Are people really that excited about so many sequels?

When I was young and a new hit film came out, we would joke about titles for possible sequels, trying to come up with the most incongruous ones, resulting in things such as “The Ten Commandments Rides Again” or “The Son of the Magnificent Seven”. We found these were amusing because sequels were relatively rare.

Nowadays any film that has reasonable commercial success is almost guaranteed a sequel and often many sequels and spin-offs so that it has ceased to be unusual. But I was still taken aback at the news that the Disney studies were planning ten (yes, ten!) new films each in the Star Wars and Marvel franchises, which have already had so many films that I did not even bother to look up the number.

And that is not all. There are also multiple sequels planned for the Indiana Jones, Avatar, and Candyman franchises (the last of which I’d never even heard of before). The very fact that we now refer to these as ‘franchises’ reflect the cookie-cutter nature of these films.

Star Wars veteran Harrison Ford, 78, will return as Indiana Jones for a fifth and final instalment in the series, to be directed by Logan’s James Mangold. Meanwhile Zac Efron will star in a Disney+ reboot of childcare romp Three Men and a Baby.

I am not a fan of any of these franchises, having seen just a small number (and none of the Indiana Janes ones) and likely will not watch any of these new films, unless I hear something really extraordinary about them. But I was curious if any reader who does love these franchises is excited by what would appear to be a surfeit of riches. How much of a Star Wars diet can you take? Doesn’t it get kind of stale?


  1. Bruce says

    I’m sure that everyone else over 60, like me, is excited to know that it is once again the year 1977.

  2. says

    Well, think of the Marvel comic books. One publishing house puts out a large number of titles per year, each title releasing a comic book per month, with room for about 2 significant stories per year.

    Although the titles are distinct, the title characters of each book make guest appearances in other titles. The actions in one title affect the stories in other titles. (There was once a Thor storyline in which a magical “Casket of Winters” was opened in a plot by the giants. Although most of the Marvel characters had nothing to do with those events, the backdrops for ALL stories across ALL titles depicting action on earth were snow-covered for a month or more.)

    But does this make Captain America a sequel to Black Panther? Or Hawkeye a sequel to Thor?

    No, not really.

    One of the nice things about these “universes” is that different movies can be different (the AntMan movies are comedies, the New Mutants movie is an action/ horror movie of the jump/scare type similar to Predator or Aliens), but you can have guest appearances by established characters that help ease someone new into a new and unfamiliar storyline or social circle of characters. The success of the next Marvel comic book doesn’t actually depend on it being similar to the comic book that came before in the way that an Indiana Jones or Star Wars or 007 movie has to be like the movie that came before because of audience expectations.

    The best hope of the Marvel universe is that while the next Thor movie depends on some level of continuity with the previous Thor movie, the Black Widow movie does not. This permits a hugely imaginative and varied cast of characters set in a hugely varied group of artworks from comedies to surrealist explorations of the mind (WandaVision is supposed to be this, though that remains to be seen) to punch-’em-out movies, to gunslinging inspired by Westerns and much more.

    Now, that doesn’t mean that the creators will make use of all the imaginative space, but a “cinematic universe” is not at all the same as series of sequels.

    Honestly, the Marvel movies feel to me more varied than the Disney movies which are hailed as classics and are certainly not sequels to each other, but are just as formulaic if not more so. Expand outward to the Netflix series, the Hulu series, and the ABC series “Agents of SHIELD” and I find much more creativity going on there than in, say, romantic comedies.

    Pick a hundred romantic comedies, none of which are sequels to each other, and I doubt you’ll find anything close to the range of styles and characters in the MCU.

    All of this is not to say that I like everything in the MCU or that I can’t get bored with it. Although it was a good enough show from what I saw, I never finished Runaways. Nor did I watch Agents of SHIELD.

    But to me the ability of Marvel comics to keep going after 70 or however many years is indicative of the public’s appetite for this stuff. Combining just enough familiarity that people aren’t scared off from something new, with new characters, new plots, new directors, and new artistic styles is probably a long term winning strategy.

    Star Wars hasn’t pulled this off yet, but looking at what they created with The Mandalorian, I think that’s what they’re now trying to do. The Star Wars sequels started out with ragtag misfits just discovering lightsabers and the force, and gave them the task of destroying a super weapon as big and as round as a planet. Of course that’s how the original trilogy started. The OT ended with a new death star, and the sequel trilogy ended with planet killer weapons distributed on a fleet of star destroyers. The shape of the fleet was different, but the threat -- going out and destroying solar systems -- was exactly the same as episodes 4, 6, and 7, with the 7/9 symmetry mirroring the 4/6 symmetry.

    Star Wars has not done what Marvel movies have done, which is make very different movies that interrelate without copying. Or at least they have multiple different series that don’t copy from one series to the other (the Spider-Man series each copy from the ones that come before, but they’re all Spider-Man) in the same, boring way.

    In other words, just because you’re bored of Spider-Man after 8 movies (I am, and I was after the 3rd), doesn’t mean that your going to be bored by Cloak and Dagger.

    In that way, I think that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has a power to continue that you’re hard pressed to find in other franchises. Marvel Comics has persisted for quite a while. I think even though their audience will cycle through, each generation getting bored with the movies in turn, new audiences will continue to show up so long as Marvel turns out genuinely new stories.

