This weekend sees the release of “Poltergeist” — no, not the 1982 horror original, but a souped-up remake. Last weekend an even older series, “Mad Max,” finally got its fourquel. In the coming months we’ll have “Jurassic World,” “Terminator: Genisys” and “Vacation” — all hailing from franchises launched between 20 and 35 years ago. (Meanwhile, the "Mission: Impossible" films, about to get a fifth, are a sprightly 19 years — although they originate from a TV show nearly half a century old.) And by year’s end — nearly in time for its 40th birthday — we’ll all have a new “Star Wars” movie, which is in fact the first in a brand new rash of them, including sequels and spin-offs that will, like Marvel’s slate, survive and replicate themselves forever, presumably even when humankind has died out or evolved into something completely different.
There are a couple original movies coming out, every great now and then. But for the most part this is all we get: an endless stream of the same-old-same-old — an infinity loop where all is familiar, all is a brand, and all of it reaches back into the 1980s and beyond. Very little of what hits theaters is a one-off, and if it is, and if it makes money, we can be assured it will be regurgitated, either as a sequel or, years down the line — even less than a decade down the line — repackaged for more, similar adventures. There is, in short, a startling lack of original ideas, even more than the last time someone complained about the same thing. It is all the same-old-same-old.
Not that complaining about sequels and remakes and reboots and quasi-reboots and semi-sequels is anything new. The art of pillaging successful entities has existed since the early days of the movie industry. Hollywood in its Golden Age could actually crank them out even quicker than now. Between 1937 and 1946 there were 15 of the Mickey Rooney-starring Andy Hardy movies. That’s nothing: the “Blondie” films, based on the comic strip, coughed out 28 films from 1938 to 1950. As for that dreaded paragon of laziness — remakes — even filmmakers as revered as Alfred Hitchcock, Yasujiro Ozu and Michael Haneke have redone their own pictures themselves.