Open Forum Friday: Can a Continuation of an Old Franchise Ever Be Better Than Its Predecessors?

With the recent news that J.J. Abrams will be directing a new Star Wars movie, there has been a lot of debate over whether or not he can do justice to the original trilogy. Some have expressed confidence in the fact that his film will at least be an improvement on the prequels. While that does seem to be within reach, in a way the prequels themselves prove just how foolhardy this undertaking really is. Everyone assumes that George Lucas is the reason Episodes 1-3 failed to live up to expectations, but what if recreating the magic of a classic movie franchise decades later is simply impossible? Nostalgia’s a bitch.

As we see more and more old franchises being brought back out of the vault and re-introduced to a new generation, the question is always whether to create a reboot or sequel. Fans seem to prefer sequels, but how often does that really pan out? Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Live Free or Die Hard, The Godfather Part III and even Lethal Weapon 4 are examples of how too much time away can cause some of the ingredients to spoil. The only real successes that immediately come to mind are Stallone’s Rambo and Rocky Balboa, although they aren’t really “improvements” per se. What do you think? Is there a time limit within which sequels can successfully be created? Does nostalgia create unfair expectations that cannot be met? Is J.J. Abrams simply doomed to fail with a new Star Wars movie? Give us your thoughts here on Open Forum Friday.

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  • Indianamcclain

    Well I personally enjoyed Die Hard 4, and I think that and Rocky Balboa are examples of taking the franchises and updating them while still retaining what made them good. By the way Sean I seem to remember you defending Live Free or Die Hard on the show. Do you not enjoy it now?

  •!/ripplesdip James

    Isn’t this meant to be a direct continuation from Episode VI? So a reboot may not be the term.

    That said, I am firmly against Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford etc showing up. I’m more supportive of a whole new crew to deal with.

    It may not be better…but it will (and should be) different enough to make it stand on it’s own. I predict there will be a new cast, very young, very “hot” etc, and there will be a massive fan outcry, boycotts and all the usual fan bullshit. Then when it’s out, everyone will see it…likely enjoy it, and enjoy Episode VIII even more as characters get cemented into everyone’s head.

    I never thought it would happen, but if you say “Enterprise Crew” I’m as likely to think of Chris Pine and the new team as I was Shatner et al a few years ago.

    I’ll add, I know a lot of people want the musical score to be by John Williams. It’d be great, yes, but he’s 80 right now. There will be theme elements surely, and it will be recognizable, but there are composers who could do a decent job there. Let him have a rest!

  • Phil

    Jesus. We’re going to get a Star Wars that looks nothing like the ones before, we’ll be longing for the days of the Prequels now… this also reeks of desperation, a corporate move, not an artistic one, nor one of ‘competency’ or ‘the right person for the job.’ This is about money. I will not be watching “Star Wars: Episode VII, the Search for More Money in 48 FPS REAL3-D” No. I didn’t bother with the Hobbit. Won’t be seeing “This is not your father’s Star Wars.” I’ve grown tired of this incessant hollywood bullshit. Reboot after reboot, as if the Prequels weren’t bad enough. I’d have liked to have seen some practically ‘unknown’ director that they picked purely out of the idea that he proved himself in some weird way that shows he can make it look, sound and act like the original star wars. Star Wars is SUPPOSED to have a consistency to it, we all know that, and don’t even try to argue otherwise. The opening crawl, the music, it has a syntax, and mark my words boys and girls that WILL be disappearing, it will only show up to say “SEE YOU’RE WATCHING A STAR WARS MOVIE, SEE,SEE!!!” I say we have a proper funeral before this thing goes fucking zombie on us and starts doing some real damage.

  • PlanBFromOuterSpace

    Jesus, Phil. Lighten up.

    Having grown up on the series, the thing I’m most looking forward to with Episode VII (or whatever it ends up being) is that for the first time in my life, I have the chance to go into a NEW Star Wars story cold with the privilege of NOT having to know what the fuck is going to happen before it does. For as long as I’ve known Star Wars, I’ve known that Vader was Luke’s dad, that Han would be saved after his apparent demise at the end of Empire, that there would be a bigger and badder Death Star, etc. Sure, I was old enough to not pay attention to all the spoilery stuff for the prequels, and I tried to avoid as much of that as possible, but the movies offered little in the way of surprises, ultimately adding little to the story or how I re-watched the original films, and ending pretty much how we expected them to. I never followed much of the extended universe comics or books, maybe a few here and there, and I think they’ve said that the future installments may ignore or take place after all of that, which has me even more psyched. I don’t want this to be “my father’s Star Wars” (I think it’s more mine than his anyway, as Star Wars and I are about the same age), because I know that one forward and backwards already, and I can sing every note. As long as they stay true to the characters, tone, and events of the original films and strip away some of the more useless elements that have been stuffed in there along the way (which the aforementioned “Rambo” and “Rocky Balboa” managed to do for the most part) while still moving forward, I have no problem with future Episodes and seeing where they go. After a decade and a half of the prequel nonsense and nearly 30 years without a true continuation of the saga, I’d think that MORE people would be open to it.

