It is difficult to tell whether or not this is a recent trend, but I have noticed it recently.
I know branding is a major part of selling a movie, but this year I have seen three blockbusters, none of which I recognised as being legitimate parts of their respective franchises. By this I mean any of the three films could easily have been done with minor tweaks and no-one would have gone “that’s a blatant rip-off of <insert beloved franchise here>!”
The first time I noticed was with Star Trek Into Darkness. Now, I have a lot of problems with J. J. Abrams in general and the Star Trek reboot in particular. This latest film has completely removed all the things that made the series (and some of the films) really interesting. They dealt with issues and theology and morality. The reboot is just stuff blowing up really fast so as to distract you from the ridiculousness of the plot.
Then there was Iron Man 3, which admittedly due to the specific “suits of iron” make this a little harder to copy, but not by much. Despite this being the 3rd or 4th time I’d seen these characters I didn’t recognise any of them. The biggest problem seemed to be that they had drawn out this distinctly mid 1990s film structure and then forced the characters into it, rather than allowing the characters to develop naturally.
Then there was A Good Day To Die Hard. Boy, oh boy! Whilst the fourth edition had seen our favourite string vest wearing protagonist into some kind of bad ass action hero, rather than the everyday cop of the first three, the fifth one turned it up another notch. Aside from the stupid dialogue, the stupid, weak, stupid plot, and the boring characters, they made him immune to radiation poisoning! If this isn’t a Die Hard movie, it doesn’t get made.
All these films have completely abandoned everything that made them interesting and to make things worse, there will be sequels to all of them.
I am not against sequels and reboots, though there are probably too many, but these films hardly qualify. If you are going to change everything so that it barely resembles what came before, please use a different name.