With all of the discussion floating around about the potential Men in Black – Jump Street crossover sequel this past week, I thought it would be a good time to take a look back at Jump Street’s success as a reboot then a sequel. It is one of the rare occurrences in current times where a reboot/sequel has matched (if not beaten) the quality of the original.
A surprise hit back in 2011, 21 Jump Street was, itself, a reboot, playing off of the Johnny Depp-starring 80s police TV show. It showed how to make a reboot work in terms of not just trying to be the original, but taking aspects from it and completely turning it on its head. The whole genre was changed to create a comedy out of the concept for a drama, allowing the film to take stabs at the original’s premise, to create a slightly more self-aware comedy. The genre switch automatically prevents the film from trying to do a straight copy of its source material, allowing more creativity to win through. Similarly, as the TV series is not incredibly well known nowadays, this is arguably not a reboot that is relying primarily on the name and loyalty of fans of the original. It is likely trying to reach a fresh audience, meaning both that it is not tied down by anything, nor that it has to be overly cautious not to anger fans. This reboot, too, is set in the same string of continuity as the TV shows, allowing not only subtle homages to the originals, but direct references, the most obvious of which being the cameos of stars Johnny Depp, Peter DeLuise and Holly Robinson. All of this led it to be a successful reboot, which was both respectful of the original, and an entirely worthy and brilliant addition to its franchise.
Following the incredible success of the first film, a lot rested on a sequel not to be simply a higher-budgeted, lower-quality money grab. Fortunately, the filmmakers are completely aware of this, and build it into the film as a long-running gag. It is the sequel confident enough and self-aware enough to overcome the trap that most sequels fall into: simply repeating the first film without any progression of character, or much at all (à la The Hangover). It is 22 Jump Street’s acknowledgement of this trend that makes for some of the funniest moments in the film, as well as allows the filmmakers to play around more. 22 Jump Street also builds on Jenko and Schmidt’s relationship, as established in the first film, to create a full-blown ‘bromance’, which becomes a key factor in the plot as the two characters are drawn apart as they grow. It takes the typical aspects of a romcom, and twists them to apply to a platonic relationship (which is then exaggerated to suggest the characters’ feelings may extend beyond this). This allows a progression from the first film, giving the sequel something to add to the franchise. This could even be considered one of the rare instances where the sequel is better than the original. The film’s ingenious credits sequence is the final exclamation mark at the end of the punchline, with clips and posters of increasingly ridiculous ideas for future sequels in the franchise. This highlights how many franchises are milked to the point of absurdity, and definitely ‘jump the shark’ but continue on. It is the perfect way to end a film that plays so heavily off of the sequel joke, that it becomes a great film in its own right.
The proposed follow up to the two existing Jump Street films was announced as a crossover with the Men In Black franchise. This will likely either excite or confound audiences and fans of the films as, to many, it would seem to be more likely to have occurred as a skit within 22 Jump Street’s credits sequence, than a full-blown feature film in itself. It’s unclear at this point whether this sequel will actually go ahead or not, but done right, it could be another clever addition to a Hollywood franchise that takes the mick out of Hollywood. However, the absurdity and extension of self-parody could be too much for an audience to really get behind, or for the filmmakers to handle, and it could spiral down in quality (although, hopefully not).
While its future may be unclear, the Jump Street films have so far proven that, done correctly, reboots and sequels can be brilliant and even better than the original, giving a little hope for the future that seems crammed full of remakes, reboots, spinoffs and sequels.