Independence Day: Resurgence Leads Another Year of Remake Sequels

By  · Published on January 1st, 2016

Note: It may be worth your while to read our post on 2015 remakequels before reading this post, but it’s not necessary.

This could be a great year for original ideas. Jeff Nichols, the Coens, Shane Black and Walt Disney Animated Studios all have us excited, big time, with fresh movie properties – one of which, Zootopia, seems like something based on previously existing material but isn’t. However, this could also be a good year for blatant rehashes, as straight remakes including Disney revisiting its own live-action/animation hybrid classic, may also succeed.

In 2016, the two highest-grossing movies will be a sequel and a prequel to resurrected franchises, and two of the best Hollywood movies of the year may also be a sequel and a prequel that resurrect other old properties. For better or worse, though more likely for better, the successes and the flops will continue to dictate where popular cinema heads in the future, and that means we have many more sequels of a certain, familiar ilk to look forward to.

We’re Not Done With Movies Being Redone

While it’s way too early to be sure about Jumanji, which opens on Christmas, this year may prove audiences are again interested in direct remakes. The Magnificent Seven will wind up okay financially, possibly even a hit, even if nobody really sees the point in its existence. The ironic attempts to attract audiences familiar with their popular originals will almost always work, in spite of the fact that we still have and prefer those originals.

Remakes that could do particularly well at the box office are those that dramatize stories previously handled in documentaries. Snowden adds a level of reenactment spectacle that will make it worth seeing despite rehashing the Oscar-winning Citzenfour, and the gimmick should appeal to many people, whether they’ve seen the doc or not. Also, Deepwater Horizon and the Untitled Amy Winehouse Biopic could be hits even though moviegoers might know they are kind of remakes of docs.

Movies revisiting subject matter that’s already been covered before are no turn off for audiences, even if they saw those previous works. The fact of the matter is that while we could stay home and watch Your Cheatin’ Heart, 1989’s animated The BFG, 1977’s musical Pete’s Dragon and any old version of Ben-Hur instead of going out to see I See the Light, The BFG, Pete’s Dragon and Ben-Hur, we won’t prefer to.

We have so much at our fingertips online and in our living rooms, including other options for cinematic incarnations of classic characters, but new takes on those old stories can still be mostly enjoyed. Ghostbusters has been looked down on as if it will be just another movie reboot retelling the same old story, yet it probably will help a lot when the reimagined Ghostbusters is actually good.

If Disney has made it, we’ll probably see even greater results. Their live-action The Jungle Book should be as much a bare necessity, while remaining a musical but with some new tunes, as the studio’s animated adaptation of the Rudyard Kipling story, keeping it simple and familiar enough for kids and parents alike while still offering fresh attractions like Christopher Walken’s sure-to-be delectable take on King Louie.

Other studios are going to continue to try to beat Disney at its own game with their own live-action versions of “The Little Mermaid,” another adaptation of “The Jungle Book” and more, but it’s very possible they’ll fail in comparison. Audiences might still be interested, however, in new versions of “Tarzan,” and the possible positive reception of The Legend of Tarzan could send that message to Hollywood, which seems to currently only try out another one every couple of years.

Especially When the Remake is Disguised as a Sequel

Don’t worry, fans, they’ll never remake classics like Independence Day and My Big Fat Greek Wedding. They’ll just recycle them beat for beat for new sequels and pretend it’s all just to recapture the spirit of the originals. After many 2015 hits delivering franchise installments that took us in the same direction as the first, a la Jurassic World and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Hollywood has finally learned what we want.

In order to please the fans, we are now getting sequels like Independence Day: Resurgence and My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 that will feel a lot like remakes, with a few changes and fresh perspectives, so the audience recognizes them as genuine Independence Day and My Big Fat Greek Wedding follow-ups, not some strange divergence where no aliens attack Earth or where there’s no big fat Greek wedding.

The Big Fat Greek Wedding movie should at least be original in enough ways to make it more satisfying as both fan-service and a new piece of entertainment. Remakequels aren’t going to be a problem if they introduce strong, instantly iconic characters alongside the old. It’s one of the reasons we will also love Finding Dory in spite of its apparent intention to give us a sequel structured similarly to Finding Nemo.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them will likely do it right, too, with just enough familiarity mixed with just enough originality, honoring the Harry Potter legacy while building upon it. Rings may be argued favorably, as well, even if it turns out to not be a good movie. It’ll take its rehash of the original’s plot and dash it with a modern style of 3D horror. And it shall be fairly successful as a result, even if it won’t carry over as many of its original fans as other remakequels have.

The idea doesn’t always work, as we’ll possibly see with this year’s X-Men: Apocalypse, in part because that movie is going to revisit the core characters of the original, plus elements of its popular prequels, in order to erase the images we have of Jean Grey, Cyclops and Storm in our memories rather than honor them. Maybe it’s not actually a remakequel. Regardless, there’s little respect for the fans and what they want in terms of familiarity.

Even if some of these secret remakes will be forgivable because they’re well-made and entertaining (and in the case of Everybody Wants Some, extremely stealthy in its remakequelness – it might be better described as a spiritual remake than a spiritual sequel), they deserve much scrutiny. They’re basically cinematic ouroboroses, eating their own tails.

And the Old-Fashioned Remake Sequel Remains a Phantom Menace

Remake sequels are not a new thing, as it used to be that a movie’s first sequel was often a cheap copy with maybe an escalation of stakes. We will have to be more tolerating of that practice (see Ride Along 2 and London Has Fallen), but we’ll allow for it more when it’s a later installment, because of nostalgia and the idea that they’re paying tribute in the form of revival. And it’s a favorable alternative to a total remake or reboot of our beloved franchises, which would be done if not this.

The good thing is Hollywood can’t possibly continue the charade, because nobody wants My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 to be a remake of My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, and while Independence Day: Resurgence will get away with following the beats of Independence Day, especially since other alien invasion movies have managed to do some of the same thing just poorly, it’s going to be silly if Independence Day 3 is so blatantly a copy of Independence Day: Resurgence.

How far can they diverge from what fans know and expect, though? Audiences want more of the same, and that won’t just be evident in the rise of these franchise resurrecting remakequels but also in the rest of the successful sequels of 2016. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Zoolander No. 2 and Gods Not Dead 2 are all installments of series that will maintain common plots by focusing our attention on comedic set pieces instead of story.

Outside of its box office success, Star Trek Beyond might be a disappointment for many fans if it makes the same fatal error as the last installment in exposing a side of its remake-ness that we’re less approving of. By resurrecting another iconic old villain but introducing him anew, the Star Trek sequel would dismiss its heritage while meaning to revisit it, not unlike X-Men: Apocalypse, albeit in a different way.

Then there are the MCU sequels, of which we can include Doctor Strange because it’s nothing without being another installment of a mega franchise. While not all movies in the MCU are so familiar, the origin-story first-issue features like Doctor Strange tend to follow a pattern, and this one might feel particularly like a remake of Thor or any of the others. As for Captain America: Civil War, it’s just more of The Avengers, only possibly smarter in its details.

One of the most interesting franchise entries this year, then, is Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Not only does it promise to take Star Wars far from the structure and spirit of the other movies, it seems to be making a real point to reject the idea that all Star Wars prequels are bad. Of course, eventually there’ll be sequels to that spinoff prequel that will also just be a remake – we need to see depictions of the heists of plans for the second Death Star and Starkiller base, right?

Who’s ready for the next thing, the remakequel to/of the prequel spinoff?

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.