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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Sequels and Remakes

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With Prometheus and Avengers Assemble already out and raking in the cash, and The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spider-Man coming soon, Summer 2012 is looking set to be one of the biggest in recent Hollywood history. It's also gearing up to be one of the least original. All those four films are prequels, sequels, reboots or remakes and in The Dark Knight Rises' case, both reboot (of a franchise that was itself a reboot) and sequel.

They're not the only ones. This blockbuster season will also see a second outing for The Expendables, a third for Madagascar, a fourth for the Bourne, Ice Age and Step Up franchises and - most astonishingly - a fifth for the Resident Evil saga. There's even a remake of Total Recall thrown in for good measure. Exciting times, eh?

It's easy to indulge in such sarcasm when you realise just how ubiquitous sequels, prequels, reboots and remakes (let's call them SPRRs for brevity) have become in the modern movie programme, but let's forget cynicism for a while - it's not like there's not enough of it going round as it is. Instead, let's look on the bright side because to dismiss all SPRRs is to be blind to their potential.

Along with Nolan's Dark Knight saga, the likes of The Godfather Part II, The Empire Strikes Back, The Coens' True Grit, Werner Herzog's ethereal Nosferatu and last year's Rise of the Planet of the Apes have proven that SPRRs can not only match, but in some cases surpass, their predecessors. It's just a case of getting the right timing and talent.

Despite such successes, there's still resistance to even the most promising of SPRRs. Ridley Scott's forthcoming sequel to Blade Runner and the long-mooted remake of Paul Verhoeven's Robocop have both attracted vociferous online criticism and, in one sense, it's not hard to see why. Much of Blade Runner's beauty derives from its ambiguity, something that a sequel may scupper, and Robocop is a near-perfect 80s satire that should perhaps stay in the chronological context it was created in. Neither film really 'needs' a sequel, but The Godfather didn't really 'need' The Godfather Part II...

Let's consider the potential that rests in Blade Runner 2 and Robocop then. The original films are noted for their revolutionary special effects, and while those effects are still impressive today, technology has advanced so far that there's a great opportunity to explore their worlds in more detail. This certainly seems to be a major attraction for Scott and reason enough alone to get excited for Blade Runner 2; how could you not be salivating at the prospect of one of cinema's greatest visualists revisiting one of his most fascinating worlds?

Thematically too there's real scope. The dark, dystopian cityscapes and nightmarishly advanced technology that Blade Runner proposed seemed fanciful in 1982, but it's now becoming tangible reality. Who's to say that our symbiotic relationship with technology won't be explored in Blade Runner 2 in a deeper, even more fascinating way than it was in the original? Robocop, meanwhile, could touch upon the use of technology by security services and the legal and moral implications this raises. Just because technology exists does that mean it should be used?

Of course, Robocop may end up being nothing more than empty spectacle and Blade Runner 2 a pale imitation of the original, but that shouldn't devalue SPRRs as a whole. They've been around for years (the first sequel came in 1916 with The Fall of a Nation and the first remake in 1904 with The Great Train Robbery), are by no means singularly cinematic phenomena (as the works of JRR Tolkien and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle prove) and arguably date back to the dawn of oral storytelling, when each narrator brought something new to his or her version of the tale.

Back then, the original telling wasn't superior to the others simply because it came first and the same is true today. SPRRs can be awful and they can be made for purely financial reasons, but they can also be enthralling, expansive and deeply revealing about a story, the culture it was first made in and the one it has been remade or continued in. Maybe it's time we embraced this potential and learned to love SPRRs, because if the successes of this summer's batch prove anything it's that there are plenty more (both good and bad) to come.