    And, yeah. They seem to be doing that right now. Let’s see how long they can keep it up.

    PostScript just for Mano: Even if you’re not interested in trying anything else from Marvel, I suggest you try Cloak & Dagger. It’s a short series that does a number of things very well, including minor forays into race, religion, and philosophy. It’s still ultimately a scifi thriller, but I think it’s the kind you might like and the big name Marvel characters which might turn you off are entirely absent.

  3. Ketil Tveiten says

    The House of Mouse was pretty transparent about “milking this for as long as we can” when they acquired Lucasfilm and with it the Star Wars franchise.

  4. antaresrichard says

    “The Bowery Boys meet the Sith”, “Ma and Pa Kettle on Vulcan”, “Three Stooges have Ark will Travel”, dear me, what next?


  5. says

    Crip Dyke (#3) --

    It’s crap like this which makes me admire Wendy and Richard Pini (WaRP, for short) for not selling out and turning Elfquest into a “franchise”. They refuse to allow a movie to be made unless they have 100% artistic control, and no studio has been willing to do it. It’s rare to see Watterston level integrity when there’s so much money around. From the Elfquest website:


    Don’t ask.

    Seriously, for years we’ve had many different studios tell us how much they love Elfquest, promise to be faithful to the story, and proceed to mess it up. Then we say “No thank you.” Someday there may be an Elfquest production that we can be proud of but until then, we prefer no movie to a bad movie.

    You may ask, “Why don’t you approach (studio name) to make a movie the way you want?” That’s not how it works. We – Wendy and Richard – do not have the power, the money, the time, or the desire to pursue this particular quest ourselves. We can’t convince a studio to want Elfquest; that’s their call to make. If they’re interested, they’ll contact our lawyer and we’ll see where it goes.

    All that said, if the right people come together and show us they “get” what Elfquest is all about, we’ll talk. We’re ever-optimistic. Stay tuned.

  6. xohjoh2n says

    Quite frankly, I’d be happy at the moment if they started releasing *any* kind of films on DVD (rather than the cheap holding-pattern shite that appears to be the only stuff on the shelf right now). It looks like they’ve just decided to keep all the good stuff back until they can milk the theatre crowds again, which means almost nothing interesting has come out on DVD this year.

  7. Marja Erwin says

    I haven’t been able to keep up with the newer Star Wars due to photosensitivity.

    But the old novels, comics, and roleplaying game all had a variety of very different stories in a shared setting. It meant that the writers didn’t have to create a new setting for each story, ad could play off events and themes in other stories. The roleplaying game required more consistency than the separate novels, so it became the main reference for canon.

    A couple things screwed that up.

    1st, some of the sequels ignored each other. So in effect there was a Dark Empire timeline and a non Dark Empire timeline, diverging sometime after The Last Command.

    2nd, West End Games went bankrupt and lost the licensing deal, so the reference books went out of print, and no one really picked up the project of keeping canon.

    3rd, George Lucas ignored a lot of the existing stories and reference books for the sequels. I can understand not feeling bound by other writers’ decisions in his setting, but he broke a lot of stories. He broke his own with the Midichlorians. He broke a number involving the Death Star Project by introducing the plans to Revenge of the Sith.

    4th, Disney decided to retcon the existing canon. Now, from what I’ve read, but can’t check for myself, the last 3 films of the main story tell conflicting narratives. But they are trying to tell different stories, such as Rogue One.

    Now sometimes more stories add to the others. But sometimes they just close off creative freedom for important stories, and sometimes they impose too many plot holes and continuity problems.


    I have enjoyed a lot of the 1632 series, though I haven’t read all of it. In this case, you have an experienced editor trying to keep continuity, often writing or co-writing books in the series, and you have real-world references.

    But in this case, some stories require reading the intro volume and several sequels to follow what’s already happened. Others require the intro volume alone.

  8. file thirteen says

    Sequels may be stale, but the worst thing nowadays is “reboots”, where they flog off a new interpretation of a previously successful movie because they know people will watch it. There’s nothing worse than having your memories of a decent movie soured by watching a poor remake… ok pedants, yes there is, I was being dramatic.

  9. John Morales says

    Gotta remember, a lot of those franchises are generations old.

    Many of the younger generations have not seen the originals, grown up with the canon.

  10. Mano Singham says

    Crip Dyke @#3,

    Thanks for the recommendation of Cloak & Dagger. I’ll look to see where it is available.

  11. mnb0 says

    The only sequels I thought really good are For a few Dollars more and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
    They say the Three Colours Trilogy also is very good.

  12. says

    I don’t mind shows set in these universes as long as they do different things and don’t have to try to fit everything in with the main movies. How many doctor, lawyer, and police shows have we had over the decades set in our own world? As long as they have new stories to tell, I’m happy enough to have lightsabers or superheros galore. Westerns ruled the airwaves for quite a while and at some point pop culture moved on from them and it’ll probably happen to these as well.

  13. Jazzlet says

    @mnbo #16
    The Three Colours Trilogy was concieved as a trilogy, so the later films are no more sequels than “the Return of the King” is a sequel to “The Fellowship of the Ring”, which if you remember your publishing history you will know was always intended by Tolkien to be one book.

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