On Remakes, Retcons, Marvel Fatigue, and More

Michael Myers.

I have a simple take about remakes, prequels, sequels, spinoffs, reboots, reimaginings, retconning, re-whatever-you-want-to-call-it: What’s the problem?! If you like some sort of intellectual property, as it were, say 1977’s Star Wars, why does it bother if there is a number of different Star Wars-inspired television shows streaming on Disney+ or more films, like the most recent trilogy, or standalone films, such as Rogue One or Solo? None of those television shows or films, even if they are awful — and I’m not suggesting they are — take anything away from the 1977 film (or the original trilogy, however far you want to stretch it). All movies and television shows are “standalones” in that sense, even if they exist within a sprawling franchise or “multiverse.” Even if a scriptwriter down the line tries to finagle the mythos established in the first film (or first television series; whatever the example), so what?! The movie, or show, has been made! They can’t literally go back in time and change the mythos!

Let us consider a notable retconning example like 1978’s Halloween, where the original timeline spinning out of it has been retconned at least three times; first with 1998’s Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, then its 2002 follow-up Halloween: Resurrection (debatable, I suppose, if that is a retcon or a twist), and finally, with the most recent trilogy, starting with 2018’s Halloween. Heck, you could argue the Rob Zombie 2007 remake, Halloween, is a retconning in a way. Nonetheless, none of those films or newly divergent timelines take away from the 1978 film! None of that timeline tomfoolery takes away from the 1978 film! Whether later films imagine Laurie Strode to be Michael Myers’ sister (which wasn’t the case in the original film), or the sixth film imagines Michael Myers to be at the behest of a cult group, Thorn, takes nothing away from the 1978 film.

Horror is where I think concern and complaining over remakes and retconning and sequels comes into play most often. We saw it most recently with Hulu’s Prey and it is sure to manifest in earnest as we get closer to Halloween Ends next month. My take, or argument, isn’t in defense of the films that have come after — although I would defend many of them, but that is a different discussion! — but rather that I don’t understand the exasperation over them. If you only like the original film and don’t wish to see any sequels or don’t believe any sequels are living up to the original, that’s fine! If others do think that, or like a different take or pathway, that’s fine, too! Maybe the argument is one of misallocation? Those who wish Hollywood would focus its creative energies on new properties instead of trying to “milk” existing IP. I have three responses to that argument:

  • Hollywood does churn out original films and television series all the time, even within the horror genre!
  • Hollywood is responding to consumer demand: Clearly, a great number of people do want to see of a particular IP!
  • Hollywood is a business, after all, so I always find it peculiar when people say they go for the “cash-grabs” by churning out another Halloween film or another Transformers film. Duh?! Of course they’re trying to make money out of an established money-maker!

A somewhat similar issue is that of so-called superhero fatigue. I’ve seen people talking about this for at least 10 years. That the fanbase and the general audience-going public are going to tire of the superhero genre and such fatigue will weaken the box office returns. That argument has especially been applied to Marvel post-Endgame in 2019. But I also find such an argument weird because the superhero genre is a genre, a subgenre, sure, but a genre all the same. You wouldn’t suggest people are going to get comedy fatigue, horror fatigue, romance fatigue, etc. I don’t even think it is fair to suggest people are going to get Marvel-specific fatigue, as long as Marvel keeps doing interesting things and building new worlds we want to be in. I do grant that it’s going to be challenging after the marvelous feat they accomplished over nearly a decade leading up to Endgame, but I think they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt, surely.

I go back to what I’ve talked about before: Don’t yuck someone’s yum.

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