Why Movies are Ignoring Old Boundaries of Storytelling

by Barrett

Upcoming films are betting that the legacy of iconic characters will successfully transport to new stories and even into the next chapter of a different movie franchise.

I stumbled upon the teaser trailer of Pixar’s upcoming “Lightyear” quite by accident last week. I didn’t know the 2022 animated flick was in production. So when I watched the spot on YouTube, my experience was similar to how we viewed movie trailers in the old days.

And I was delighted.

I especially enjoyed the opening sequence of the spaceship launch. It was visceral. Pixar’s animators keep upping their game.

But my immediate interest in the movie was based on more than a great trailer. That’s because “Lightyear” is connected to an existing franchise. (This flick is apparently the origin story of Buzz Lightyear who the “Toy Story” character is based on.)

But this hero is someone else. So this movie is really a blank slate as storytelling goes.


A Prequel or Sequel?
Yes, you’ve got immediate brand recognition. But as a ‘prequel’ of sorts, the writers are not limited by the audience’s knowledge of a character’s future (something like what J.J. Abrams did by creating “Star Trek’s” Kelvin timeline).

But whether a movie is a prequel or sequel, there should always be a good reason to excite the audience beyond familiarity.

And a good movie trailer is usually the way to do that.

The Matrix Resurrections
I enjoyed “The Matrix” trilogy, but you can’t really say the last one ended on an especially happy note. Not that movies must always have a happy ending, but I usually appreciate it when they do. And if you’re committing your time to multiple sequels, I feel it really stinks if the ending is a bummer.

Almost 18 years have passed, and now they’re making a fourth and seemingly rewriting history.

I did know that “The Matrix Resurrections” is due in December, and I was eager to catch the first trailer. It did not disappoint, though it didn’t offer anything dramatically new.

I think the key draw is bringing Neo and Trinity back together. The trailer teases the opportunity to rewrite their tragic story. Or perhaps, tell it again, but differently.

How to Bend the Past to Fit with the Present
The idea of rewriting history in established movie storylines is definitely in vogue now. Both the MCU and DC’s “The Flash” are exploring the ‘multiverse.’ As a storytelling device, you can redo a story infinitely in different, but parallel universes, as the Disney+ series “What If?” demonstrates.

Or we can use the multiverse as a unifying theme to incorporate every iteration of a movie franchise ever made with different actors. Then you can cement it all into one accepted multiverse movie canon.


Upcoming examples are Michael Keaton’s Batman from 1989 and 1992 showing up in next year’s “The Flash” and Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s versions of Spider-Man reportedly coexisting with Tom Holland in the upcoming “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”

Really clever.

Plus, it taps into our sense of nostalgia for these earlier movie franchises. I think “Lightyear” and “The Matrix Resurrections” also appeal to the same feeling.

Nostalgia is a powerful emotion, and I think it’s plenty enough to get you into a movie theater (or in front of your TV and pay channel).

Back to the Future
If this all this sounds like Hollywood is focused on reaching way back to help jump start its future, it sure seems that way.

  • “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” in a few weeks
  • “Top Gun: Maverick” in 2022
  • The next Indiana Jones movie in 2023

And if the writers also want to stretch reality and break a few laws of this universe to bring a few iconic movie heroes back into the fold, I’m game.

First give me a good trailer with characters I want to root for. Then surprise me with a new multiverse twist.

That’s a recipe for success.