The film industry is constantly changing, as we can see every time we go to the movie theater or turn on the TV. Filmmakers continuously have to change their strategies and formulas to adapt to the ever-changing preferences of their audiences. No matter how hard they try, the demands of the audience have a much stronger effect on the industry than the filmmakers themselves.
Currently, the age group who purchases the majority of theater tickets are millennials (those born between 1982 and 2004). Currently, 53% of moviegoers are millennials. This is actually quite surprising, as millennials make up less than a quarter of the entire U.S. population. If millennials make up more than half of the movie-going population, filmmakers are sure to find a way to take advantage of this film-loving generation. In fact, they already have found a way, and it roots from the psychological bitterness that millennials suffer from.
Nostalgia in Millennials
Studies have found that millennials seem to be very nostalgic. Nostalgia, as many already know, is the psychological need to relive the past, or to mentally return to easier times, and remember people or things that are no longer a part of our lives. Millennials, more than any other generation, seem to have this psychological need to relive their past. Research has suggested that the abnormally high rates of nostalgia in millennials is linked to the sudden domination of technology in the last two decades.
When millennials, including myself, were kids, we had some electronic devices, like a Nintendo 64 or GameBoy, but it did not take over our lives. We were used to going outside to play with our friends, doing things like jumping rope, riding bikes, walking around the mall, or even practicing the lost art of drawing with chalk. While these activities are still around today, they are not nearly as present as they once were.
This world of having neighborhood friends and playing outdoors every day of the week has dramatically disappeared over the past decade or so. With technology like iPods, cellphones and the such rising, simple toys like jump ropes and chalk don't stand a chance. Today, the average age at which a child gets their own smartphone is 10.3 years- most millennials didn't have smartphones until our teens or 20s.
This massive change in technology apparently has a profound effect on the mentality of millennials. As things changed so rapidly, they are eager to relive a glimpse of what life was like before iPods, Netflix and cell phones took over. We secretly want to go back to the days when we could trade Pokemon cards, bike around with our friends, and have to use a house phone to make calls.
Many companies are realizing this, and are trying to help us relive that life by bringing some of the fondest parts of our childhood back. Not only is bringing old products back fun for us, but if it is just nostalgic enough, said companies can make an enormous profit off of our bitter mental state.
A recent example of this would be Pokemon Go!, the "freemium" smart phone game that has practically taken over the world. Many millennials remember playing Pokemon games on their GameBoy or their Nintendo DS, so being able to play it with people in the real world on their smart phone is very exciting. This type of nostalgia is the perfect blend between the past and present, which is the exact twist that is being used in the film industry.
Nostalgia in Film
Reboots and remakes are not a new addition to film, as we all know. They may seem more common now than they did thirty or so years ago, but remakes were still a thing back then. The new trend, however, is rebooting a film without completely remaking it.
Essentially, these new reboots retell the story of the original film, while existing within the same universe. It introduces new characters, yet sees them embark on similar adventures as the original characters. While it is still a retelling of a story, these seem to work better than completely remaking a film, as it does not push away the previous films, but embraces them instead instead.
A recent example of this would be Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the most recent film of the Star Wars franchise. This episode of the space-opera saga was incredibly similar to the original Star Wars movie. A New Hope was iconic for many reasons- and has been referenced in countless movies and TV shows since- meaning there were plenty of easily recognizable references for The Force Awakens to incorporate.
Whether it was the force-wielding hero stuck on a desert planet that was found by a droid with secret information, or the lurking planet-sized weapon of mass destruction that needed to be blown up, fans were easily able to tell that The Force Awakens was basically a retelling of A New Hope, but within a different context with different characters.
What made the film nostalgic, however, was that The Force Awakens, despite being a reboot, followed the events of the other Star Wars films. While it recreated a new series of adventures, it still paid homage to the previous films that we loved. Much like 'Pokemon Go!,' The Force Awakens became the perfect blend between the stories of the past and the new adventures of the present.
This recent spate of reboots seems to have been a hit with millennials. Because millennials are more nostalgic than most generations, using nostalgia in these reboots is a fantastic way to get this younger generation of movie-goers to enjoy the movie even more. It certainly has a strong effect on me; the moment the opening crawl started when I saw The Force Awakens, I was practically in tears (don't tell my girlfriend that).
