Hit movies spawn sequels. It’s one of Hollywood’s sturdiest traditions.
Studio executives and audiences alike approve of that template, even if it sometimes yields bewildering results.
Go watch “Caddyshack II” for the latter example. Or, better yet, don’t.
Sequels sell, and when they’re good enough they spawn even more sequels. What we’re seeing in Hollywood today, though, is a hunger to extend franchises that eclipses common sense.
The latest examples seem desperate even by Hollywood standards. Lionsgate announced it will produce a “Hunger Games” prequel dubbed, and this isn’t satire, “Hunger Games Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.”
The prequel will follow events prior to the “Games” that made Jennifer Lawrence a superstar. The studio teased the prequel, arriving Nov. 2023, with this:
“In 2023, the world will discover who is a songbird and who is a snake.”
Quick, grab your heart medication.
The project, to be directed by franchise regular Francis Lawrence, is based on the 2020 book of the same name.
At least the “Hunger Games” franchise is part of recent movie history. Another project connects to the late 1980s and follows three dismal attempts to repeat the film’s formula.
“Dirty Dancing” became one of the decade’s most unlikely blockbusters. Stars Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey blended romance with killer soundtrack cuts that turned the film into a cultural touchstone.
“Nobody puts Baby in the corner.”
It’s why Hollywood already tried new versions of the story with miserable results.
- A 1988 TV series that couldn’t earn a second season
- The 2004 prequel, “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights,” that flopped in theaters
- A 2017 TV movie starring Abigail Breslin and Nicole Scherzinger that fared poorly with critics
There’s clearly no appetite for new “Dirty Dancing” stories, especially since Swayze passed away in 2009 and Grey’s career never reached those same heights again.
So why bother … again … even if Grey returns to the franchise?
Desperation? A sense that nostalgia could draw a few eyeballs at just the right time? No one in the room has the temerity to say, “no … that’s enough?”
That brings us to “Avatar: The Way of Water.” The original “Avatar” hit theaters in 2009 and shattered just about every box office record it could find. Director James Cameron notoriously takes his time between projects, which helps explain the massive gap between the two films.
For the first of four planned “Avatar” sequels, Cameron promises a visual experience unlike any other. It might seem like another attempt to extend a franchise, but Cameron is more talented, and driven, then your average auteur.
“The Way of Water” could flop, putting the remaining sequels in jeopardy. Or, Cameron might conquer the box office.
Sequels, prequels and reboots can always shine on their own. Given Hollywood’s hunger for brand-approved product, though, it’s wise to be skeptical in most cases.