Nothing screams a lack of creativity quite like an over-reliance on nostalgia. Star Wars: The Force Awakens immediately springs to mind, what with it essentially being a pastiche of A New Hope. And for all the talk of its subversion of expectations, The Last Jedi also heavily echoes moments from the original trilogy.
Nostalgia was also used to devastating effect in Terminator Genysis when they recreated some of the scenes from the original shot-for-shot, only to disgracefully claim that they were ‘resetting’ the future.
And then there’s unashamedly pandering to the fans by bringing back familiar characters. There was an air of desperation about the return of Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, and the same goes for Blofeld in Spectre.
5. The origin story
The beginning is naturally a good place to start for any series. In fact, it’s probably recommended. But if a franchise is already five sequels in before suddenly deciding it’s time to go back and explain how it all began, it kind of suggests they ran out of road.
To be clear, that doesn’t mean that all prequels are a sign of a franchise running out of ideas, particularly not if they were planned out long in advance and knew exactly where they’re going – like Star Wars and The Hobbit (their quality being beside the point here).
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It’s the likes of Alien Covenant, X-Men Origins: Wolverine or anything with ‘The Beginning’ in the title that give off a directionless vibe. Even Ridley Scott has said that the Alien franchise has probably run its course. Best leave it, then.
6. A big fat reboot
Exemplified best by the superhero genre, the reboot is like a massive reset button that a studio can push whenever an intellectual property dries up creatively.
We’ve now seen about 42 renditions of Spider-Man and Batman, and what each reboot tells us is that there’s ultimately only so much you can do with these characters before they become stale and someone has to design them a new pair of tights.
Of course, this applies to any genre, with Terminator Genysis standing out as a particularly traumatic reboot of the franchise, one so bad that it needs another reboot.
7. Resurrecting a character who is definitely dead
Even for sci-fi films, bringing someone back from the dead is a cliché. But it also undermines the significance of their death.
Ripley sacrificed herself at the end of Alien 3, only to be brought back in Resurrection as a semi-alien queen with excellent basketball skills (that franchise has become a recurring offender in this list). Spock’s emotional goodbye in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was rendered meaningless when he was reborn in The Search For Spock. And Letty was definitely killed in her crashed car in the Fast and Furious series… until she wasn’t.
More recently (Solo spoiler ahead), Darth Maul was audaciously brought back in Solo: A Star Wars Story, despite being chopped in half and falling down an endlessly long well. His resurrection is fully explained in the Clone Wars and Rebels animated series, but come on, even they were pushing it a bit.
8. The evil sibling storyline
Making two rival characters siblings only shrinks the film’s universe and should be considered a major no-no, yet we still see it happen.
Spectre was guilty of it when they rewrote Blofeld’s backstory to make 007 his adoptive brother. And ironically, Dr Evil, who is obviously based on the Bond villain, ended up being Austin Powers’ brother in Goldmember.
Similarly, introducing an evil twin is a rather tired way of producing an equally matched antagonist. Even The Muppets fell afoul here in Most Wanted when they whacked a mole on Kermit the Frog’s doppelgänger. And then there’s Godzilla, who eventually found himself fighting Mechagodzilla after all other manner of organic enemy had been explored. We’ll stop now. (If only they would too.)