Sick of Reboots, Sequels, and Extended Universes? Blame Classic Literature

We find ourselves in the midst of another summer and with it, an endless brigade of sequels, prequels, reboots, requels, and the ongoing march of extended cinematic universes. A new Mummy. A fifth Transformers. A new Baywatch. A third installment in the third imagining of Planet of the Apes. A third actor playing Spider-Man in the last decade. A sequel to the Alien prequel. Another damn King Arthur. Another three Marvel shows on Netflix springing up for every new Marvel film, perpetual menaces likes heads of the hydra.

cruise-mummy
The Mummy we deserve

And while the tastemakers and critics bemoan this ongoing onslaught of tired ideas and bloated franchises, it’s worth pausing and reminding ourselves that there is nothing novel about this. This lack of new ideas is not new. Sure, 2017 is bloated with stories and characters lacking originality, but so was 2016, 2007, 1997, and 1597.

If you’re really looking for someone to blame for these endless reboots and expanding cinematic universes, it’s not Michael Bay or Vin Diesel. Blame the real culprits: William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, and all the other writers throughout history who did the same thing we’re seeing today on the screen.

So, dear reader, it’s time for you to sit back, hold your rebuttal until the end, and consider the following list of explaining how the current “lack of originality” is neither original, nor a problem.

Sequels Upon Sequels Upon Prequels Upon Sequels are Nothing New

Surely you’re familiar with The Three Musketeers, the swashbuckling adventure novel by Alexandre Dumas. Perhaps you’ve read it, or perhaps you’re seen one of its screen adaptations, of which there have been many.

3-musketeers
But where’s d’Artagnan?

But here are a few things you might not know about The Three Musketeers and Dumas:

  • The Three Musketeers has two sequels by Dumas, Twenty Years After and The Vicomte de Bragelonne.
  • The Vicomte de Bragelonne is often published as three different books instead of one as it’s extremely long, meaning that The Three Musketeers effectively has four sequels.
  • The third part of the third Three Musketeers book is the famous The Man in the Iron Mask.
  • All of these novels were originally published in serialized form, being released in installments over time. The Three Musketeers took four months to be released, much like a television show is released today.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo, another novel by Dumas, was originally serialized in 18 parts and ran for over two years.
  • When each of these novels were released in English, they were also serialized, often seeing competing versions and abridgments being released at the same time.

Of course, Dumas invented neither the sequel nor the serial. The following authors also followed their novels with sequels that followed the same characters and cashed in on the popularity:

  • Lewis Carroll, after releasing Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865, followed it up with a sequel, Through the Looking Glass, six years later. He then wrote The Hunting of the Snark, an epic poem published in 1876 that features a few characters and creatures from Through the Looking Glass.
  • Leo Tolstoy might be famous of War and Peace and Anna Karenina, but his first published novel was Childhood, which launched him into popularity. He wrote two sequels to the novel, called Boyhood and Youth.
  • The famous novel we know today as Little Women by Louisa May Alcott was initially two different novels, called Little Women (1868) and its sequel, Good Wives (1869). Not stopping there, Alcott published another two sequels, Little Men and Jo’s Boys.
  • Sherlock Holmes might be one of the most ubiquitously adapted characters today, which certainly wouldn’t be the case if Sir Arthur Conan Doyle hadn’t cranked out sixty sequels to his 1887 success A Study in Scarlet.
  • Literary sequels to great works continued into the 20th century, including Joseph Heller writing a sequel to Catch-22 and Johns Cheever and Updike writing a few sequels of their own.

And of course, there is Mark Twain. But we are saving him for later in this list. Continue reading “Sick of Reboots, Sequels, and Extended Universes? Blame Classic Literature”

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How Has This Not Happened Yet: Natalie Portman in a Sequel to The Professional

This is another guest post, the second in the new guest author series. This post is authored by Russ Ball, a haiku writer and film fan.

Okay, film fans. There’s something we need to talk about: the universe owes us a debt.

There are things that are simply supposed to happen.  When you place bread in a toaster, you expect toast.  When Natalie Portman establishes herself as an A-list celebrity and Hollywood finally starts making movies with strong female protagonists, we are supposed to get a sequel to Leon: the Professional.

