This Summer, Sequel Films Are the Rule

Michele Norris talks with NPR film critic Bob Mondello about the upcoming summer movie releases. A surprisingly high number of them are sequels — which are safer bets for Hollywood studios to make than original films.

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

We're joined in the studio now by our resident film critic, Bob Mondello. He joins us regularly to talk about his observations on the film industry. Bob, glad you're with us.

BOB MONDELLO: It's good to be here.

NORRIS: Now, Mexico, as we just heard, is having a big year in film. Hollywood is looking forward to what it hopes will be a summer full of blockbuster films. Again, they hope that will happen. Why are they so optimistic?

MONDELLO: Everything is sequels. It's amazing how many sequels and remakes there are. Variety looked at the 46 pictures that are being released widely, and of those 46, 17 of them are either sequels or remakes. And that number goes up to 25, if you include things like "The Simpsons Movie," which is essentially recycling another familiar concept, so that more than half of the widely released pictures this summer are going to be things that we feel like we've already seen.

NORRIS: Now, this is going to be the summer of the sequels. But actually, the story of the sequel has been around for a while. So what's different this year?

MONDELLO: We've not only seen these pictures. We've seen the sequels to these pictures and they're still coming out. The summer is starting with three threes - "Spiderman 3," "Shrek III" and "Pirates of the Caribbean 3."

NORRIS: The letter three, the numeral three -

MONDELLO: Exactly.

NORRIS: - they could figure out a way to do this -

MONDELLO: There's "Ocean's Thirteen," which actually "Ocean's Eleven" three. "The Bourne Ultimatum," which is sort of the "The Bourne Identity" three, "Rush Hour 3." There's "Fantastic Four 2." It gets kind of complicated as you go on.

NORRIS: So is there a creativity deficit in Hollywood? Why are they doing the same thing over and over again?

MONDELLO: Well, because it worked and because it made a lot of money. And because if you do the same thing again, you are kind of indemnifying yourself against somebody saying, boy, that was a dumb move.

NORRIS: Now, "Pirates of the Caribbean" - they actually, as I understand, filmed two of these movies at once. It's sort of like our moms when they used to fix the casserole and serve one on Sunday and put the other one in the fridge.

MONDELLO: That's kind of true. This is something that they've been doing lately, and not too lately, either. It goes back to the "Back to the Future" movies, where they did the second and third one together because they were saving money. If they did them at same time, then they didn't have to pay everybody to come back and worry about whether somebody would have aged in the interim and that kind of thing.

NORRIS: Makes sense for the studios. I'm wondering about the artists, though, the directors, the actors - all those who work on a film - to keep doing the same thing over and over and over again, that would be like another film, "Groundhog Day."

MONDELLO: Well, I guess they feel as if they're doing something different. I mean, if you actually if you look at this summer's sequels, there's a real turn to the dark side on a number of them. And that's kind of interesting. "Spiderman" is going to be considerably darker this time. He's talking about revenge.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "SPIDERMAN 3")

ROSEMARY HARRIS: (As Aunt May Parker) Revenge like a poison. It can take us over. Before you know it, it can turn you into something ugly.

NORRIS: So Bob, there's a question. Not just why Hollywood keeps making the same movies, because I guess it makes sense from a business standpoint. But why do audiences keep going to the same movie?

MONDELLO: I think there's a reason that we have favorite dishes. They're comfort food. They make us feel good. You go back to them because you know how they make you feel and I think that's probably true of these movies.

NORRIS: Thank you, Bob.

MONDELLO: It was my pleasure.

NORRIS: NPR's film critic Bob Mondello.

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