    I’ve worked at a movie theater and comic store long enough to know that geek rage is the least reliable, least trustworthy rage there is, that they WILL be there for any Star Wars movie that comes out, good or bad, and that it’s better to just ignore the doomsayers, because they never stick to their guns on the issue anyway.

  •!/ripplesdip James


    Couldn’t have summed it all up better myself. The last bit about Geek Rage very true.

    Change is OK Phil. It really is. The sun will still come up. And since when has any Star Wars film NOT been about money?

  • Sean

    I do like Live Free or Die Hard (although that could change after a rewatch), but I think in general a lot of fans were disappointed with it.

    James: I am definitely lookig at the new Star Wars movie as a sequel, although I guess I’m partially arguing that reboots have a better chance of success. I suppose with a brand new cast it will be the best of both worlds.

  • MrHorse

    > Everyone assumes that George Lucas is the reason Episodes 1-3 failed to live up to expectations,

    i think that the folks around him were just as guilty, especially marketing ..or whoever told him to make a film for kids; with heavy use of green screen and a joke of a story.. obviously, nobody criticized him.. they all loved his money. and that’s what it comes down to – why look for excuses for these guys?
    no reboots, earn your money the way scorsese, coppola & all them guys did: BE GOOD at what you do.

    > but what if recreating the magic of a classic movie franchise decades later is simply impossible?

    well that’s the point, how can you. things change along the years. different public, different industry, different filmmakers.

    my answer is no. also, how pathetic. come up with something new. in any reboot or prequel, the credits should say “unoriginal douche:” instead of “director:”.

  • PlanBFromOuterSpace

    Thanks James!

    The reason for most reboots or prequels though is that most of them seem to come about because there’s been irreparable damage to the series in the direction it was heading. They hit a wall or went so far off the deep end that there wasn’t any coming back. Of course, in that case, reboots have a greater chance at success, because anything is better than the shit they stopped caring about several films ago. While many reboots often end up looking like nothing more than retreads, I’d still rather see a new start to “Friday the 13th” than the continued adventures of Jason in space…or in Hell…or as Freddy Krueger’s henchman, or…shit, that series really lost it’s way…

    ANYWAY, while Jedi would have been a good end to the Star Wars series, life goes on, and there’s still somewhere to go with the characters that would make sense. They didn’t kill off half the cast and totally turn on their supporters by going in some goofy direction that no one wanted to see. Plot threads were tied up, character arcs completed, the student became the master, and so on, but now that the opportunity has presented itself, I’m really curious to see what might happen a not quite as long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

  • Lior

    I’m pretty much against resurrecting old franchises. It almost never works. It doesn’t have to be a total washout, just a mediocre movie that taints the memory of the original/originals. Cristal Skull and Die Hard 4 aren’t bad movies, they’re just not as good as the originals and at the end of the day, superfluous.

    And btw, I don’t consider comic book characters cinematic franchises, so a new Superman movie is fine.

    Sequels in real time can be bad, but at least they look and feel the same because they were made in the same timeframe more or less. But seeing CGI in a Die Hard movie is quite odd. So no, I’m not sure the world needs a Ghostbusters 3 or a Jurassic Park 4.

    Having said that, when it comes to Star Wars it only makes sense that we get more movies. Over the years SW has become this gigantic franchise which flourished away from cinema, with books and comic books which contain dozens of stories and new characters. I actually think it’s exciting that the franchise returns to the silver screen. Yes, it wouldn’t look the same as the original trilogy, but the prequels already popped that cherry.

    On a tangent, JJ Abrams is a sensible choice, even if uninspired. Remember that 2/3 of the original trilogy was directed by “jobbers” just like him and it turned out fine. It’s all in the script, folks.

  • Scott

    The new RAMBO was cool.


