Top 10 Movies That Rejuvenated Their Franchises
At this point we can all agree that at Hollywood, any movie franchise with even the slightest semblance of brand recognition, will NEVER truly die. Sure, it may stay dormant for a couple of years, even decades, but sooner or later, whether by way of sequel, prequel, spin-off, remake, reboot or a mix of the above, it comes back.
Do we really need a remake of Point Break? No! Do we really need a remake of Ben-Hur? No! Do we really need a remake of Ghostbusters?? Well, kinda, but not like this. So why do they insist on churning out these franchise movies that we no longer need?
The answer? Evil corporations be wanting money, of course. But there's also that truth that people rarely speaks of these days: when it works, it really works. We knew Fant4stic was going to suck, we wisely wanted nothing to do with the latest Paranormal Activity, and nobody is going to bet on the quality of the next Adam Sandler movie.
But sometimes, just sometimes, a movie from a tired and overstaying franchise comes out and shocks the world by being different, fresh, smart, exciting and....generally, good. Sometimes they do get it right, and manage to deliver a new installment for a staggering franchise that we didn't even know we wanted.
Here are 10 movies that made us fall in love with their franchises all over again (until some of them are re-botched, anyway):
10. Jurassic World
Before you rage quit this page, let me clear this up first. I don't think Jurassic World was particularly good, at least quality-wise, it certainly pales before its insane 1.6 billion box office returns. Although to be honest, it was still much better than we expected, being the most entertaining Jurassic Park sequel by a rather significant margin.
Albeit with forgettable characters and some idiotic creative decisions, such as weaponizing carnivorous raptors, the movie proved satisfying in its action and nostalgia departments with a triumphant climax. Dinosaurs haven't been cool for a long time, and Jurassic World proved that the concept may not yet be "extinct". (Sorry, couldn't resist.)
9. Captain America: Civil War
Wait! I know what you're thinking! This guy is off his rockers. Does either Captain America or MCU in general remotely looks like in need of any recharging? Well, you would be correct if I were referring to Cap or MCU, but no. What I'm talking about is SCHBAIDAH-MANNNNN!!!
Spider-Man: Homecoming, due for July 2017, will be the 6th Spider-Man movie in the last 15 years, featuring the 3rd iteration of the character. Is it just me, or does that sound a teeny bit over-saturated? After The Amazing Spider-Man 2 turned out to be a mess, Sony pulled the plug on its planned Spidey-verse, the Sinister Six movie, and supposedly an Aunt May prequel, and made a deal with Marvel that eventually resulted in yet another version of Spidey, played by Tom Holland this time, inserted into Cap 3: Civil War.
It simply shouldn't have worked! Peter Parker had nothing to do with the movie's plot, his entrance scene was so obviously post-added, and there's no real reason Stark would seek his help to begin with. But who's complaining? Spider-Man is awesome! In the mere 20 minutes where Parker or Spider-Man is on-screen, he was the highlight in a movie clustered with highlights. July can't come fast enough!
8. X-Men: First Class
20th Century Fox's tentpole superhero franchise is a rollercoaster in terms of quality, with massive gaps between its high and low points, but suffice to say, without this Matthew Vaughn-directed surprise hit, X-Men would have crashed and burned then and there.
The Last Stand was disappointing, no doubt, but the Wolverine standalone prequel that followed was the real dealbreaker for fans. When First Class came out merely two years later, we were still dealing with the psychological trauma of lousy CG claws and a mouth-sealed Deadpool. What now? Another prequel? With young Xavier and Magneto? Really scraping the bottom of the barrel now, are we?
Alas, those words were prompty eaten. First Class was emotional, intense and explored the inner struggles and conflicts of our two protagonists like never before. By the way, the casting director of the movie deserves an extra cookie every day of his life, for casting a bunch of up-and-comers who would become Hollywood's hottest A-lists in the ensuing years.
