and the latter to see if it can breathe new life into an ailing franchise. People sometimes look down on sequels and remakes, but “Mad Max: Fury Road” and others like it prove these types of films don’t have to be bad.

So, what’s your favorite sequel/reboot of the summer? What are your thoughts on sequels, remakes, etc. in general?

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6 thoughts on “Sequels, prequels, reboots and remakes: When they work—and when they don’t

  1. Good Post, Ashley!
    Okay: new park goes out of control; dinos run amok; oblivious head honcho (all in white); 2 kids (related to honcho) get lost & terrorised in park by dinos; only guy who understands dinos becomes hero; minor characters get eaten etc. etc. The premise for Jurassic World, yes, but I was actually describing th original Jurassic Park!! My main concern: th biggest earner this Summer is a carbon copy. Recycling is good for newspapers & plastic cups, but NOT movies, thank u!
    Ultron was my most eagerly anticipated sequel, just cos I love Vision, bt he hardly made any impact, so was left cheated.
    Fury Rd was th best, cos it took us all by surprise
    http://bradscribe.wordpress.com/2015/07/07/genisys/
    Cheers!

    • I think Fury Road’s surprise factor made it extra special. It wasn’t really on my most anticipated list but could actually end up being my favorite movie of the summer. I’ll have to head on over and check out your new blog!

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