Sequels are popular. I know I shouldn’t have to spell that out for anyone, but really, they are. The top 7 movies of 2011 were sequels. The ninth film on that list was too, if that helps prove my point at all.
What also isn’t new are sequels [or prequels] to feature different actors for the same characters. The earliest example that comes to mind is Christopher Showerman, who played the titular character in George of the Jungle 2, and who also broke the 4th wall by telling the audience that the studio is “too cheap to pay Brendan Fraser.” Another example is a franchise that nobody cares about, with The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption featuring the third actor thus far to portray Mathayus.
A more up-to-date illustration is Rachel Dawes in Christopher Nolan’s first two
Batman films. Katie Holmes was initially to reprise the role in The Dark Knight, but turned it down to be in Mad Money. Maggie Gyllenhaal took over, a choice that did not affect audiences’ enjoyment of the film [it’s currently the tenth highest-grossing film of all time].
In even more recent news, E! Online reported this morning that a Bridesmaids sequel could happen with or without star and writer Kristin Wiig. Co-star Melissa McCarthy is quoted as saying “I think it’s a terrible idea,” coupled with the assertions that she wouldn’t want to be a part of a film without Wiig.
A sequel that has actually been given the green light is The Bourne Legacy, which will not be featuring Matt Damon as Jason Bourne. The film will instead star Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross, with the narrative acting as a “sidequel” to the original trilogy. The current director has not completely ruled out the chance of Damon returning for future films.
What do these choices say about the audiences viewing these films? Is a franchise, a movie title, all that’s needed to draw us back to theatres? If sequels are going to continue to dominate the big screen then we will watch them, but what are our standards for them? How important is continuity to the average media consumer?
TV Tropes has a term “Chuck Cunningham Syndrome,” which refers to characters who simply disappear into thin air. The following trailer for G.I. Joe: Retaliation appears to have all of the cast from the original film die, which I think is definitely one way to justify an entirely new cast.