Hollywood is getting less and less prudent when it comes to greenlighting sequels.
Every sequel announcement reminds us that, more often than not, standalone movies are really becoming a myth in 2018. While it typically comes from a Disney subsidiary these days, what even is a film without at least a second chapter? Why else would films like the brand new Den of Thieves and the as-yet-unreleased Mile 22 have follow-ups all planned out already?
Yesterday was, in general, a good day for sequels of Gerard Butler movies. In addition to the latest casting for Angel Has Fallen (the next in the Olympus/London Has Fallen franchise) came the announcement that Den of Thieves will get a second movie. The main cast from the first film — Butler, Tucker Tooley, Mark Canton, 50 Cent, and O’Shea Jackson Jr. plus director Christian Gugedest — are all coming back for more gunfire riddled cat-and-mouse chases.
The first film centers on an elite unit of the LA County Sheriff’s Department and its efforts to nab the state’s most successful bank robbery crew as they target the Federal Reserve Bank. Den of Thieves 2 doesn’t sound to be remotely connected except for the initial cast, as the narrative is shifting the focus to diamond smugglers on the streets of Europe.
As for Mile 22, the next Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg collaboration, its sequel plans were just revealed at the same time the first movie’s release date for this summer was confirmed. The original tells the story of an elite intelligence agent and his tactical team trying to smuggle a police officer with sensitive information out of a foreign country. In addition to the sequel, a scripted television series and VR component will arrive sometime down the line, as well.
Financially, it makes sense to assume that the Den of Thieves sequel will find an enthusiastic audience (mostly male, as Deadline claims). The film has over-performed at the domestic box office, its current gross being up to $41 million (with another $16 million coming in from overseas) against a reported budget of just $30 million.
Mile 22 is set to be released on July 22nd, and critics’ goodwill toward both of Berg’s previous dramas, Deepwater Horizon and Patriots Day, could carry over with this film too. Berg and Wahlberg have worked together four times as of Mile 22, and their formula seems to do them well. It’s actually a breath of fresh air that Mile 22 won’t be another ill-timed dramatization of a horrific real-life incident.
The only reason either movie merits sequels is the interchangeability of their (rather similar) plotlines. Keep the core team and there are a million and one ways you could spin tactical units chasing down criminals or saving morally ambiguous persons. The Fast and the Furious series definitely taps into this niche of moviemaking proficiently enough, and obviously superhero movies tend to do that, too. Do you need to see all of them for the stories to make sense? Nope, it’s perfect entertainment for when you want to shut off in the cinema.
Den of Thieves and Mile 22 just bring to mind the fact that Hollywood loves rehashing something that’s okay until it’s not even awful, just blah, and banking on the assumption that franchises are how anybody is going to achieve concrete longevity. These are run-of-the-mill heist or thriller films with characters who aren’t likely to really jump out at you as the films prioritize other aspects of the storytelling to make it tense enough or more action oriented. There’s no interesting hook outside the status quo that’s being upheld (which explains the primarily male demographic for Den of Thieves). And in the case of going above and beyond via scripted content and VR… do we care that much about a Mark Wahlberg movie?
As it stands, Den of Thieves and Mile 22 are movies that have been made before and will be made again in some other iteration. Funneling resources into what will ultimately be more of the same stuff is just rather boring nowadays.