Friday, September 21, 2012

Hollywood's sequel obsession continues with 'Resident Evil'

This past weekend I saw "Resident Evil: Retribution," the fifth film in the series based on the popular mutant-zombie video games. The film is so inconsequential that it doesn't even deserve a full review.

Each of the "Resident Evil" films is essentially the same: Milla Jovovich's Alice does battle with the evil Umbrella Corporation which continues to do experiments with a virus that mutates the living and reanimates the dead.

Writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson says the next film will be the final film in the franchise and that he has an idea of how to wrap up the story. Having sat through "Retribution," it is unclear why the series hasn't been wrapped up already.

When you reach the final scene, it is apparent that what you've just watched is a 90-minute teaser for the sixth film. The key plot points to get from the fourth to the sixth film could've been covered in 10 minutes or less. The other 80 minutes is gratuitous padding.

"Resident Evil: Retribution" is the most cynical type of sequel. It is a film that realizes its undiscerning fan base will come out no matter what. For fans, these films are (very) mindless fun, but even the fans deserve better than this. The "Resident Evil" series is little more than a shameless cash grab that is emblematic of Hollywood's continuing obsession with sequels.

The sequel has been around almost as long as the motion picture. The first sequel dates all the way back to 1916's "Fall of a Nation," a follow up to the iconic "Birth of a Nation." So, while the sequel is hardly new it seems like with each passing year Hollywood becomes more fixated on building franchises. For Hollywood, moviemaking is about making money and if you have a proven product then you need to give the public more of what they want.

I'm not against sequels by definition. I gladly saw "The Bourne Legacy" this summer and I'm excited to see that series continue. That has been a series with consistently high quality control. The same can be said of Marvel's stable of superhero movies and Christopher Nolan's "Batman" films.

Unfortunately, most sequels are not made with such care and really are only about making more money rather than actually expanding the story or exploring the characters further. Last year's "The Hangover: Part 2" was little more than a carbon copy of the original with very little to justify its existence, but it was a hit and so number three is on the way.

One of the bigger surprises of last year was that "Fast Five," the fifth installment of "The Fast and the Furious" franchise somehow managed to be the best of the bunch. Universal Studio took that to mean that there needs to be a "Fast Six" and "Fast Seven." Universal appears to have forgotten that sometimes it is good to just walk away from the table when you're ahead.

But, increasingly, studios don't seem willing to just let a series of films end gracefully, but simply continues to churn out the next installment until audiences lose interest. Disney's "Pirates of Caribbean" series is a prime example of this. None of the sequels, even though they have their moments, have matched the original, but the films keep raking in the dough and so we'll likely see "Pirates 5" in the coming years.

Even this summer's comedy hit "Ted" is going to get a sequel. People will see it because there's always that curiosity of what happens next. I'm all for spending more time with characters we've learned to love in a film, but sometimes things are best left unknown.

I get the feeling that if many film classics were made today we'd be seeing sequels. The further exploits of Rick in "Casablanca 2" (which nearly did get made) or perhaps "Gone With the Wind 2: I Still Don't Give a Damn." But we don't need to know what happens beyond those films. They're perfect on their own. Hollywood is forgetting sometimes one is enough.

No comments: