Thursday, September 16, 2010

Better Luck Next Decade

I have determined that modern movie and video game sequels have lost sight of what made their predecessors popular. I point fingers in two directions: first, at the time gap between sequels, and second, at the prevailing philosophy that modern trends are more important than fidelity to the source material.

Look at what happened to James Bond, Indiana Jones, Star Trek, Stargate, Mega Man, Metroid, Monkey Island, X-Men, Spider-Man, The Mummy, Ocean's Eleven, Alien and Predator. Compare any pre-2004/2005 installment in any one of those series to anything made since then, and you'll notice a moderate to severe change in the feel and/or quality of the series.

For Indiana Jones and The Mummy, there had been a significant amount of time since the last sequel, and there's a distinct disconnect in the way the films feel. James Bond and Star Trek got the ever-popular Franchise Reboot, throwing out all previous continuity. The third X-Men and Spider-Man movies were incongruously awful installments, say fans and critics alike.

Tales of Monkey Island took some unprecedentedly dark turns in its final episodes, 'cuz the masses love serious and gritty stories. Metroid was swept away by the plot-centric mentality of modern gaming, proving that either Samus was better off as a silent protagonist, or one of Nintendo's most iconic franchises needs better writers. And I really don't need to talk about Mega Man any more than I already have.

Some people love where these franchises have gone. Some would argue that these breaks from tradition and precedent have kept the franchises alive. Some people don't really care. I will admit, there are modern installments of these franchises that have been fun, entertaining, and creative enough to satisfy...but there's always something that wasn't there just a few years ago.

Call me implacable, but everything I've named has gone downhill, seriously annoyed me, and/or started meandering/flying off at warp speed in a direction I'm progressively less interested in following.

Is there no such thing as timeless appeal anymore? Must we reinvent ourselves with each sequel? Must we ignore or rewrite continuity whenever it's more convenient to do so? Is it so difficult to go where the franchise leads us rather than where the technology and audience expect us to be?

Call me an escapist, but I prefer to look at my favorite movies and games as their own worlds, independent of the directors and platforms that shape them. The fewer vestiges of reality I can detect, the more I usually enjoy them.

Modern sequels have too much of the real world imprinted on them for my taste--I can tell that Mega Man 9 was trying so hard to be the universally popular Mega Man 2, and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull really wanted to use computer graphics more than the film actually called for. I can't enjoy myself as much when the creators' intentions bleed through the screen like that.

Clearly, this era is not ideal for my style of entertainment. Maybe I'll have better luck next decade.


A Philosophical Nerd said...

I totally know where you're coming from. Most video games and movies just aren't interested in being fun anymore. They're more interested in being gritty and edgy. Thankfully we'll have Super Mario Bros. to keep things fun and lighthearted.

I thought the new Star Trek movie was a good movie on its own. But I was extremely disappointed in the direction the franchise was going. Star Trek jumped on the reboot bandwagon. Not only that, but it was another prequel show. Star Trek has always been about going boldly forward, not about going back or throwing everything away.

And as for Mega Man, I was supremely excited that for two games Inafune decided to return to Mega Man's roots as an 8-bit game. I'm not sure yet how I feel about the new Mega Man Universe. Personally, I wish they'd let us play as robot master (a la Mega Man Powered Up) rather than other Capcom characters who have no business being in a Mega Man game in the first place.

Sometimes I do wish a franchise would stick to what works rather than changing it so much it's barely recognizable.

Luigifan33 said...

They actually kinda do let you play as other RMs. Just with Megaman's head slapped on. Or a met if you feel so inclined.

A Philosophical Nerd said...

It's not the same. The vast majority of robot master weapons you acquire look nothing like the main weapons of the robot masters. Plus, robot masters often have multiple attacks which you don't acquire as Mega Man. Plus, the robot masters would each behave differently than Mega Man (such as Cut Man being able to wall jump and Fire Man melting any ice platforms he stands on in Mega Man Powered Up).

Michael Gray said...

I think a problem is that the idea of remakes/reboots/sequels is sort of self-contradictory. On one hand, it's saying, "We want to keep X around, because it's good". On the other hand, it's saying, "We don't think X is good enough to stand on its own anymore, so we're going to make it BETTER."

There's just an inherent tension between staying true to the original and changing the original. Kind of? Maybe? I dunno.