If you felt that some of the biggest movies this year were very familiar to those you’d seen in your youth, you’re not alone.
Four of the most gigantic blockbusters in 2015 heavily extracted movie plots and characters that were popular decades ago to create hits that are hard to define – a relatively new, unique, and apparently successful breed in Hollywood.
Some have called them “legacyquels” or “remakequels.” They’re ostensibly sequels, but ones that closely follow the models of their franchises’ origins, and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” already clearly the biggest movie of the year, is a prime example.
However you want to label them, Hollywood sees their worth – so expect more.
But let’s look back on why we had a sense of deja vu watching these four movies.
“The Force Awakens”
Global box office: $766 million (and counting)
After years of going through prequels in which George Lucas attempted to show us the rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker aka Darth Vader, director J.J. Abrams and writer Lawrence Kasdan decided to delve back into the original trilogy to make “Episode VII: The Force Awakens.” And I don’t just mean bringing back familiar faces like Han, Leia, Chewbacca, and Luke. The structure of “The Force Awakens” feels like you’re watching a hyped-up version of “Episode IV: A New Hope.” Everything from an attack on a giant globe-like space station to the lead character being a loner from a desert planet who has a special talent – it’s designed to take us back to our first encounter with this universe.
- Universal Pictures/”Jurassic World”
Global box office: $1.7 billion
Director Colin Trevorrow and writing partner Derek Connolly also geeked out on the past, with a blessing from Steven Spielberg himself, to bring the “Jurassic” franchise back. In “Jurassic World,” the legacy of Jurassic Park is seeped in the storyline. A technician can’t help but show off his vintage t-shirt with the park’s old logo. And when kids Gray and Zach find themselves stuck inside the park with the dinosaurs, it’s coming across the welcome center from the old park that gets them out of trouble. Not to mention that the hit of “Jurassic Park,” the T-Rex, shows up in grand fashion at the end of the movie.
- Warner Bros.
Global box office: $97.6 million
To bring life back into the “Rocky” franchise, director Ryan Coogler moved the focus to the Creed family, specifically an illegitimate son named Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) who dreams to one day be as great as his father, Apollo. Like “The Force Awakens” does with “A New Hope,” Coogler uses a similar arc from the original “Rocky” to tell the story. An underdog – this time, though, with a pedigree surname – who trains his butt off, yes, even sprinting down the streets of Philly, as he prepares for a fight that will make or break his career. And then there’s Rocky Balboa being Adonis’ manager, an obvious homage to Mickey managing Rocky in the earlier films.
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
- Warner Bros.
Global box office: $375 million
You could make the argument that for his first “Mad Max” movie in 30 years, director George Miller used a lot from “Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior,” which to many die-hard fans of the series remains the gold standard. In both, the movie opens with Max’s hot rod being demolished by post-apocalyptic scavengers of the wasteland. In both movies, a large rig is what the villain is chasing Max for. And, as with “The Road Warrior,” in a crucial moment in the film, the rig Max is in turns around and goes straight-on toward the villain chasing him. But “Fury Road” has Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), a character who stands alone as Miller’s greatest creation from his “Mad Max” franchise.
There were others…
- Melinda Sue Gordon/Paramount Pictures
It should be noted that the “remakequel” was also used this year in movies like “Terminator Genisys” and “Vacation.” But neither was a sensation at the box office, as the fan base didn’t feel the needed nostalgia.