Does Canon Still Count in Our Franchise-Obsessed Age?
Michael Myers is back, and he’s wielding more than a big knife this time around.
He’s using a huge eraser to wipe out his own cinematic history.
Our first look at “Halloween,” a follow-up 40 years in the making, suggests most of the sequels that flowed from John Carpenter’s 1978 original never happened.
Gone in less than two minutes.
“Halloween,” out Oct. 19, reveals the killer has been in a mental institution for decades. Now, he’s free and ready to resume what he does best.
The women who narrowly escaped his clutches all those years ago hasn’t forgotten him. Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode is itching for a rematch.
It’s a sly set up backed by a chilling trailer. Suddenly, the entire exercise feels like more than just another franchise cash-in. It helps that Carpenter is on board as a producer, overseeing the latest twist to his shock saga.
Director David Gordon Green (“Pineapple Express,” “Our Brand Is Crisis”) gave his rationale for the move to Entertainment Weekly during a set visit.
“We watched all of them and I can actually enjoy all of them,” Green said, when EW visited the set of Halloween earlier this year. “But there just felt like such a simple truth to the original. I think by the time you add Michael and Laurie’s relationship, being family, or he’s only hunting his family, it takes that ‘Boogeyman’ out of it. I want everyone to be afraid of him. The first one really had that anonymity to who he was. [We are] stripping down the backstory, and philosophy, and motivation, and, you know, themes of cults, and things like that. In this one, we’re trying to go bare bones and tell a horrifying story of questions that have no answers. It’s just bad s— that happens.”
Carpenter was more diplomatic about the shift, calling it an “alternate reality.”
Either way, it portends massive changes to the franchise. And, should the new film score with audiences, will launch a fresh series of sequels that also ignore the saga’s past.
The bigger question remains. What impact, if any, will this have on the film’s box office? More importantly, will other creators followed Green’s lead?
It’s hardly the first time a franchise tinkered with its own legacy. Consider these examples:
- The glut of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” sequels ignore their predecessors and stick to the original’s story.
- Director Neill Blomkamp’s ill-fated “Alien” sequel planned to pick up where “Aliens” left off, ignoring the third and fourth sequels.
- The awful “Jaws IV: The Revenge” pretended its 3-D predecessor never happened.
- The third “Nightmare on Elm Street” film ignored its predecessor, a quickie crafted without input from original director Wes Craven.
The stakes today, though, are much higher. Franchises are the fuel that keeps Hollywood movies humming. This summer alone we’ve got major sequels and spinoffs to “Jurassic World,” “The Incredibles,” “Ant Man,” “Sicario,” “Deadpool” and “Ocean’s 11.”
The flow isn’t stopping any time soon.
RELATED: ‘Serpent’ Still Horror’s Ultimate Burial Shocker
Sequels and spinoffs are huge business. Catering to fans who adore them? Even bigger.
Ignoring large chunks of a story’s past can, in theory, impact fan enthusiasm for a sequel. Bad buzz is the last thing a new movie wants to see. Just ask the minds behind “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” the first flop from a galaxy far, far away.
Fans may see this strategy as an insult, a slap in the face to their love for a series, warts and all. Few would claim any of the “Halloween” sequels is superior to the original. Still, each brought new elements to Michael Myers and his murderous reign.
In the words of Emily Litella, “never mind.”
A very informal poll on this critic’s Twitter feed showed a large majority either were more likely to see the film now or simply didn’t care about the historical revision. It wasn’t universal, though.
retcon is a horrible practice for a franchise. Right up there with deus ex machina.
— Just some guy writing a series called (@OneLastEcho) June 10, 2018
We’ve seen what happens when part of a fan base is outraged, insulted or just plain turned off to a project. The failed 2016 “Ghostbusters” reboot did everything wrong, from crafting a terrible teaser trailer to declaring war on Geek Nation for a few misogynist jerks.
Geek Nation can’t single handedly derail a film. Said Nation rallied on behalf of “Snakes on a Plane,” convincing Hollywood it had a new franchise on its hands. Then very few other movie goers showed up on opening weekend.
Still, toying with hardcore fans is a dicey strategy. In the case of the new “Halloween,” every other element (review, subsequent teasers) better be
Where do you stand? Is trashing a franchise’s partial history smart … or a move that only should be considered in limited scenarios only?