In Movies, Everything Old Is New Again

We all have to grow up sometime … but our entertainment doesn’t. If you look at some of the big movies coming out this year, you’ll see that a whole bunch of them are predicated on pretty old properties.

Full disclosure: I am old. I am 45 years old, to be exact. My first favorite movie ever was Star Wars (That’s Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope for you young ‘uns out there.) I forced my parents to take me to that thing seven times in the theater. Why? ‘Cause VCRs weren’t even a part of my 7-year-old imaginings, much less Blu-ray players or Netflix. I never knew when I’d be able to see the thing again.

So what’s the most anticipated movie of 2015, according to Fandango? Star Wars. That’d be Episode VII – The Force Awakens, featuring Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford. And who knows? Maybe the late Peter Cushing (Grand Moff Tarkin) will make an appearance somehow. Sure, both he and his character are dead, but did a little thing like that ever stop a great idea?

The new Star Wars movie beat out Avengers: Age of Ultron as the year’s most anticipated flick. Sure, Avengers might feel like a pretty new franchise, but I remember my friends talking about its titular superhero team back in elementary school.

Oh, also on the list: Jurassic World, another sequel to the 1993 blockbuster Jurassic Park. I stood in line on opening day for that thing when I had hair, and I read Michael Crichton’s original book when I was still in college.

Fandango also created a list of the five most anticipated family films, too. Two of them—Cinderella and Pan—are reimaginings of venerable Disney cartoons. I think I watched both of the originals before I could tie my shoes.

There’s a Mad Max movie coming out in May called Mad Max: Fury Road. Terminator: Genisys will be trundling out in July. Another Fantastic Four movie is slated for August. Oh, and James Bond will make yet another onscreen appearance (it’s his 24th, I think?) come fall (in Spectre). All hail from franchises and properties that were big deals when I was a kid or, at the very latest, a young adult.

It’s interesting how many of our hottest cinematic properties are intrinsically linked to the past. It’s been that way for a while now. It speaks to our love of nostalgia and says a number of things about the movie industry … as well as us, the paying moviegoers.

Sure, you can read this parade of remakes and reimaginings and umpteen-million sequels as a sign that Hollywood has run out of ideas, or that it’s simply so risk-averse that it doesn’t want to spend big bucks to bring a new thought to the screen. We can look at some of those properties and wonder why anyone would want to bring them to a new audience. But for me, this predilection to look toward the past says something kinda cool about family and culture, too.

As a parent, I wanted to introduce my own kids to almost everything I loved and treasured when I was younger … just as I think my parents did with me. And when it comes to the movies we watch—the stories we share—they become mutual memories. Just like a watch or a set of dishes might be passed down from generation to generation, these new properties give us an excuse to pass down our past, in a way—at least some of our most fondly remembered bits of it.

According to Fandango, the new Peanuts movie—a computer-animated take on Charles Schultz’s eternally youthful cartoon—also made the list of most anticipated 2015 family films.

Interesting. When I was a kid, my dad gave me a tattered book of Peanuts cartoons that he used to read … when he was 12. I loved it, of course, and those old Charlie Brown television specials gave me an excuse to introduce that very same book to my kids. Now my daughter has her own almost encyclopedic set of Schulz cartoons from the 1950s. And maybe, if this new CGI Peanuts movie is any good, it’ll give her an excuse to pass her own affection for Charlie Brown and Snoopy on to her own children. Imagine: Four generations reading and laughing over the same characters—a mutual love spread out, potentially, over nearly a century.

The movies we watch can be crass and problematic. They can often feel cynical and devoid of any real art or substance. But sometimes we find stories we love in the midst of it all. And, as is the case with all things we love, we long to share them with those whom we love as well. We may have grown up. But our entertainment can still bring out the child in all of us, and pass on a little bit of our childlike selves.