  • Stinker

    What will happen if it IS better, the old one will become TOS to the TNG, Zack the hack will start a dark and gritty (for a Star Wars film) trend and then somewhere over the rainbow is a Voyager of the Star Wars franchise, and then in 10 Years re re Boot again.

  • rus in chicago

    I just wish Disney would get REALLY creative with this – different types, budgets, media projects

    LIKE: 70 min, Black and White, Sergio Leon style, Jedi and Sith Lord duel while stranded on some remote moon rock!!!!

    even make it a web-series for fan appeasement / interaction prior to a larger film

  • PlanBFromOuterSpace


    If it IS better, it’ll go from “worst thing ever” to “best thing ever” overnight, and the people that bitched and bitched and bitched will never bring up how much they doubted the project ever again. That’s generally how it works with those types. The rest of what you said was just kind of dumb.

  • Spooksta

    Im looking forward to the fact hat we dont know the story as we did with the prequels . As long as polotics are far far removed we will get a good Star Wars film with fresh ideas but in the world we grew up with.
    Real sets please :)

  • Mrespony

    Seems we’re in agreement that Sly Stallone should replace Abrams as the new director.

    Star Wars will hopefully evolve into something akin to a developer’s kit. At this point I’m more interested in new writers and directors ideas than any strict adherence to canon. They could have the opening crawl say ,”Radioactive debris from the exploded Death Star poisoned the atmosphere on the forest moon of Endor. Luke, Han and Leia died,” for all I care. That story is done. What kind of boring “universe” is only concerned with the exploits of three characters? Just make sure it looks and sounds like Star Wars and I’ll give it a whirl.

  • patrik

    Star Trek was. Oooooooohhhh!

  • milath

    Anyone who didn’t see this choice coming from Disney should have thought again. It was lovely for a little while to entertain thoughts they might do something more daring for the sequels. But this *is* Disney. They didn’t pay *4 billion dollars* for this franchise to LOSE them money.

    That’s why they chose Mr. Abrams. He is the hottest name in sci-fi right now. Star Trek, Cloverfield, Super 8. All of these movies were successful to a decent degree. And when you add in the fact that he was behind Lost, which is still one of the most recognizable titles on TV, you have the clear winner. “From the director of Star Trek and the creator of Lost….”

    The only problem I see with this is, Abrams has been given pretty free reign in his other projects. He was allowed to completely reboot Star Trek. All his other projects were original stories he produced. I am curious to see how well he does with something that is going to be a direct sequel to a pretty well-known story and be required to stick to at least some canon beyond a time traveling Vulcan. We’ll see, I guess.

  • PlanBFromOuterSpace


    That might actually take a little bit of the weight off of his shoulders. Focusing on JUST directing and crafting a new story, but not necessarily having to build (or RE-build) a universe could be a good thing. Putting himself in a situation where he DOESN’T have to re-invent the wheel might be exactly what he wants. I mean, we might just assume that he has to be some kind of control freak or something, but that might not be the case at all.

  • Maopheus

    Any good franchise/series of sequels tends to occur within a ten-year time frame. If you look at the majority of them in which all three were generally pretty good, they fit that pattern. Also, in general, they retain at least the lead star(s) and director. Or at least if the original director steps aside, he remains involved, like Lucas with Empire and Jedi. Or he comes back for movie 3, like John McTienan for Die Hard With A Vengeance. Once it goes back more than 5 years between installments, then you’re going across generations and it stops working. Just look at Godfather Part 3. The poster child for bad part 3 of a classic series that takes place too long after part 2.

  • PlanBFromOuterSpace


    Until/unless “Ghostbusters 3″ happens.

  • Lior


    Actually, I find Godfather 3 the least offensive of the bunch. Sure, it looks different since it wasn’t made in the 70′s, but not that different. I actually think it’s a very good film, but obviously not on par with parts 1 and 2.

    In Godfather 3 the story kind of makes sense. You have an old Michael Corleone reaping everything which he sawed. Trying to get out of the “business” but unable to. He’s older and wiser but that doesn’t help him much and he becomes a victim of circumstance. I thought it was a fitting way to end the story. Perhaps even a kind of spiritual predecessor to something like The Sopranos.

    I think the franchises that suffer most from prolonged time between movies are action franchises and everything that depends on special effects. You also have to have a story that makes sense, that uses the time-elapsed in a creative way, that makes it part of the story and the characters. It can’t be just another adventure or else it falls flat.
    Crystal Skull managed to do that to some degree with the introduction of Mutt but this franchise was always about high adventure and not character development.