Hollywood’s Love of Nostalgia
Nostalgia can be a dangerous thing. Hollywood is at point right now where studios thrive off of giving the fans what they want. From the successful ones like Jurassic World, to the unsuccessful ones like Terminator Genisys, Hollywood tries to do everything it can to bring the past back. Even stories that ended not that long ago are already being talked about for a revival. The Office only ended in 2013, and yet there’s already talk of brining it back. Can a show just end…?
Well, the way I see it, there are two different approaches to brining back an on old property: The Star Wars: The Force Awakens method or the Twin Peaks: The Return method.
One might think comparing the two of these properties might seem odd. Star Wars is one of the largest franchises of all time with a very intense fanbase. Twin Peaks, on the other hand, is much more niche. You could argue that Twin Peaks was able to get away with being so different because there was not nearly as much riding on it. I do believe that the popularity of a property should not dictate the level of changes that are made to the formate. Just because something is extremely popular, doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t evolve. That is why I am making the comparison that some of these bigger franchises can learn a thing or two from Twin Peaks: The Return.
Twin Peaks had been off the air for more then twenty-five years. It was canceled in 1991, and left with a cliffhanger finale that had fans devastated with the fate of the main character, Special Agent Dale Cooper—which left him in a troubled state. When it was announced that Twin Peaks would be returning for a new season, fans were through the roof. What we got was far different from what most would have probably expected. Instead of the show going back to the basics and playing off the nostalgia of the original, creators Mark Frost and David Lynch subverted fan’s exceptions by making a show that was very different than its initial run. However, the season wasn’t without its nostalgic moments, but the difference between this season of Twin Peaks and something like The Force Awakens was that the entire story wasn’t built around the idea of this nostalgic factor.
Frost and Lynch took the spirit of the original seasons of Twin Peaks and placed it in a different light. The scope was bigger, it was much more experimental, and they had a completely different approach to the music—the tone had shifted. Although at the same time, it kept its underlying traits: surrealism, quirky humor, a grisly murder that is being investigated, and dark and disturbing imagery and themes. This is something rare when it comes to bringing back an old property. Frost and Lynch were not giving fans what they wanted. Yet, by doing this, it really felt like Twin Peaks had evolved. It was different, but had retained the same ideas at its core. Some fans were obviously disappointed that the new season wasn’t of the same style as the original show. I, for one, appreciated that the creative team wanted to move the series forward, and that they didn’t take the easy route just to satisfy fans. It was risky and it was not a sure-fire bet that people were going be into this new Twin Peaks, but this is where Frost and Lynch thought the story should go. I appreciated that they conveyed that vision without being worried about what the fans would want.
Star Wars is a different story. After the critical failure of the prequel trilogy, J.J. Abrams wanted to go back to basics. He is quoted as saying, “It was obviously a widely intentional thing that we go backwards, in some ways, to go forwards in the important ways.” This was probably the right move. After fans tore apart the prequels over the years, the studio had to get them back, and what better way to do so then to dig up some of the most iconic nostalgia in film history; Tie Fighters, X-Wings, The Millennium Falcon, Han Solo, and Leia Organa. Seeing all of these things back on-screen, brought fans back. Lucasfilm was giving the fans what they wanted, but because of that, it was a movie that didn’t feel like it evolved the Star Wars saga. The sequel trilogy feels like the original trilogy 2.0, instead of being its own thing. Say what you will about the prequels, but at least George Lucas was attempting to do something different with Star Wars. The prequels do a really good job of feeling like it exists in the world of Star Wars, but also having a very different vibe from the original trilogy.
It might ultimately come down to who is working on the project. Can you image how mad fans would have been if George Lucas didn’t have anything to do with the prequels, and they still turned out the way they did? I think part of the frustration with the prequels is subdued because they were made by Lucas, who started the franchise in the first place. Not everyone liked the new season of Twin Peaks, but becuase most of the original creative team was behind it, it was much more acceptable. Maybe in some cases, these old properties would be better in the hands of the original creators because they are less afraid to take risks?
Personally I really like The Force Awakens, despite what I’ve said above. Bringing back Star Wars after ten years (and a previously failed trilogy) wasn’t an easy task. My initial reaction after seeing it was overly positive, however, now that a few years have gone by and the dust has settled, I can’t help but think about what The Force Awakens would have been—like had they taken more risks. I think Hollywood is still trying to figure out the balance between nostalgia and carving a new and interesting path when it comes to bringing back an old property. In some eyes, Twin Peaks might have gone a little too far and was too different than what it should have been. I think there is a balance between The Force Awakens and the Twin Peaks approach that can really make a franchise evolve, without forgetting about its origin.