7. The Jungle Book (2016)
Again, not exactly referring to the direct sequel possibly due for 2019, or the 2018 Andy Serkis-directed Jungle Book movie, which will be a direct adaptation of the Rudyard Kipling novel, although the effect of this 2016 "we knew it might be good, but didn't expect it to be this good" hit certainly will be felt on those movies.
More importantly, this is a huge stimulant for those, myself included, who doubted the necessity of this endless line of Disney live action adaptations of their own classics. Maleficent was divisive and Cinderella, although a beautiful recreation, didn't exactly make many of us yearn for more of its kind.
Then came The Jungle Book, a quasi-live-action adaptation of the 60s animation that not only faithfully recreates many iconic characters and scenes, but achieved the impossible by surpassing it in many ways. With its game-changing special effects and stellar ensemble of voice actors, The Jungle Book once again proved that Disney basically can do no wrong these days (Alice notwithstanding). Maybe that Lion King remake wasn't such a terrible idea after all.
6. Star Trek (2009)
Trekkies, or Trekkers probably have mixed feelings about this one, but none can deny that J.J. Abrams took a franchise dead in the water and introduced it to a much wider audience and a new generation. Before then, Star Trek was a franchise that everybody knew of, but many had little interest getting into. The sheer amount of TV material and the uneven quality of the film series (not to mention it started with a dud) weren't exactly inviting to casual viewers.
JJ's Star Trek was smart enough to opt for an alternative timeline, bring back the most iconic character from its decades' legacy, and amped up action and special effects by a hundred times (thousand if counting lens flares). The movie faced some criticism from die-hard fans for perhaps losing the scientific and exploratory spirit central to the franchise, making it more like a Star Wars clone (funny story there). But personally, the greatest thing about Star Trek, or any story really, for me, is the characters.
Kirk, Spock, Uhura, Sulu....Picard, Geordi, Data, Wolf....they are the reason I go back repeatedly to their occupied world, and they're perfectly recreated in this new timeline. Star Trek (2009) made the franchise cool for the first time in a long time, and since then we got two action-packed sequels with a third one on the way, promising the return of Chris Hemsworth.
5. Tangled (2010)
In case you've been on Mars, Disney is the unmatched superpower among film studios in recent years. With Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar and their own productions under Mickey Mouse's tyrannical reign of terror (just can't resist putting that image in your head), Disney is basically printing money, and that's not even mentioning their own live-action products (Pirates of the Caribbean, classic remakes, etc.), and, what else, their trademark family animated pictures.
It's utterly impressive and scary to think about, but Disney animations have been tirelessly defining childhoods since, probably your grandfather's generation, and given how big the studio is today, it's tough to imagine that Disney faced a period of credibility crisis not that long ago, in fact, roughly between 2000 and 2009. It was a dark time, for their animations at least, during which their tentative entries into the then-uncharted waters of 3D animations (Dinosaur, Home on the Ranch, Chicken Little) are mixed, to put it kindly, and many ill-advised direct-to-video sequels to their classics are rightfully considered their worst bunch of material ever.
The solution? Acquisition of Pixar and naming John Lasseter as their chief creative officer. With Bolt and The Princess and the Frog, Disney proved that they had the heart and talent to make quality 3D and fairy tale animations, but it was with Tangled that they finally discovered their new formula for the new era. Tangled was everything you'd expect from a Disney fairy tale, princess, adventure, adorable animal sidekick, songs and tears. It proved that Disney was still and always will be the go-to studio for your family movie night.
4. Batman Begins (2005)
Bane may have broken Batman's back, but nobody came closer to murdering the Dark Knight than the devil-walking-on-earth himself (or at least according to fans), Joel Schumacher. With a mindset towards Batman and comic books in general that failed to evolve beyond the Adam West-headed 60s, Schumacher made Batman movies campy, child-friendly toy commercials, encouraged by Warner Bros., which wouldn't be the last time they wrongly meddle with a DC project.
