If some is good, more is better.
These are the words I used to live by. I was the kid who heard about sequels to The Matrix and didn’t see any way that they could fail. I was the guy who loved the White Stripes but complained constantly that it would be so much better if Jack White would make music with a full band. I was the guy who thought Joey had potential.
Wait, why are all of my references from the early 2000s?
Oh, that’s right. It’s because it’s been at least a decade since I’ve viewed any movie sequel, follow-up album, or new TV season with anything but harsh skepticism. My once tireless optimism crumbled as it became clear that those The Matrix sequels were an incomprehensible mess, that Jack White’s ego was better off in a red-and-white box, and that Friends was way more than the sum of its parts.
Not that it stops there, of course. There’s LOST after season two, The Office after Steve Carell left, season two of True Detective, every single Weezer album released this century, and the crime against humor that was Anchorman 2. We all thought we wanted more, but we really, really did not.
It’s with echoes of those misfires ringing in my ears that I look toward the release of a couple of very high profile movies in the coming weeks: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (which, if you’re not aware, is set in the Harry Potter universe and was co-written by J.K. Rowling) and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
To date, the combined 15 Harry Potter and Star Wars films have earned about 20 gazillion dollars at the box office, so it’s not really a question of “Why are these movies being made?” That one I know the answer to:
The question is really “Do we even want these movies to be made?” And by “we,” I don’t mean the public at-large, I mean these films’ target audience: die-hard Star Wars and Potter nerds. (People like me, is what I’m saying.)
Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m looking forward to the movies because I just can’t help it. It’s like the nervous anticipation I feel before a big UK basketball game; if the game goes well, that tension gets released as a kind of euphoria, but if things go poorly, the tension morphs into a depressive cloud that hangs around, sometimes for a long while.
‘Cause, see, when we’re into something, it’s easy to think, “This thing I like is good, so I want more of it. More characters, a broader scope, more stories, more explanations for the most mysterious parts, more songs…”
But that’s the kind of thinking that gave us Jar Jar Binks. We thought that we wanted more, that plunging us back into the Star Wars universe could only yield happiness. We were very wrong about that. I mean, does anyone think that Darth Vader’s back story in episodes I – III is better than not knowing at all?
But that’s the thing about “more.” It always seems like a fine idea, until the moment when it’s painfully clear that it was actually a terrible idea.
With that in mind, I’m adopting a firmly hope-for-the-best, expect-the-worst outlook toward both Fantastic Beasts and Rogue One. It’s the kind of cynical self-preservation that, in this age of endless sequels, prequels, reboots, and nostalgia-mining, might be the only thing standing between me and total despair. I’ve simply been duped too many times not to proceed with caution.
It’s a sad state of affairs, I know. But on the plus side, my hesitancy to embrace additions to existing fictional universes has made original works all the more exciting for the unexpected blast of storytelling magic they provide. It’s given me a probably unhealthy level of anticipation for Amy Adams’ new movie Arrival, which is drawing raves, and it made a show like Stranger Things all the more enjoyable.
What’s that? They’re already hard at work on season two of Stranger Things, you say?
Do any of you happen to have the Duffer Brothers’ address? Do you know if they’ve seen The Matrix: Reloaded? I’d better send them a copy just to be safe.