Two things that come to mind as being unusual from earlier years of cinema is multi part films(Twilight Eclipse part1&2, Harry Potter Deathly Hallows part1&2, etc) and franchises that release yearly and don’t make much sense alone(Marvel-verse) and it just seems that sequels come much faster today, a smash hit can have a sequel in theaters barely one year later.
The adaptations of Twilight and Harry Potter especially stand out as unusual, with the producers committing to adapting each book from the start and even in some cases multi part films for one installment! It seems like in earlier times these series would have been condensed into one film, which if it was a success would spawn a sequel 3-4 years later.
The Marvel-verse of comics adaptations which culminated in Avengers I suppose also stands out as unusual for the sheer speed at which they are produced, and how poorly some stand alone. Iron Man 2 was borderline incomprehensible if you didn’t have background info(who is this eyepatch guy? Who is SHIELD, who is this new assistant for Tony?) and just felt generally flat without the series. Captain America had a few details they didn’t bother to explain, its like they aren’t even targeting general audiences just comic geeks.
Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey had a sequel out one year after the first, I remember grand plans for remaking the entire Planet Of The Apes series on the success of Rise. In general it seems sequels come much faster and much easier now, producers and studios seem quick to commit to grand plans involving many sequels.
Or am I just nuts?
EDIT:Forgot to add it does remind me a bit of the serial era(Zorro, Flash Gordon etc).
Two years, actually (Dec 2009, Dec 2011). But there’s no reason why movies should take three years to make, they just do for the luxury of having loads of time to get it right. When you consider how many hours of television get made by such small teams over a year, movies really have no excuse not to be churned out faster. Some of the quality may go down a bit, but really not by much, and then eventually it would bounce back up again.
I think the fact that we are getting more sequels and adaptations is not an illusion; it is true and I would say it is a direct result of the cost cutting that has been happening in Hollywood. Less money to throw around means you make safer bets and established properties are safer bets. I had hoped the success of Inception would have encouraged some originality but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
The big question is with Harry Potter done and Twilight almost done, what next?
This is why the current hot properties are franchises that are already popular in other media formats or reboots/remakes of movies that succeeded once (or more) before. The money people want something that gets bums in seats. Any other considerations are secondary.
It does seem that everything is a sequel, a prequel, an adaptation, a remake or a reboot these days. I get the impression Hollywood producers are trying to milk everything they possibly can out of anything they possibly can. Sometimes I wonder if they literally go through lists of popular books and other media looking for anything that might sell. I mean, Alvin and the Chipmunks? Really?
Frequent use of sequels are hardly new. Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Back to the Future, Karate Kid, etc etc all got sequels. To pick a random year, of the top ten grossing movies in 1990, two were sequels and three that weren’t sequels would have sequels of their own. In 1989, four of the top ten were sequels, and three would have sequels of their own.
But I think what the OP is asking about isn’t the existence of sequels, but of movies that are intended to become franchises even before the first film was shot. So Harry Potter was going to be at least seven movies even before the first one was made, LOTR had three movies filmed at once, etc. I think this is sort of new. There were serials of course, and George Lucas conceived of both Star Wars and the Indiana Jones series as an attempt to bring back serials. But the pre-planned, multi-installment movie does seem like an new trend.
Hollywood has always been conservative. When you’re throwing around large amounts of cash, and your own career hangs on the results, you tend to be conservative and go with a proven item, rather than trying out something New and Original. The problem is, of course, that the public really doesn’t want to see the same thing over and over – they want at least some originality, and they reward new and original things they like with repeat attendance. Look at Star Wars
So they tend to go with proven franchises – as the OP mentions, Twilight, Harry potter, Hunger Games, etc.
Unfortunately, it also means that they like remaking movies m-- and it’s movies they remake, not source material. So the upcoming Total Recall is a remake of the earlier film, not anything by Philip K. Dick (or Robert Sheckley). Solaris remade the movie, not Stanislas Lem’s book. Clash of the Titans was based on the earlier Harryhausen film, not the original myths. Even though the new Spiderman film is taking new material from the comics, it’s still retracing the same origin story from the first Raimi film.
Isn’t planning franchises from the start an excellent example of risk-taking behavior? I mean, if Fellowship of the Rings had tanked, Peter Jackson would have been completely screwed, since he was already locked into the sequels. As it happens, of course, it paid off enormously, but it was still a huge risk.
Though admittedly this is less an issue for something like the Avengers franchise, where the first few movies were clearly planned with the possibility of The Avengers in mind, but could still stand (or fall) on their own.
Didn’t really seem like it. Other than the gratuitous cameo of the robot owl in a pile of junk, it doesn’t have much at all to do with the original. It’s like saying Marky Mark’s Planet of the Apes was based on Chuck Heston’s. Maybe love for the original was why they made it in the first place, but what resulted was just not even remotely similar.
I’m not saying something needs to be shot for shot the same to count as based on, but it should at least be something where you would get the same basic story from either. King Kong (any two versions) fit that bill, CotT, not so much.
Years ago in a ‘making-of’ about the original Planet of the Apes while interviewing Charlton Heston he said that after the original film was a surprise hit and they wanted to pursue a sequel Heston’s reaction (in 1969) was a somewhat indignant, “I’m not doing a sequel, that’s Andy Hardy stuff!” (Andy Hardy was a series of goofy rom-coms Mickey Rooney & Judy Garland made in the 40s).
But the producers persisted so Heston said, “Look, I’ll do a sequel only if I get killed in the first scene, and you donate my fee to charity”. They came back with, “How about you *disappear *in the first scene, then you get to blow up the Earth in the last scene?” He said, “Even better!” Witness Beneath the Planet of the Apes…
I would point your attention to The Golden Compass. Huge, huge advertising push, great source material, lovely visuals that really cashed in on the high-flying steampunk fad, and the movie utterly, utterly tanked. The sequels were very quickly shelved.
That would be less irritating if the first book of that trilogy wasn’t mostly just exposition, and if they hadn’t decided to move the actual ending of the first book into the second movie.
Hopefully somebody will take another stab in twenty years, like Jackson did for LotR.