“As this generation of baby boomers grew older, they still clung to the infantilism of their youth.” Melanie Phillips, British journalist and columnist.
Cinema was pretty rotten this year. It was riddled with the dead franchises of yesteryear, somehow revived for audiences desperate to hold on to stuff of their formative years. It’s such a weird phenomena that no-one seems perturbed by its presence, perhaps signalling a much bigger issue in which adults look for constant comfort by revisiting resurrected material linking to their childhoods. 2015 was a year where dormant film titles were dusted off and pushed back into cinemas so that moviegoers could engage in regressive cultural consumption, eager to settle for things they’re familiar with over blockbusters that were new concepts.
The madness of this situation tells more about how wide the berth of movie reminiscence sits. You’ve effectively got four generations of audiences flocking to see the reanimated cadavers of dead movie franchises, most often grown adults needing to suck on the proverbial teat of movie nostalgia.
Below are the guilty culprits:
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
You can’t get a more pro-establishment and conservative film brand than the Star Wars franchise (Ronald Reagan loved it). This has always been a showcase for childish excess, an overlong advert to sell toys and memorabilia, propped up by a series of movies taken so seriously by audiences that one must question their saneness.
The Force Awakens was fan fiction of the highest order. Coming a decade after the last George Lucas helmed prequel, this film jettisoned the man with the plan (as in originator Lucas) and brought in a new collection of personnel who were more fanboys than creative . Director-writer J.J. Abrams essentially remade 1977’s A New Hope with enough recombined elements to satisfy indiscriminate tastes. This is what currently qualifies as material destined to be the biggest hit of all time.
Released 14 years after the lacklustre performance of Jurassic Park III, Universal Pictures commissioned a new team of filmmakers to revive the franchise’s fortunes by producing the fan fiction blockbuster of summer 2015.
The public went bananas for it; with audiences eager to bask in the nostalgia of watching computerised dinosaurs do whatever they did back in 1993 all over again, only this time somehow looking more like soulless software than before. Jurassic World was replete with sequences and set pieces that shamelessly ripped-off sequences and set pieces of its forbearer. There was nothing new to see here, yet we still went in our droves and treated it as something worthwhile. It wasn’t.
When the director of the original Terminator appeared in a promotional campaign extolling the virtues of a new fan fiction instalment of his original baby, we knew something was rotten in Hollywood.
James Cameron had nothing to do with this fifth version of the Terminator franchise other than not say anything bad about it. Lucky for Jim that we the audience defamed Terminator on his behalf because the film sucks. Terminator was, not unlike previous instalments, a picture that constantly riffs on recognisable moments seen in the 1984 original, tipping its hat and expecting us to applaud it. It watered down the violence and upped the nostalgia factor, all in the service of a movie that was made because the studio has a limited window of opportunity to exploit the property before the rights revert back to Lucky Jim. It was a characterless product that has pretty much killed off the franchise, hopefully.
Hollywood really misjudged the public’s appetite for all things nostalgia when reviving this 1980s comedy franchise. Audiences steered clear of this woefully unfunny revival of the Griswold family’s return to vacationing in World.
This fan fiction flop overestimated America’s love for a franchise that has never been considered−−by most grey matter-blessed citizens, at least−−as anything other than overproduced toilet humour. Vacation peddled forth a series of skits that are designed to service an absent sense of nostalgia for the original National Lampoon’s Vacation, even wheeling out geriatric versions of Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo as senior figureheads of the Griswold clan, while also throwing in enough variations of Lindsey Buckingham’s Holiday Road signature track. In a summer littered with crap that homages its predecessors’, bringing back this so-called ‘classic’ proved to be an exercise in serious brand unawareness.
American culture has this weird veneration for Rocky Balboa that proves massively dumbfounding to those of us from the outside looking in. Eddie Murphy summed it best in Raw when he ridiculed blue-collar American society for its unbridled passion for all things Balboa, often at the annoyance of everyone else.
Creed is the oddest Hollywood fan fiction piece of 2015, only inasmuch as how seriously Americans seem to take it. This movie focuses on the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed called Adonis (Creed?), who dons his late father’s iconic pugilist pantaloons (Apollo, as you know, died in Rocky IV), all the while floating like a butterfly and stinging like a mundane bee in a middling filmic affair that essentially repeats all the known story beats from Rocky.
Creed proved to be a sensational hit with American critics and audiences alike. Rife with montages and moments seen in previous franchise instalments, the word is that this mediocre melodrama is tipped for serious Academy Award attention (Sylvester Stallone is actually decent in it). I guess you’ve got to be a true American to really appreciate all of its conservative nationalistic greatness because otherwise this plays like a pointless TV special.