Great poster, great film,
Great poster, great film,

I know you’ve seen The Professional (as it was released in the United States). But allow me to refresh your memory anyway:

Natalie Portman made her feature film debut in 1994 as “Mathilda” a 12 year old girl who befriends a lonely hitman (Jean Reno, aka the really cool French guy from Mission Impossible and Ronin) after the death of her family at the hands of a corrupt DEA agent (Gary Oldman, aka Commissioner Sirius Gordon-Black).  The movie saw a few different releases, as some of the vibes between Portman and Reno were deemed too ‘Lolita-ish’ for middle America.  The film is fantastic.  Go watch it (again).  Right now.  I’ll wait.  Here’s the trailer:

The rest of this depends on you knowing the movie, so seriously go watch it.

Back?  Yeah, it’s great, right?  So here’s what needs to happen.  

Natalie Portman returns in Mathilda: The Professional II.

Hear me out.

Mathilda, having been orphaned first by her sleazy parents and again by her adopted killer father figure grows up to be an assassin too. Because obviously.  Consider that part montage-d, probably during the opening credits.

It's not like the idea of her playing an assassin is a stretch.
It’s not like the idea of her playing an assassin is a stretch.

Now, she’s blown through Leon’s cash, having traveled the world as a mercenary of sorts.  Her traumatic childhood made it difficult to settle down.  She’s beholden (as a #1 badass hitwoman) to the same mob that controlled Leon – a mob now headed by Mafioso Tony’s son – let’s call him James. He’s gonna inevitably be played by Gioavanni Ribsi, so actually let’s just call him Ribsi.

This guy is just really good at playing bad guys. But other people who could play this role include Casey Affleck, David Schwimmer, etc.
This guy is just really good at playing bad guys. But other people who could play this role include Casey Affleck, David Schwimmer, etc.

At a mob gathering where she’s been hired to provide security, she meets Tommy, the 8 year old autistic nephew of Bad Guy Ribsi.  Tommy has an uncanny ability to recite any conversation he’s ever heard.

Do you see where this is going yet?

  • Mafia party gets raided by DEA (including head DEA Agent Willem Defeo)
  • Firefight breaks out – Tommy’s father & mother get killed.
  • Mathilda saves little Tommy,

Turns out he’s heard some interesting conversations about Uncle Giovanni Ribsi, regarding some backroom deals with a corrupt DEA agent.

Ribsi, in an effort to get into politics, has staged the raid to cut ties with anyone who could smudge his reputation (like Matilda). He’s made a deal with the DEA to lock down the drug trade, giving Agent McCorruption (Willem Defoe, really) some of the action.

Tommy doesn’t understand what he has heard, but can recite it all.  

Also, he’s a hacker. 

Mathilda and Tommy find themselves on the run from the bad guys.

Mathilda, remembering all too well her times with Leon, decides to help Tommy avenge his parents.

There would be a scene identical to this.
There would be a scene identical to this.

HOW HAS THIS NOT BEEN A MOVIE YET??!?

Things to consider:

  • Since Jurassic Park, everyone has enjoyed hacker kids saving the day. Maybe an Edward Snowden cameo?
  • Natalie Portman.
  • Many gun battles
  • Visiting Leon’s grave.  Sad part. 
  • Also, if you don’t recall, she planted a tree at the end of the original film. They go visit that tree too. Second sad part. (Edit: it’s actually a houseplant. Okay, so maybe the houseplant is still in the ground and they visit it?)
  • Also, Tommy’s eight – and eight year olds are funny.
  • Lots of ‘lets uncover the awesome stash of guns’ bits, where the eight year old pulls out a heavy one and almost drops it.  You’ll laugh.
  • Could be an on-the-run exotic travel movie.  Let’s say Capri because I want to go there.
  • Maybe when they go to visit the tree (or houseplant) from the first movie, that’s where one of the shoot-outs is.
  • So many feels – revenge, loss, bonding, Natalie Portman.
  • This simply must happen.  Natalie, this part was the part you were born for.  
  • It ends with Natalie dying, and in a few decades we can get the third installment in the trilogy.

Universe, we’re waiting.