Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Play It Again, Sam: Some Thoughts On Sequels, Prequels and Reboots

It's summer – time for reruns on TV and sequels on the big screen.

There is really nothing inherently wrong with revisiting or reworking a show or a concept, just as there is nothing inherently wrong with leftovers. If the original idea (or dish) was compelling enough the first time, it makes sense to want to revisit it.

When you go to see a stage production of “Hamlet,” you don't mind that it ends exactly the same way each and every time. Instead, you enjoy the nuanced choices made by different directors and actors that make each performance unique. When you hear a band play live, you want the music to sound different from, fresher than, the studio recording. Being familiar with the original, core work allows us to appreciate the artistic choices made by the "players."

Re-imagining and revisiting a work of art allows us to see it in a different light and appreciate it even more deeply. How much the poorer would our home entertainment centers be if Roddenberry had given up after the original Star Trek series was canceled, if Robert Altman's brilliant film M*A*S*H hadn't spun off into the equally compelling series, or if George Lucas had retired to a low-orbit floating space mansion after the success of the first Star Wars film?

While there are, without doubt, some truly regrettable sequels, prequels and reboots floating around out there in Netflixland, that doesn't mean that the idea itself is inherently flawed. As with the pre-historic storyteller spinning campfire tales for the tribe, it's not just the story, but how you tell it. 

Random Bonus Thoughts:

Speaking of re-interpreting themes...

Today's exercise: What is your favorite sequel, prequel or reboot?

Next: Either something about ghosts or the book “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

*I dare you to watch it and not fall in love with Ingrid Bergman. (Paul Henreid isn't too hard on the eyes, either.)

**Bruno Ganz! Nick Cave! Peter Falk, fer cryin' out loud! (Extra credit if you were ever pierced at Rings of Desire in New Orleans.)

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