The pitfalls of sequels and spinoffs


Graphic illustration by Emily Pedroza and Anushka Anand

A studio executive adding another uncessary spinoff to pile of previous sequels, spinoffs and remakes, while neglecting to fund newer, more creative film efforts.

Inaaya Yousuf, Staffer

“What happens next?” is often the question lingering in viewers’ minds at the end of a movie. While best answered by viewers’ imagination, studios take it upon themselves to do it, often corrupting original opinions of the film through sequels. Exaggerated by the release of movies such as “Avatar,” “Hocus Pocus,” and “Enchanted” over the past year, movies are sometimes best left solo. Meant to be a chance to go back in time and dive back into a loved fictional world, sequels are instead usually a cash grab. Polluted by a lack of creativity in writing and cheap underwhelming quality, they often leave viewers dissatisfied, a phenomenon that affects even rough remakes and live-action films. 

People find comfort in familiarity instead of branching out, so when given a choice, viewers often choose to revisit old stories over new ones. Studios greenlight projects for their potential to turn a profit rather than their artistic merit, taking attention from original screenwriting.

Remakes and adaptations also make up much of this money-making scheme. The “Uncharted” movie with Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg, was criticized for its inability to capture the essence of the games it was adapted from. Critics complained about the deviation from source materials and its failed attempt to bring the stakes in the original games to the film. These factors combined led to Rotten Tomatoes critics rating the movie a low 41%. The film failed to create a fulfilling experience for viewers and demonstrates studios’ attempts to turn nostalgia into money. 

“The idea is that [movie studios] have to make money, so the quality of the work ends up going down.” Drama teacher Larry Wenner said. “Few spin-offs are better than the original film or TV series.” 

Another motivator for remakes is the reduced resource costs. World-building and character development are done for the sequel to build on, usually with a smaller budget. The problem with this, however, is it often leads to a disappointing product. An example of this is Disney. In 2022, they made many remakes, such as the live-action Pinocchio, while creating new films, like Turning Red. Pinocchio disappointed, rated 28% by Rotten Tomatoes, with audiences and critics agreeing on its less-than-mediocre score. Pinnochio’s inability to delve into the original’s themes took away from the story and filled the pockets of Disney’s executives while capitalizing on the viewer’s nostalgia. Turning Red, on the other hand, took viewers on a mystical adventure with relatable characters that spoke to audiences worldwide. The movie scored 95% on Rotten Tomatoes and has been nominated for multiple Oscars. Of Disney’s 2022 releases, the live-action Pinocchio and Turning Red highlight the studio’s duality; relying on nostalgia vs. taking creative risks.

A sequel should bring something new by staying true to the original story or exploring characters and themes. For instance, the release of “Top Gun Maverick,” considering the original film came out in 1986 and had no loose ends to justify a sequel, was a shock to many. It pleasantly surprised viewers and is considered better than the original by many. From high critical acclaim to the $1.4 billion earned at the box office, Top Gun Maverick is proof that a sequel or any adaptation can come out well— if it can stand by itself and is well executed by the studios creating them.

“If a filmmaker has reason beyond just money to make a sequel or to revisit some story, then I don’t see that as a problem,” senior Jonas Rindegard said.

The creation of sequels and remakes in Hollywood is a symptom of a larger problem: the lack of investment in original projects. Although developing new ideas is a financial risk to studios, as they cannot gauge whether viewers will enjoy the story as much as a sequel or remake, it is worth taking. In the future, viewers can speak against Hollywood’s lazy filmmaking or focus on watching independent films with creative storytelling.