Sequels are always the wrong lessons learned from success.
What comes next? As much as I like to postulate that question as the credits roll, the snooty cineaste inside prefers to leave the mystery to the imagination. That’s an old tale. Film snobs like myself prefer the one-and-done adventure while studio execs can’t see straight with all those dollar signs filling their eyes. Why sell one movie when you can sell a whole bushel of them?
Film twitter has been screaming at Paramount Pictures to put a halt on their Transformers films practically since their inception. Guys, they’re not going to listen to us. The five Michael Bay directed blockbusters have earned a grand total surpassing $4.4 billion at the box office. Do you dare get upset with them at the thought of a Bumblebee spin-off series? No way. And while we say we hate sequels, the Mission: Impossible films have only gotten better with each entry (minus John Woo’s disappointing number 2), and my fervor for Fallout has intensified with graphic detail. I can’t stop watching Tom Cruise running gifs.
Sequels are business. In a world where I struggle to pay bills from month to month, I’d be the first executive to greenlight the next successful Vin Diesel atrocity. Keep those absurd xXx dollars coming.
A Quiet Place is Paramount’s most profitable endeavor of 2018 so far, and they needed it. Sherlock Gnomes struggled to recoup its budget. Annihilation, while critically praised, was never going to equal widespread appeal. The Cloverfield Paradox avoided potential theatrical disaster by finding a new home as a Netflix/Super Bowl surprise. Anything that lands an audience is bound to be reordered into a franchise think-tank.
The news coming out of yesterday’s Paramount presentation at CinemaCon indicates that franchise potential is still their primary concern. Variety reports that A Quiet Place sequel is already well on its way to fruition. After translating its $17 million production budget into $134 million domestic gross, not pushing forward would be irresponsible. We’re not necessarily opposed to this idea, and the screenwriters have already hinted at a desire to continue.
The problem is that fast-tracking a Quiet Place sequel is the wrong lesson learned from its overwhelming triumph. John Krasinski took the high-concept, low-budget monster movie and delivered one of the most original and intense cinematic experiences in recent memory. In a field surrounded by spandex costumes and cartoonish CG threats, A Quiet Place returned intimate concerns to sci-fi horror plotting. We don’t really care about the creatures, we care about how the family can retain normalcy in that world of beasts.
The reality is that studios like Paramount cannot afford to miss an opportunity for monetary expansion. Original ideas are not what must be replicated, but the green that they grow. Films are just too damn expensive now. Even when one of their precious franchises stumbles, they got to keep the machine moving.
At the same CinemaCon presentation (which also focused on two new Star Trek movies and a new Terminator), J.J. Abrams took to the stage to explain Overlord. According to Deadline, the master of the mystery box promises:
“It’s not a Cloverfield movie.”
Do we believe him? Of course not. The footage he showed during the presentation revealed a group of WWII paratroopers landing behind enemy lines on the eve of D-Day. Before they can complete their covert operation, they are besieged by Nazi monster science-experiments. Previous rumors connected those experiments to the creature seen in the first Cloverfield.
While J.J. assures us that Overlord is its own thing (which is what we want it to be), he does also exclaim that another Cloverfield movie will hit theaters sooner rather than later. No duh. Whether or not Overlord is a Cloverfield head-fake or not actually doesn’t matter. The point is that one good unique idea will never be enough in this new studio system. Thanks for contributing a new strand to the quilt, we need you to finish a whole patch.
Embracing sequels is not a new business model. Most of us have lived with this disease our whole lives. If Jaws made you afraid to go into the water, Jaws 2 will double down on the sea carnage. We’ll feed our dollars towards the next outing, but no one wistfully remembers the 3-D repeat or the Jamaican revenge of Part 4.
Good luck, Paramount. My fingers are crossed that you’ll find an Aliens to your Alien. Hopefully, you’re also breaking off some dollars to fund the next radical original.