Seeing Star Wars again on the big screen brought me back to my childhood. I'm a grown man, but I am not ashamed to say that the movie inspired me to purchase the $150 LEGO Millennium Falcon from the movie. While it was still almost the same story as before, this recreation/homage hybrid still felt like a new story. It felt both new and familiar at the same time, which I, as one of those bitter-sweet millennials, absolutely loved.
Star Wars is far from the only franchise of films to do this. Jurassic World made a serious amount of money at the box office doing the same thing. It may have been pretty much the same plot as Jurassic Park, but by existing within the same universe, and even bringing back old characters, it didn't feel like it was doing a disservice to the previous films, like some remakes do. Rather, it felt good to return to the world of Jurassic Park, only to learn that the people of that film-universe learned nothing from the mistakes made in the other movies.
A few other films that have used this concept have been Finding Dory, 21 Jump Street, Vacation, Independence Day: Resurgence, and Terminator: Genisys. It also appears more upcoming films will be following this concept, including Jumanji, a reboot of the original film starring Robin Williams, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the upcoming Harry Potter spin-off set in the 1920s that will likely follow a similar plot.
While the nostalgic type of reboot described above seems to work well, total remakes appear to get a lot of negative feedback. Last month, the remake of Ghostbusters hit theaters and, despite widespread approval from critics, immediately received a lot of backlash. The main complaint from fans: it ruined the original movie. While that seems ridiculous, it could have been avoided had the new Ghostbusters been a reboot within the same universe as the original.
I completely respect Paul Feig's idea to keep the movies separate so that the new Ghostbusters team looks more like a group of entrepreneurs rather than a group of copycats. I loved the movie, and I personally would not have changed anything. However, it appears that not every viewer loved it as much as me, and it is quite likely this could have been solved by combining the universes to make it feel more nostalgic. While it may have decreased the quality of the film, it may have increased the fan support in exchange.
Nostalgic Films Are Actually Good For Your Health
Tapping into nostalgia isn't just beneficial for the movie studios - it's good for us, too! There have been numerous studies that have shown that re-watching your favorite movie, like Harry Potter or Star Wars, can be quite beneficial to your mental health. The familiarity of re-watching the same story unfold every time can be very comforting and calming, which is why re-watching your favorite movie after a stressful incident can help soothe your mind.
In fact, the positive effect of re-watching an old movie has on our stress levels is often times directly caused by nostalgia. The familiarity of the movie can take you back to a less stressful time, such as when the movie came out, or even when it took place. This nostalgic, mental flashback is even used in therapy because of how comforting and relaxing it can be.
Because of this, nostalgic reboots can be equally comforting to watch. While we may have been slightly worried for the characters the first time we watched Jurassic World, we knew that there would be a happy ending because of all the times we watched Jurassic Park in the past. This wouldn't apply to any new film that we watch. While watching a new, unfamiliar film may be more thrilling than watching a nostalgic reboot like Jurassic World, it also lakcs that safe familiarity, therefore making it more mentally uncomfortable and significantly less enjoyable for us.
Watching a re-telling of a story we already know in a different context is actually quite ideal. It is familiar to us and helps our mental health, while still being entertaining because it is new. This connection between nostalgia and our mental health may actually be a big reason why films like Jurassic World and Star Wars: The Force Awakens dominate at the box office - we subconsciously want to be mentally healthy, and these movies are a great way to reach that inner peace.
We may think that the filmmakers themselves control the film industry, but really, it's us - the average moviegoers. The film industry works to suit our needs, and recently they do this through nostalgia. Whether it is to cure a millennial's need to relive their past, or to even make us feel more mentally comfortable, and therefore more mentally healthy, filmmakers are constantly using nostalgia, and it works wonders.
As long as the nostalgic reboots continue to be done right, I am completely okay with them showing up in theaters. I enjoy reliving my past and being more mentally stable because of the familiarity of these reboots. Now if you excuse me, I am going to re-watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens for the umpteenth time while making "pew pew" sounds with my LEGO Millennium Falcon because it, strangely, will improve my mental health and cure my bitterness as a millennial.
What is your favorite nostalgic reboot? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!