The Appeal of the Soft Reboot
This is what makes the soft reboot so appealing. Executives are able to tap into the love audiences have for a big name property in a much more natural way. They aren't remaking a classic film or hitting the reset button on a series that told a complete, well-received story. It's a clever way of having your cake and eating it too. The tentpoles are still based on things viewers know, they're just put in a better position to succeed.
The soft reboot adds on to the legacy of what's come before and tries to push it in exciting new directions. Imagine if Universal announced a hard Jurassic Park reboot. That would lead to vitriol from viewers, since the 1993 original is seen as a seminal work of pop art by Steven Spielberg and a near perfect experience. What if Disney said they were erasing all Star Wars continuity to make way for their new films in a galaxy far, far away? Comments sections would still be ablaze, disapproving fans cursing the Mouse House for ignoring the significance of the original Star Wars films, multi-generational touchstones that have made an impact with so many. You can run this hypothetical scenario with any classic franchise and the results would be the same. But if it's a follow-up? The tune changes.
By continuing a well-known movie series instead of going for a fresh start, the studios actually increase the level of appeal for their upcoming projects. They get to suck in a new generation of moviegoers, creating the next group of fans that will help the franchise succeed for years down the road, but they're also keeping the original fans happy. The notion of The Force Awakens was just as exciting for those who grew up with the original trilogy as it was for their kids, since the adults in attendance got to see the next chapter in a story they cared about. The older fans knew that the movies they watched in their youth still mattered in regards to the canon, making Episode VII a multi-generational event.
This is also why Jurassic World was such a big hit when it was released. Seeing John Hammond's original vision come into fruition and witnessing a fully functioning dinosaur amusement park was a thrill for those who remember the first Jurassic Park - when it was all just a dream that captured the imagination.
Films like Creed, The Force Awakens, and Jurassic World are no strangers to being criticized for "borrowing" from their predecessors when it comes to thematic or story elements, but the aura around these projects is palpably different. Fans appear to be more forgiving of any similarities in the case of a soft reboot because they know that it's still a new story in a familiar world as opposed to an all-out retread. Creed adheres very closely to the Rocky formula, but there are enough unique twists to make it its own thing. If Ryan Coogler had actually remade the 1976 original, the reception would be far less welcoming. The parallels between The Force Awakens and A New Hope are very apparent to those clued in, but they don't derail the movie because there's plenty of new stuff to get excited about.
The soft reboot combats the negative stigma of a remake or hard reboot by presenting the relaunch to the audience in a different light. It's not the same thing you've already seen, it's something new featuring something you love.
The soft reboot is a smart way to handle franchises and other big name properties. Frequently, they serve as a strong entry point for new viewers, meaning any knowledge of the previous films is not a necessity. At the same time, those who have followed the series from the beginning are also in for a treat, since spotting the references and Easter eggs are part of the fun. The history of everything that has come before is honored, and the continuation of the main story feels genuine and heartfelt as opposed to a shameless cash grab looking to capitalize on something recognizable. It can bring people closer together instead of creating a divide over which version is "better." They're all installments in the same series.
Even though Matt Damon is teasing that Jason Bourne marks the completion of the character's journey, you can bet the studio has other ideas. Should the film be as successful as the previous entries with Damon in the spotlight, interest will be high in producing more movies with Bourne front and center. Odds are, this won't be a one-off and perhaps usher in another series of stories for the super spy. After all, Return of the Jedi seemed to cap things off with an exclamation point until Mickey Mouse decided there was more to tell. And fans - both old and new - would be accepting of that, since they enjoy seeing Damon (and not someone else) play Bourne.
Given the critical and commercial performances of Jurassic World, Creed, and The Force Awakens, this looks like a trend that won't be going away anytime soon. It's actually been fairly prevalent in Hollywood for years, with the 2009 Star Trek and X-Men: First Class reviving their respective franchises while (relatively) staying within the same continuity. The goal of a tentpole movie is to cast a wide net and appeal to as many people as possible. The soft reboot is perhaps the perfect way of accomplishing that and keeping a majority of viewers happy.