For many characters in popular, long-running franchises, there is no such thing as retirement or living “happily ever after.” Fans keep demanding new adventures of old favorites, and so familiar heroes are no longer allowed to live out their golden years in peace and seclusion. This applies manifestly to both the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Star Wars saga, especially now that both are under the aegis of Walt Disney and CEO Robert Iger. An essay called “Unfinished Business” in The Guardian by Nicholas Barber argues that this trend robs films of something essential and wonderful: Unlike real people, movie characters can expect to face “one or two major crises in their lives, whereupon they could look forward to indefinite rest and recuperation.” That is a very satisfying idea, and it’s being snuffed out with each sequel and reboot. Exhibit A in Barber’s case is, naturally, The Force Awakens, a “depressing” film that nullifies everything that happened at the end of Return Of The Jedi. In the long run, Luke Skywalker and his pals accomplished exactly nothing in the original trilogy. As of the latest film, the problems in their galaxy are as bad as ever, if not worse.
But the problem is hardly limited to Star Wars. Harry Potter is being dragged back onstage, literally. Rocky Balboa has cancer in Creed. Mulder and Scully are put back to work in the revival of The X-Files. Where does it end? That’s just it. It doesn’t. The article singles out Disney-owned Marvel, but films based on DC Comics are just as susceptible to the trend. Just like Marvel’s Iron Man 3, for instance, DC’s The Dark Knight Rises ends with its title character spending finally some quality time with his special lady, safely away from the costumed crime-fighting shenanigans. And yet, there is Bruce Wayne, facing a scary showdown with Superman in Dawn Of Justice, while Tony Stark doesn’t seem likely to be spending his days sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch either. Barber sees this as worrisome:
If blockbusters are now going to replace every “The End” with a “To Be Continued,” they will lose this essential part of their appeal. Why see a Star Wars episode when you could just skip it and see the next one, or the next one, or the next one after that?