OPINION: The Curse of Doing Too Well: How Hollywood’s Obsession with the Past Undermines Original Storytelling

On July 14, the contract ending between the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) marked the start of the SAG strike. An additional hit to Hollywood, the SAG joined the Writers Guild of America (WAG) in their fight against unfair wages and unprotected work in regard to streaming services and A.I. usage. Hollywood is hurting, and this could be seen even before the recent WAG and SAG strikes started. 

It is easy for most individuals to become attached to a plot, character or setting from a show or film. However, the trouble this emotional craving leads to has created a new age of cinema and media: the obsession of nostalgia.

One prominent and continuing example of this is Disney’s live-action adaptations. Currently, 21 films have been adapted to live-action, and over 10 have been announced as upcoming films. These films are retellings of old Disney stories, with “The Jungle Book” being the first of this phase. Just three months ago, in a YouTube video published by Walt Disney Studios, Dwayne Johnson revealed that a live-action remake of “Moana” was in the works — a movie released just seven years ago. How can we experience the raw feeling of reminiscing and nostalgia if even a decade has yet to pass?  

Though Disney is easily identifiable as falling victim to, or perhaps beginning, this era of productions, they are not the only ones perpetuating it, as we are now seeing the revival of past popular shows. iCarly was a sitcom released on Nickelodeon from 2007 to 2012. In 2021, Paramount+ released a reboot of the show, with them currently airing the third season. Paramount+ also picked up another popular Nickelodeon show, Zoey 101, which aired from 2005 to 2008. The film reboot, Zoey 102, will be released late-July.

In addition to Disney remakes and show sequels, there has been a revival of franchises as well. On April 12, Max (formerly HBO Max) announced that a “Harry Potter” TV show is under production and a “Twilight” series is in the works. Similarly, Disney+ wrapped the first season of their “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” series in early February. Furthermore, another streaming service contributing to this list is Amazon Prime Video, with them releasing “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” back in 2021 (the series was greenlit for a second season). We have also seen other franchises extend, such as “Indiana Jones” (a new movie released this past month, with their previous one being in 2008), “James Bond” (a character started in 1962 now has seven actors known for this role), “Batman” (nine actors have portrayed the character), “Jurassic Park,” “Halloween,” “Home Alone,” “Alien,” “The Terminator,” “Star Wars” and the “Fast & Furious” films.

What I believe filmmakers are misunderstanding when it comes to these productions is, although all of the media that is being remade or extended was incredibly successful, that does not warrant more plot being added to it. Having a successful story should be good enough, but many see it as a way to earn more, which then turns viewers to seeing the franchise as a cash-grab, therefore lessening the emotional pull to the piece. It seems we have thrown out all interest in developing new stories and have instead decided to “play it safe” by further developing previously well-received media. However, the contrary occurs, and it tends to fall flat due to being outdated or unnecessary. 

Creating a work that performs well with an audience is a tough and tiring task, and more pressure is added thanks to the previous conditions and the recently proposed contract SAG and WGA members are striking against. With new series constantly being shut down after only one or two seasons on streaming services such as Netflix or Max, it is unsurprising that we are seeing the revival of past works and the writers going on strike.