Warning: Spoilers ahead for Ice Age: Collision Course!
There's a new Ice Age movie coming out in a few days, and I dare you to guess how many installments that means for the prehistorical franchise. Three? Four? No, Ice Age: Collision Course is the fifth part of the icy adventures of a grumpy mammoth and his clumsy friends, joined by a slew of new faces. The obvious question, then, is whether it manages to go beyond the lazy act of throwing a bunch of popular characters back together — who doesn't love the adorable stupidity of Sid — or if it's just going to help consolidate the feeling that we have indeed way too many sequels in Hollywood.
While moviegoers have been loudly complaining about the abundance of sequels and remakes for a while, the idea of keeping a story going isn't a bad move in itself. Many movies leave enough questions open that a second one can be as much a continuation of the story as an interesting plot on its own. Just look at the recent success of Pixar's Finding Dory, the sequel to Finding Nemo that went on to become the highest grossing animated movie ever at the US box office. While it's technically a sequel — with a title that's barely a variation of the first one — the intrigue that put Dory at the center was compelling enough that audiences would get hooked, and they did.
Ice Age: Collision Course Is One Sequel Too Many
What about Ice Age: Collision Course, then? After saving a baby, escaping a flood, and even battling a group of dinosaurs that weren't sure what they were still doing in the ice age either, do Manny, Sid and Diego still have enough energy to bring out a new and exciting side of their personalities?
It seems obvious enough that the movie was created more as a cash-making machine than a quality piece of storytelling when you hear that we've reached number five, but Collision Course could still have had a chance at putting a new spin on our beloved characters. Unfortunately, the fifth Ice Age seems to be the ultimate proof that too many sequels built on the same structure are simply too much.
Why Does Collision Course Crash?
The first problem of Collision Course regards the over-the-top craziness of the plot. Granted, a children's movie doesn't need to make perfect sense, but this one tries so hard to find a new plot to develop that it fails to be in any way logical. Picture this: It's not a massive flood they have to escape this time, but the impact of a giant meteorite that is heading to Earth not because of the very simple laws of gravity, but because there's a giant magnet attracting it — inside of which lives a community of animals rendered immortal by the magical properties of the crystal contained in the magnet. Isn't the unnecessary complexity of this plot self-explanatory? The Ice Age series has been relying for a while on the basic concept of having to save the planet from the end of the world, but there's only so many times you can find a credible catastrophe to get the adventure going.
The second issue goes beyond the ups and downs of the plot and seems to prove that you can't keep a character interesting forever: While we loved the themes of building a family, sustaining friendship and growing older brought up by the first movie, the protagonists of Ice Age appear to be going through the same struggles again and again. Manny's grumpiness, hiding a lack of trust in the world around him; Sid's cluelessness, getting in the way of his desire to be loved; Diego's anxiety to find his true identity. Instead of evolving, these characterizations are rehashed over and over, and the audience finds themselves missing the candidness of the first movie.
Shrek Is Planning On Making Even More Movies Than Ice Age
Meanwhile, Comcast has acquired DreamWorks Animation, the studio behind the highly successful Shrek adventure, and we should be expecting even more ogre tales despite the fact that the movie count of the franchise has already reached four — not even counting spin-offs such as Puss in Boots. Steve Burke, head of NBC Universal, went as far as saying that they were counting on four movies per year:
"Comcast hopes to breathe new life into Shrek and crank out as many as four animated movies a year following its acquisition of DreamWorks Animation."
Thank You, Pixar, For Taking A Break From Sequels
This over-exploitation of animated franchises makes it even more significant that the most innovative studio out there, Pixar, would announce that they plan to hit pause on sequels after The Incredibles 2. After the release of box office winner Finding Dory, they still have Cars 3, Toy Story 4 and The Incredibles 2 — here's everything we know so far about the latter — but 2019 should signal a fresh start with four original movies already slated for production.
As Pixar president Jim Morris explained, a sequel for the sake of making a sequel is far from a guaranty of quality:
"Most studios jump on doing a sequel as soon as they have a successful film, but our business model is a filmmaker model, and we don’t make a sequel unless the director of the original film has an idea that they like and are willing to go forward on."
We hear you, Morris, and we hope other animation studios will too. Maybe it's time to admit that just like in real-life history, the Ice Age eventually comes to an end.