After the astonishingly bad Batman and Robin, and the really-close-but-ultimately-canceled Superman/Batman movie project, it would seem that only a fool would touch the poisoned material any time soon. Unless that fool is Christopher Nolan. The result was a superhero movie unlike anything we'd seen before. Far from a run-of-the-mill superhero origin story with a comical costume dress-up montage as we expected, Batman Begins delivered full-fledged characters, an ensemble cast that actually wanted to be there and eager to contribute, and a penetrating understanding to Batman's character and essence of his lore.
More importantly, it proved that superhero material could work with a darker tone, a more grounded and realistic setting, appeal to a more mature audience, and still be a financial success. Like the abovementioned Tangled, Batman Begins not only was a success in and of itself, its historical significance also derived from paving the way for a bigger and better follow-up, which utterly never would exist without this initial attempt at something new and risqué.
3. Fast Five (2011)
From mildly profitable street racing flicks to billion-dollar international heist blockbusters, what the hell happened? The Fast & Furious franchise is a most curious case because there's simply nothing like it. A movie series with 7 installments in 14 years, and manages to get better? How? But quoting our favorite scruffy-looking nerf-herder: It's true. All of it.
It's almost like whoever's helming the series was consciously getting the obligated mediocrity out of the way in the initial few attempts, then gathered everything that was still sticking on the wall, multiplied in awesomeness by 100 times, and decided, hey, why not make the best action film of the year while we're at it. Seriously, the leap between number 4 and 5 was ginormous, even though they shared the same director, producers and writer. This doesn't just happen, somebody had to be pulling the threads!
Fast Five was clearly targeted to be "the last job". It gathered the best characters from all four predecessors, and added The Rock into the mix for good measure, who singlehandedly elevated this series to superhero level of insanity. F&F was never realistic to begin with, but come on, The Rock himself might as well be a comic book character. Hence, we had 3 exhilarating and emotional rides since Fast Five with a fourth one on the way, but let's not forget the one which NOSed the ride.
2. Casino Royale (2006)
Truth is, after Die Another Day, the world wouldn't have minded missing Bond for a few decades, but the womanizing MI6 agent returned to the big screen after merely four years, about the same gap between Quatum of Solace and Skyfall when you do the math. With Daniel Craig slated to succeed Brosnan in a tide of controversy and negativity from long-time fans, a director who already resurrected the Bond franchise once with Goldeneye (which didn't encourage a change-seeking crowd), it almost seemed like Eon Productions were hellbent on dooming their sole tentpole brand.
What transpired was poetic cinematic history, with a black-and-white brutal cold opening that won over the petulant crowd and critics in a span of minutes. Finally, James Bond ditched his invisible car and became a real flesh-and-blood character that audiences could relate to and care about. For the most of us, Casino Royale ranks among the greatest Bond films, if not the best there is.
The Bond series has always been, and still is to this day, guilty of over-reliance on familiar formula and nostalgia, but at least they struck a magical balance when it was the most needed.
1. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
Planet of the Apes was a weird one. Everybody knew of it, everybody had a general idea of what it's about, and everybody enjoyed yelling "Damn you all the hell" towards the innocent Statue of Liberty, but the five-part original series rapidly released between 1968 and 1973 didn't find much of an audience beyond die hard sci-fi geeks and cinema fanatics. Many of us HAVE seen the Tim Burton remake, but....hardly a confidence booster, was it?
What puts the unbelievably good Rise of the Planet of the Apes on top of this list, is its sheer disadvantage of not belonging in a mega blockbuster franchise. Unlike other entries, it's not Batman or James Bond, who are guaranteed to return to the big screen in some shape or form at some time. Planet of the Apes was a movies series that held water in the business, but long considered dead and buried, and nobody could have expected its glorious return, when the only real glory it had dated back to the 60s.
With its sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes being just as emotional and awe-inducing to behold (not to mention its technological wonders), and a promising threequel coming out in 2017, the apes have never looked better. We're looking at a potential candidate for best movie trilogies of all time, folks.
Here's hoping Cars 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Lies will serve this purpose in 2017.
Let me know if there are any franchise-resurrecting movies that you think deserves a spot on this list.