The same but different: are Hollywood sequels devaluing films?

Give me the same thing only different,” was a phrase coined by Blake Snider the famous American screen writer, author and consultant to some of the biggest Hollywood film industries. In an era of Hollywood block buster’s holding strong over our screens, this quote couldn’t be more accurate. Not only does it shed light to your everyday filmgoers that Hollywood does, in fact, use a formula to capture its audience but also that we are being presented with the same films over and over again.

It seems that Hollywood has perfected this, capitalising on a single films success by producing sequels and prequels to keep the money rolling in. But are the effects of this devaluing our films?


Photo credit

In 2017 alone, the sequels to Resident Evil, Wolverine, Fast and Furious and Guardians of the Galaxy amongst others, are set to dominate our screens. But, with the amount of sequels growing, Hollywood’s giants are showing no signs of slowing down.

By captivating your imagination and making you fall in love with the characters, blockbusters can inevitably drag you back in for yet another rendition. However, in some cases, all they appear to be doing is bombarding you with the same characters repeating their previous endeavours. Take the saw movies for example, the American psychological thriller that shocked viewers with its twisted plot and gory images and grossed around $100 million worldwide on its initial release. The franchise that followed, although giving an overarching story, saw 7 other films, with the same plot line, only each time with different characters with even more twisted punishments.

This isn’t to say that they aren’t popular or even performing in the box office.  Research into this area has shown that in 2013 and 2014, 7 of the top 10 grossing films were sequels or prequels and the top grossing films that were sequels has doubled in the past 10 years.

The problem?

  1. All of this is creating a Hollywood where the storyline isn’t frequently new or original. Instead, the way to go appears to be stringing out already successful film concepts for as long as possible to make as much profit as possible.
  2. In addition to this, it’s also making it so much harder for independent film, who bring in new fresh ideas but are faced with the growing costs of production and distribution which are becoming sky high.

 But does this devalue the films?


Photo credit Pavel Pribylovsky

These days it is rare for films to be limited to just the original plot; think back to the children’s Ice age or the action spy thriller Mission impossible. Ice age was ground breaking on its original release but its sequels can be seen as unnecessary or quite simply silly. Realistically, the basis of the film is a once in a life time event, it would be rather like a sequel to Life of Pie 2, an unlikely scenario. By creating a sequel, are the stories becoming unbelievable, farfetched and quite frankly confusing?  Continually bombarding fans of original films with new renditions may leave audiences not only disappointed but could even cause them to dislike the original films they loved.

Or do these only add to the original plot?

Franchises can however add more to a continuing story and people are obviously loving them. Adding more dimensions and depth into the stories and characters is one benefit of the impending sequel. By creating the phenomenon termed the “cinematic universe,” the Marvel films have excelled in this area. Box office figures suggest that the general public continue to enjoy these sequels, in some cases with these outperforming the original;  the First Iron Man film grossed less than its sequel Iron Man 3 world-wide.

It’s not that these aren’t great films and this isn’t about critiquing the films themselves. The question is, what are the consequences of constantly being fed the same stories for the purpose of making as much profit as possible?

Feature image credit Ryan Scott

 Check out these to see the worst and best sequels of all time. Do you agree?