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Back to the Start: 8 Movie Franchises That Took a U-Turn

Resident Evil The Final Chapter
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By  · Published on January 26th, 2017

Resident Evil isn’t the first film series to return to where it began.

Many movie franchises these days are repeating themselves. There are the “remakequels” such as Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Creed, and there are prequel spinoffs like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story circling back to come at the franchise’s beginning from a new angle. But there’s another sort of franchise return that we’ll be seeing this weekend with the release of Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. The seventh installment of the video game-based series is set in Raccoon City and The Hive, treading over many of the same locations that were encountered in the first movie.

How that’s different from a remake sequel is tricky. Something like The Force Awakens technically moves the story ahead toward new terrain, only with elements that are reminiscent of those in the original. It’s more a recycling of story beats and themes, whereas Resident Evil is revisiting a previously seen physical space. It makes a u-turn rather than a forward drive over similar ground. It’s not the first time we’ve seen a franchise do revisit previously seen territory. The below series have all done some sort of retread for better or worse.

Back to the Future

No franchise has ever repeated itself as brilliantly as this one does. The first movie has plenty of visual parallels of its own, but in Back to the Future Part II, there are not only motifs repeated but spaces are physically revisited. And not only space revisited but spaces in time, as well. We literally rewatch scenes from the first movie redone. In theory, the idea for Marty McFly to travel back to the same dates in 1955 in the second movie is terrible. Especially for it to be the second half and climax of a sequel that otherwise offers so much that’s new. Yet it works because of a clever plot and an ambitious attempt at replication that pays off through excellent direction.

The Terminator

When it was revealed that Terminator Genisys (aka Terminator 5) would revisit moments from the original The Terminator, the idea sounded like it could work similarly to what we saw in Back to the Future Part II. Again we’ve got characters traveling in time and winding up in the same space as themselves or in this case a lookalike. But Genisys is more of a rewriting of a story we love rather than a course correction on a story we love that’s been altered. It’s much sloppier, fails at its replication on so many levels, and is just not any fun. The sad thing is, it’s still the best part of the movie.


A lot of horror franchises sort of stay in place, because a lot of scary things are central to a particular location, such as a haunted house or summer camp ruled over by a superhuman serial killer. For the Alien franchise the prime real estate is LV-425, the moon briefly visited in the first movie where the Nostromo crew fatefully encountered a Xenomorph egg. In the follow-up, Aliens, there’s a kind of time travel element —a one-way stasis-based trip far into the future – that brings the heroine reluctantly back to LV-425 because it’s been colonized in the half century that she’s been asleep.

Jurassic Park

You could call Jurassic World (aka Jurassic Park IV) a remake sequel, but it’s also sort of like Aliens if the idea of that movie was for the colony to know about the terrifying beasts but build there anyway in hopes of them somehow never attacking again. Before the soft reboot, the Jurassic Park series began on Isla Nublar, then the next two movies dealt with another island, Isla Sorna. With a stop in America along the way. World takes the franchise back to Nublar and makes sure we know it by having characters wind up in dilapidated old sets from the first movie. Recreated, of course.

Indiana Jones

Raiders of the Lost Ark and its sequels are based on adventure serials that are all about moving ahead and forgetting about what’s in the rear view – consider the immediate forgetfulness of any installment that blatantly rewrote the dangerous cliffhanger from the previous episode to make it easier for the hero to win. Anyway, for Indiana Jones’s fourth movie, The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, nostalgia and fan service were very strong in the decision to bring back the first movie’s love interest and for a moment make us think the same McGuffin is in play, as well. We get a glimpse of the Ark of the Covenant, at least, in the warehouse we previously saw at the end of Raiders. True, it’s not a location the hero has already been, but we’ve been taken there before.

“Crocodile” Dundee

The original, Oscar-nominated “Crocodile” Dundee kicks off in the Australian Outback as we meet the title character before transporting him to America. The movie is twofold in its interest in fish out of water, first with a fancy New York City woman dealing with the wilderness Down Under, then with Dundee’s cultural ignorances in the Big Apple. Its first sequel, “Crocodile” Dundee II, has the opposite trajectory, beginning in NYC and winding up in the Outback, as Dundee and fancy Sue lure a Colombian drug cartel villain, who is after something Sue has, to Dundee’s turf. Put together, it’s a common three part premise for action movies and Westerns. As two separate movies, it’s like a mirror.

Final Destination

Lightning can actually strike the same place twice, that’s a fact. And it’s appropriate for this horror film series involving deadly accidents, most of them of the freaky kind. Going into detail about how the final installment, Final Destination 5, returns to a place from the first movie is a very big spoiler, and it’s probably still too soon to discuss it so openly. For those who have seen the movie, you might think it doesn’t qualify this list as explained, but it does on a technicality.

The Fast and the Furious

Nobody really calls Fast & Furious a prequel, but it does involve a big u-turn from where the franchise had last ended up. After the first movie, which is set in Los Angeles, the series heads to Miami and then Tokyo, but for the fourth installment (F&F), the Fast and the Furious we now know and love was reborn by going back in chronology from the third (Tokyo Drift) and taking its characters all back to L.A. “Heading back to the streets where it all began,” is how the official synopsis begins for Fast & Furious. Of course, soon enough the action is headed to Mexico and, in further sequels, beyond.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.