Sequel City

Words by Ella McEwan
Art by Marissa Hor

When I was little, I used to watch Disney Princess movies like a madwoman. VHS tapes had no chance of survival against little me grabbing them with popcorn covered fingers and jamming them into the VCR until they wore out. I was enthralled by the magic of the castles, the action and the romance. It’s safe to say, these movies hold a special place in my heart, as they do for so many. 

You can imagine my horror when I started seeing trailers for live-action remakes of our favourite animated Disney flicks. The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Mulan, Beauty and The Beast, Cinderella, the list goes on. Remakes and biopics seem to be the only thing on Hollywood’s mind right now, so what’s going on?

Constantine Verevis, Associate Professor of Film and Screen Studies at Monash University, says that remakes have always been a part of Hollywood. His sentiment is that the amount of remakes is not exceptionally rising, stating, “at various moments in film history there’s times when there appears to be a whole lot of remakes being made.” Reboots have always been around, but the current movie market does seem to be oversaturated with new versions of the same movie we saw 10 years ago. 

As a kid, I didn’t even know that Freaky Friday was a remake, and I didn’t care. I thought that movie was the bee’s knees, even though my parents just sat there complaining about how it wasn’t as good as the original. Studios know that if we liked it, the newest generation of kids probably will too. It seems like an easy task to keep reinvigorating the same ideas for each generation.  

New digital technologies may also help explain why the box office seems plagued with remakes. It’s pretty easy to see how special effects have changed in 20 years, and with these new advancements come opportunities to make films true to life. Take The Lion King, the animated original came out in 1994, when movies still mostly used practical effects. The idea of making talking animals look realistic was probably one that would get you laughed out of a pitch meeting. 

But now, in our CGI prime, making films with realistic animals as main characters isn’t so crazy. So, it seems logical for massive companies like Disney to drag movies out of the archive and redo them for a new audience, as Verevis describes it, to “revisit the spectacle”. 

With that being said, even if advancements have been made, it doesn’t always mean classics should be remade. Sometimes movies just won’t capture the same magic they once did if they become too real.  

Perhaps this is a pessimistic point of view, but it is easy to forget that Hollywood is a business. If production companies have an option to make a reboot over a new untested script they’re most likely going to take it. Reimagining something good is a trusted formula, that will get more people in theatre seats with less time spent creating buzz. Reboots sell and Hollywood likes the reliability. As Verevis shares, studios may be “commercially timid”  in order to protect their market share. 

 So if you’re looking to avoid the biopics, the remakes and the live-action reboots, look for production companies that are making new and exciting films, like A24. It may involve a bit of research on your part, but it’ll be well worth it in the end. To make life easier, here are some 2019 original flicks to get you started.

 Us – Jordan Peele

This one is a no brainer. It’s a super ambitious horror movie that combines great cinematography and crazy twists that will make you want to see it again just to catch all of the things you missed.  

Booksmart – Olivia Wilde

A coming of age comedy that showcases a super realistic version of female friendship in a funny, inclusive and heartfelt package. With its witty dialogue and complex characters, you’ll be laughing out loud one minute and crying the next. 

Midsommar – Ari Aster

If you liked Aster’s debut film Hereditary, you’ll love Midsommar. It’s visually stunning and incredibly unsettling. You may have a feeling of dread in your stomach for the whole movie, but what more can you ask for from a good horror film. 

The Farewell – Lulu Wang

This is a movie about death, identity and belonging. Awkwafina is sensational in this incredible portrayal of what it means to be caught between two different cultures. 

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood – Quentin Tarantino

It’s nostalgic for an era of filmmaking that Tarantino loved best, and gives you everything you’ve come to expect from him. The film is visually captivating, has some stellar performances, and maybe most importantly, is a whole lot of fun.

Are there ways to change this never-ending cycle? Remakes aren’t going anywhere as long as there are past blockbusters to freshen up. But if you want to support original films, go see them at your local cinema, instead of the newest Disney live-action feature. You’ll be helping independent filmmakers make more innovative films without supporting the companies that are just churning out movies you’ve seen a hundred times.

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