Men in Black International

Remake or Sequel: Which is Better to Revive an Old Series?

Anyone who has been paying attention to Hollywood over the past few years will have noticed the slew of revivals of old movie franchises. Tinseltown has two main strategies for this, sequels and remakes, with opinion being divided as to which of these produces better and more creative films. Indeed, arguably both strategies have produced mixed results, as we shall see.

The Mummy

Nobody considers the 1990s Mummy movies to be masterpieces, but they were fun films that made Brendan Fraser a star and earned big bucks at the box office. Thus the idea of remaking the franchise for a new generation did not seem like a bad one, but the 2017 reboot of The Mummy was little short of a disaster. It was given a hard time by critics and also only earned $410 million box office – which given the production budget was $345 million – made it a bomb. Tom Cruise took over the lead role but the film, which was intended to be the start of a new Dark Universe franchise, bore little relation to the earlier films and had none of their sense of fun. Not only did it fail to bring The Mummy franchise back it also killed the new franchise.

Men in Black: International

Men in Black International

This fourth film in the Men in Black franchise is both a sequel to the earlier films and also a spin-off, in that original stars Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones have been replaced by Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson. The first three films, which were made between 1997 and 2012, were big hits – but Men in Black: International sank at the box office and received poor reviews. This suggests that Smith and Lee Jones were much more a part of the franchise’s popularity than the studio realised and that future sequels without them will struggle. The flop was also a blow to Hemsworth as he looks for a franchise outside of the MCU to build his future career on.

Ocean’s 8

Ocean's 8

The decision to revive the Ocean’s franchise from the late 90s/early 00s with a new all-female gang of con artists was part of a series of gender swapped sequels/remakes of recent years. This was a sequel, with Sandra Bullock’s character Debbie Ocean supposedly the sister of Danny Ocean – providing one of several connections to the earlier films. It proved to be a hit around the world, grossing $297.7 million, and earned reasonably positive reviews from the critics. However there is as yet no news of a further instalment, so it may not have done well enough to revive the franchise, which is surely the true test of how successful a sequel is.

It is difficult to give a definite answer about whether sequels or remakes are the best way to revive a franchise, but a sequel that respects the original films and adds something new is the likeliest way to please both old and new audiences.