Oh my God, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was the best film of the year!
Oh, sorry…I still got that film on the brain from when I watched it with my girlfriend over the weekend.
But while I’m mentioning that movie, it might also be a good time to mention the one thing I disliked about it. It’s not a major problem. It’s something a lot of movies these days suffer from and it’s a flaw that sometimes comes off lame, but at its best comes off tolerable: nostalgic exploitation.
As you know, Mary Poppins Returns is coming out this month, and if there is one movie that I would have never expected to want a sequel to, it’s Mary Poppins. The reason? The 1964 musical is impossible to top. According to the film’s ranking on my list of favorite films of all time, only 15 movies have ever been able to top it. 15! So you understand how much I love it!
Of course, the sequel has a lot of things going for it. I haven’t seen it yet but it’s getting a fair amount of positive buzz. Plus, the original Mary Poppins stories by P.L. Travers were actually told in separate installments so it’s not like a sequel is exactly blasphemous. Apparently sequels are canon to the Mary Poppins mythos.
Still, I think about the 1964 film all the time and it will be tough not to compare it to Mary Poppins Returns.
And Disney isn’t helping because whenever they remake their animated films into live action or make modern sequels to classic films, they constantly pay homage to the original as if these knowing nods are meant to entertain Disney fans.
Even the recent Star Wars films suffer a bit from the nostalgia exploitation effect that permeates everything, especially right now in the reboot boom that’s taking place.
We’re in a particularly unadventurous time in the history of television. The golden age seems to be over. All the best shows of that era have either ended or are on their way out, including Louie, Key & Peele, Veep, Girls, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Broad City, Inside Amy Schumer, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, House of Cards and Orange is the New Black.
Instead it seems reboots have taken their place. The most popular show of 2018 was the Roseanne reboot! Not that Roseanne wasn’t a great show, but it’s a far cry from 2017’s most popular show Game of Thrones.
I’m the kind of person who champions originality over sequels and reboots, even though it seems like both studio executives and audiences seem to shell it out for something familiar more often, and I always resist it because it’s the most blatant showing of commercialism over creativity I’ve ever seen. When many different shows and films are being rebooted at the same time, it’s like the equivalent of an attack on art in my mind, which is why I am so opposed to it.
TV reboots that are currently on the air right now include Hawaii Five-O, MacGyver, Magnum P.I., Murphy Brown, Will & Grace, American Idol, Dynasty, Charmed, Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Fuller House, Queer Eye, Lost in Space, One Day at a Time, Mystery Science Theater 3000 and DuckTales.
TV reboots that are in development include Bewitched, The Munsters, Frasier, Miami Vice, 24, Veronica Mars, The Twilight Zone, The Jetsons, Animaniacs, Rugrats, Roswell, ALF, The L Word and Daria.
Some of these I welcome (The Twilight Zone, Animaniacs), but some of these are overkill (24, Rugrats).
The film industry is known for reboots too but they are not as guilty as television. However, most of the highest-grossing movies at the box office these days are either sequels, spin-offs, or remakes. The highest grossing movie of 2018 that was completely original and not based on any pre-existing IP was A Quiet Place, ranked 12th place, followed by The Meg in 19th place.
Black Panther was the highest-grossing film of 2018 in the U.S. with over $700 million at the box office. Followed by:
2. Avengers: Infinity War
3. Incredibles 2
4. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
5. Deadpool 2
6. The Grinch
7. Mission: Impossible – Fallout
8. Ant-Man and the Wasp
9. Solo: A Star Wars Story
I would be remiss not to mention that I love most of these films and even paid money to see some of them. Many of my favorite films of all time are sequels, but sequels are not what I have problems with. I don’t mind movies like Incredibles 2 or Black Panther because they feel like continuations of the movies that preceeded them.
Mary Poppins Returns and Solo: A Star Wars Story are a different story because even though they are technically a sequel and a prequel, they are actually nostalgia miners. I generally dislike these because they sometimes come off afraid to find their own identity and instead stir the familiarity pot to hypnotize fans into loving movies for what they remind you of rather than their own artistic merits.
Disney’s live-action reboots are also particular culprits. Beauty and the Beast was similar to the animated version from 1991, which was why I liked it. Linda Woolverton’s screenplay was still very evident, and if the live-action version had existed and the animated version had not, more people probably would have liked the live-action version (although that would be a shame since the singing in the animated version was way better). But still I can’t help feeling like a bit of a sucker for liking that movie because it was largely unoriginal (although not a total sucker – I didn’t pay a dime for it because I borrowed it from the library).
As for Mary Poppins Returns, I feel better seeing that in the theater because unlike Beauty and the Beast, it is an actual sequel. Plus I want to support it because it features hand-drawn animation, a technique which I desperately want Disney to return to, and nothing with Lin-Manuel Miranda in it is a waste of time. My only hope is that they focus on making a good movie and not just a movie that will appeal to fans of the first Mary Poppins, because chances are, the more I am reminded of the old one, the more likely I will dislike the new one.