Nostalgia. It’s a powerful thing. And when handled correctly by an entertainment industry often void of new ideas, it can mean big bucks. This year’s Jurassic World, which was released almost 14 years after the last film in the series, and 22 years since the original Park, seems to have nailed it, at least commercially, becoming one of the most successful films in history. At the time of printing, its worldwide takings have made it the third highest grossing film of all time*.
Even within the film itself, the nostalgia of the original Park is not only referenced but becomes a part of the story. But Jurassic was a strong brand that had only grown in popularity in years. A brief 3D re-release of the original film in IMAX a few years ago only cemented this and likely helped greenlight the long delayed fourth film in the series. If there’s any secret to the success, it’s this – finding a way to test the interest in the market… and making sure you have a film which doesn’t suck. But there’s never a sure thing. This week, The Man of U.N.C.L.E. was hoping that nostalgia would work in their favour – which it did not. One must ask if it had simply been too long since the original series for the “nostalgia factor” to work with the wider population. And the recently released Vacation seems to missed the mark as well, both critically and in the box office.
Meanwhile, Television is joining the bandwagon in a bigger way than ever, turning their attention not to reboots of series from decades past – like with Hawaii Five-O – but more recent series or films. Fargo – a FX series based on the 1996 Coen Brothers film of the same name – was touted as a one off standalone series, though in its critical and commercial success has already received a second series, albeit with a new cast and storyline. Fox is continuing the the trend by ordering new series of The X-Files and Prison Break (as we reported earlier in the month), while NBC is bringing back Heroes – all of which are brands that have existed in one form or another in the last 15 years. Only limited, single season runs are promised, but as with Fargo or countless other examples before it, if they’re successful, you can expect a change of tact.
But for every Jurassic reboot – which reportedly already sees a new “trilogy” in the works – or Fargo inspired run, there are dozens of examples of failure. Here are a look at moments of both sides of the coin:
Starsky and Hutch (2004)
With Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson already seen as a dynamic duo thanks to 2001’s Zoolander (another film which will soon be returning to the screen for a sequel), and directed by Todd Phillips, who brought us the successful Old School, this film was considered a box office success and was reasonably well received by critics. Snoop Dogg was pretty fantastic in it – it actually screened again over the weekend on GO! and has held up pretty well, if we say so ourselves. Worth a re-watch if you didn’t get the chance to see it the first time around, though it’s nothing on the original.
Charlie’s Angels (TV – 2011)
This one was a total flop. They’d already used up their “nostalgia leeway”, so to speak, with the two films – the first of which was reasonably enjoyable and a success, the second of which was too painful to watch. By the time they decided to do a TV series a couple of years later, who cared? And it wasn’t that great anyway. Though one may argue the original series never strived for brilliance either, though it was pretty fun.
21 Jump Street (2012)
This hilarious and successful return to the series has already prompted a sequel, which was as well received and more successful than its predecessor. 23 Jump Street is already in the works, returning Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum and of course Ice Cube to the screen. They’ll keep running this until they get it wrong, but for now, they’re having a pretty damn good run.
The Fugitive (1993)
One of the most successful TV adaptations of all time came in the early 90s, in the form of The Fugitive, starring Harrison Ford, who was enjoying a bit of a renaissance on the big screen around the time thanks to his Jack Ryan films (this was released the year after Patriot Games and the year before Clear and Present Danger). Now that we think of it – 1993 Harrison Ford is exactly like 2011 Liam Neeson. Anyway, the film based on the popular 1960s series went on to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars – something unheard of for any TV remake – get a sequel (U.S. Marshals.) a few years later and even had a parody film released (Wrongfully Accused starring Leslie Nielsen).
Mission: Impossible (1996)
In many ways it seems that every time a film like Man From U.N.C.L.E. is released they’re trying to capture whatever that magic was that the first Mission: Impossible film mustered up. It brought in $450 million* around the world, which was incredible in 1996 dollars. It’s since created one of cinema’s most successful franchises, with the fifth film in the series just released. And this is quite remarkable in itself, as it’s widely considered that the second Mission: Impossible film is pretty terrible. Still, the second one remains the most successful film of the whole series at the time of printing, so what do we know?
As you’ll start to see through this article, 2005 was a popular year for bringing ancient TV franchises back from the dead on the big screen, and the pinnacle of this was likely Bewitched, which remains one of the most syndicated programs of its era. Australian critics Margaret and David may have been the only fans of Nicole Kidman’s performance in the film, and on the whole it was panned and a branded a disappointment in the box office. The film went on to win a Golden Raspberry for Worst On Screen Couple – Kidman and Ferrell were not present for the ceremony.
The Addams Family (1991)
Though the origins of these characters go back to a cartoon rather than a TV series, it’s still the original black and white series that is most well known – and it certainly leveraged this to hit the big screen. It was a pretty significant success, and two years later saw a sequel in the form of The Addams Family Values, which didn’t quite live up to expectations and kept any future films from the screen, but it did rebirth interest in the original series, kick off an animated series, a new TV series called The New Addams Family and even a stage musical.
Wild Wild West (1999)
This big budget flop of a 1960s series by the name of The Wild Wild West, leaves us wondering why they even bothered. It was then, and remains today, a pretty terrible film. But at least we got this out of it?
OK, sorry, we take that back.
Get Smart (2008)
The remake of Mel Brooks and Buck Henry’s much loved 1960s comedy was a lukewarm success, but made enough money for the filmmakers to want to bring the series back for a sequel. Steve Carrell has been quoted as saying he’s already rejected returning to the role, citing a poor script (who would have thunk it!), but some reports have suggested that he’s delivered a script of his own, which may see the light of day in coming years. So we’ll see what happens there.
Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)
Though the follow up trilogy was a disappointment to many fans, this first film in particular, as with any Star Wars film, it was a commercial success. Now they’re returning with another trilogy to try again. If there one thing that seems foolproof to any usual rule of nostalgia, however, it’s Star Wars. And they’re already expecting Episode VII to break records yet again.
King Kong (2005)
Perhaps the concept of Nostalgia doesn’t quite apply after some 70 years – but it’s an important inclusion all the same. The film marked director Peter Jackson’s first screen appearance since the acclaimed Lord of the Rings trilogy, and it was both a critical and commercial success.
The Dukes of Hazzard (2005)
Jessica Simpson? Really? This critically panned film did so-so in cinemas, and thankfully we haven’t seen it back on the big screen since.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Though U.N.C.L.E. may have struggled, nostalgia has found its place pretty significantly in 2015 with Jurassic World and the fourth film in the Mad Max series – the critically praised and commercially successful Fury Road. The film is being released on DVD on 2nd September on the off chance you didn’t see it on the big screen. Which you should have, because it was amazing. There is talk of making more films in the series, but we do hope that they leave it here given Hollywood’s track record…
The Italian Job (2003)
Another critical and commercial success, this American remake of the 1969 British film of the same name could have been many things. But it was an enjoyable heist film, with a solid cast, and resonated with audiences – even those who were still hanging onto the original. There has long been talk of a sequel in the form of The Brazilian Job, but it has yet to eventuate.
The A-Team (2010)
Mixed reviews and an average box office has kept this film – a remake of the 1980s TV series – as a one time only deal. But Bradley Cooper has since become a bit of a super star, so don’t put it past them to try again.
The Honeymooners (2005)
Easily one of the biggest flops of the genre, the 2005 film was terrible – which was of little surprise if anyone saw the trailer to behind with. But I’m still confused by Roger Ebert gave it a decent review.
The X-Files: I Want to Believe (2008)
Making a relatively paltry $70 million in US cinemas, the return of the franchise was lost in the shadow of The Dark Knight, and average reviews didn’t help either. But this hasn’t stopped the series returning next year.
The Parent Trap (1998)
This remake of the 1961 starred Lindsay Lohan and was directed by Nancy Meyers. It brought the classic film to a new, younger audience and saw different generations enjoying it together. Though its $100 million worldwide take was nothing mind-blowing, it was one of the more successful remake stories of the end of the decade, and was positively reviewed to boot.
Toy Story 3 (2010)
For me, the most interesting moments of nostalgia can be found when filmmakers get creative with the concept, and play on our nostalgia with original concepts. Pixar’s Inside Out played with our idea of memories as did the original Toy Story and the heart wrenching opening for Up – though even we’re a bit worried about a fourth instalment in the series after they wrapped things up with the third film, something which already baited our nostalgia in 2010. But they did it well, and Toy Story 3 remains a favourite of many from the Pixar repertoire.
Bad News Bears (2005)
This remake of the 1976 comedy was directed by Richard Linklater and starred Billy Bob Thornton – which on paper sounded like a good fit. Though critics were perhaps kinder to the film than they could have been, the film was a bomb, not even bringing in the $35 million it cost to make the film, internationally. It was certainly well made, and many pointing to Thornton’s performance as a highlight, but many were left asking why they bothered remaking a film that was already considered a bit of a classic and had already had its fair share of time in the spotlight. In addition to the remake, the original spurned two sequels and a 26 episode TV series, which barely made it to a second series, being cancelled a few episodes in. Shouldn’t that have already proven they had done everything they could possibly do with the series?
Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp (TV Revamp, 2015)
Netflix brought back a film from 2001 that few people saw (but has since become a “cult classic” and made a series about it that has already been described by some critics as “perfect”. It’s hilarious and totally gets how ridiculous it is doing the thing in the first place, so they cast the same actors playing younger versions of their original characters, when in the original film they were already too old to play them to begin with. Go and watch it now. The original film is on Netflix, too, because chances are you didn’t see it.
The problem, ultimately, is the greed that comes with these films or television series. If it fails, the original source material is blamed and it sullies the brand forever. If it succeeds, what starts as a single entry ends up getting a follow up of its own, and it’s run into the ground anyway. Either way, we have to ask the question: is it really worth returning to a brand from our past at the risk of its demise? The selfish part of us says yes, but there comes a point where we have to find peace with the fact that the best days of a franchise has run its course, and look onto the next thing.
And this doesn’t just count for the nostalgia factor – fans who are begging for the return for Hannibal should perhaps look to what happened with shows like Jericho and Community, whose short return after fan demands didn’t exactly warrant the most satisfying or long running seasons. And with that, you start to understand why David Lynch wasn’t rushing back to Twin Peaks. And are we a bit worried about the upcoming revisits to the Ghostbusters, Blade Runner and even Zoolander universes? You bet. But are we still going to see the films? Well, it’ll be hard to say no.
Like I said – it’s easy to be selfish and want more of what we thought we couldn’t have. We just have to remind ourselves: the reasons these brands were so loved in the first place. Because they were original. The only way to truly capture our attention? Create something new and original. And we as an audience have to refuse to get suckered in to the hype and buzz from an overdone brand. We should support new cinema, new television and help ensure that the studios are working to bring something new to the table, not resting on their laurels and succumbing to lazy, rehashed ideas every time they need a quick buck.
And why are they even redoing Point Break?
*Figures not adjusted for inflation, taken from Box Office Mojo.
The Man of U.N.C.L.E. is in cinemas now. Read our full review HERE.