Every time someone complains about the fact that there are too many sequels and not enough new properties, or that we’re reviving way too many old series instead of coming up with new ideas, I nod in solidarity. After all, it’s true — networks and studios are relying more and more on nostalgia, bringing back series like Veronica Mars (I AM VERY EXCITED) and expanding the ridiculously complicated and large Marvel Cinematic Universe every year.
But here’s my secret confession: I love everything about all of this.
In an era that’s increasingly defined by fatigue when things are too interconnected, and writing sequels to 10-year-old series seems more common than successful fresh ones, I have to admit an unpopular opinion in these jaded Twitter times: I love what’s happening. Oh, I understand the arguments against it, and it’s not that I disagree. It’s just that my trash taste revels in every sequel that’s announced.
I love it when characters feel lived in. One of my favorite moments of Avengers: Infinity War was the exchange on the battlefield between Groot and Captain America when Groot says his classic line, “I am Groot!”, and Steve responds:
The reason this scene is so funny is that we know both of these characters so well. Groot only says one thing; while it can mean anything (in this case, it was probably some sort of battle cry), the words are the same. But Steve’s response to it was classic and so fitting to the character. We know Cap is ridiculously earnest. We’ve seen him develop over the course of five movies (three Captain America films and two Avengers ensemble movies — though it’s hard not to call Civil War an ensemble flick). The line is hilarious precisely because we know the character so well at this point. Without the countless sequels and interconnectedness of the Marvel universe, a moment like that would never have worked.
In an origin story, you’re being introduced to a character for the first time. That is, of course, exciting. But I prefer sequels where that “getting to know you” phase is done. We know who the character is already; we’re already best friends. Now, rather than establishing who the character is, we can move on to in-jokes like the old friends we are.
Now, I’m not saying that every movie, TV show, and shared universe should be intimately interconnected. I’ve been clear that I think that people shouldn’t have to read books and comics or watch television shows set in the Star Wars expanded universe to understand the films (which is why a certain cameo in the recent Solo movie made me so angry). People shouldn’t have to watch every Marvel movie to understand a standalone movie like Black Panther or the upcoming Captain Marvel. But I’m not sad that these grand, overarching stories like Infinity War exist, because even if I don’t love the movie itself, I enjoy every second I get to spend with these characters I’ve come to know so well.
I love it when properties make themselves accessible to new viewers, but I also love it when they insert in-jokes to reward the compulsive fans who have seen every iteration of a thing. For example, I adored it when Chuck Wendig made a big Star Wars Holiday Special reference in his short story collected in the anthology From a Certain Point of View. But it was also nice to see that if someone hadn’t picked up on that, or had never even heard of the Star Wars Holiday Special, they’d still be able to enjoy the story for what it was. I love that balance in writing and storytelling. Walking the line between pleasing longtime fans and first-time watchers and readers is never an easy thing to do, but it’s magnificent when done well.
All of this is to say my trash taste is glad that we’re in an era of sequels, and while I do hope that more fresh properties get their time in the sun, I’m not sorry that I’m getting to know and love so many characters over the course of multiple movies or that I’m getting to revisit favorite characters a decade later. I do absolutely believe that you shouldn’t have to watch everything in a shared universe to understand what’s going on. But that being said, I’ll just be over here, in line for the next Marvel movie.