Let’s get one thing clear right off the bat: I’m a huge Shrek fan.


Shrek 2 is, for me, a masterpiece, a marvel of entertainment that combines countless genius comedic beats with a genuinely touching story about feeling comfortable in your own skin.

The original Shrek pushed the boundaries of what animation could do, Shrek the Third boasted a scene where fairytale characters attack a castle as Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song wails in the background, and even Shrek Forever After had some highlights - they just escape my memory in this moment.

Yet after the recent announcement that Shrek 5 is indeed happening, even I have a very bad feeling about returning to the series - a belief that, for all that heading back to Far Far Away is an exciting idea in theory, in practice creating a fifth movie seems a huge mistake.

Let’s be honest, the Shrek series was on a downward trajectory ever since 2004. After creating one of the few sequels to rival Empire Strikes Back in terms of upping the quality from film one (stop laughing, it’s true), DreamWorks largely relied on star power to try and elevate its third outing, adding the likes of Justin Timberlake and Eric Idle to the roster to make headlines - but forgetting to use them in an interesting story.

Shrek, Donkey and Puss in Boots gathered together in the woods
Shrek, Donkey and Puss in Boots. DreamWorks

And in Shrek Forever After, the studio made the same mistake ten times over, cramming the movie full of big names like Jon Hamm and Jane Lynch, with each addition shifting the focus away from the core characters, to the point where the likes of Cameron Diaz’s Princess Fiona become an afterthought.

In an era of multiverses and crossovers, where bigger is often seen as better, it isn’t hard to imagine that a fifth Shrek movie will take this route once again.

The nod to Shrek in spin-off Puss in Boots: The Last Wish had the distinct whiff of a Marvel Cinematic Universe-style post-credits sting, and there’s every chance that DreamWorks will be tempted to bring in other popular figures from its own universe as new, shiny additions, forgetting that for all the spectacle and silliness of the original films, it was the story that really hooked viewer in.

On The Last Wish, it feels that the surprise success of that movie is the source of DreamWorks’ willingness to greenlight the green ogre’s return to the big screen. The 2022 release made just under $500m at the global box office, and was lauded by critics and audiences alike.

Yet the fear is that studio executives have taken the wrong message from this, that they may have believed it was the presence of recognisable names that put bums on seats, rather than the fact that it had an original story to tell, and an original way of telling it.

In reality, it was The Last Wish’s commitment to exploring what makes a happy life that really connected with audiences on a mass scale, rather than its cameos or existing IP.

Shrek and Donkey stood next to each other looking confused
Shrek. DreamWorks

Does Shrek 5 have an equally interesting story to tell? Is it being resurrected because there’s one final bucket of narrative water left in the well? If that’s the case, it’s tough to imagine what that could be.

After all, each and every Shrek film so far has boiled down to a similar message, following a similar narrative thread of the main man (well, ogre) discovering that he belongs after all - an interesting throughline when tackled once or twice, but one that gets tedious after four outings.

Treading through this tale a fifth time? Exhausting in any context. But in an era of sequel fatigue, where audiences are actively turning off from stories that tread similar ground with similar characters - see recent MCU outings, the return to the Ghostbusters world and more - there’s a real chance that the hype around this announcement on social media may not translate into ticket sales in cinemas.

What makes things worse is that, in an increasingly progressive, daring animation field, the visuals of the Shrek series have quite possibly been left behind. As painful as it is to admit, in an era post-Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and The Mitchells vs the Machines, those original Shrek films feel a little outdated.

Will DreamWorks twist, channelling the visuals of The Last Wish, which put its own spin on Spider-Verse’s hybrid animation style? Possibly, but this runs the risk of alienating existing fans, many of whom have ironically grown to love this character and this world because of its contribution to memes and questionable TikTok videos.

It also threatens to make the film feel out of place within the wider story, much like how the largely forgotten Stuart Little 3: Call of the Wild doesn’t really feel canon within that trilogy.

But if they stick with the distinctly noughties aesthetic, the movie could well fail to inspire new audiences to take a look, instead relying on older viewers who already know this world while likely failing to grasp the attention of younger audiences who often contribute so much to box office takings.

In the vein of being left behind, the cast of the film is also an issue. It may feel like sacrilege to question Eddie Murphy, one of the most successful Hollywood stars of all time, and Mike Myers, the man behind two of the funniest franchises and most iconic comedy characters of all time (Austin Powers 4 rumours continue to swirl for a reason), but let’s face it - they’re not exactly on the top of their game right now.

Murphy’s charm was undeniable at the peak of his powers, but taking a quick glance at his filmography in recent years doesn’t fill you with confidence: Coming 2 America failed to emulate the joy of its predecessor; Candy Cane Lane was a pretty uninspiring Christmas flick; Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F relied heavily on nostalgia to win audiences over, rather than bringing much new to the table.

Will Murphy be able to emulate the rib-tickling traits that made Donkey such a fan favourite? It's likely, but it’s not the guarantee it was 15 years ago.

And Myers has arguably failed to secure a big win since his Shrek days, with his most Myers-esque outing since then, The Pentaverate, being largely pummelled by critics.

Eddie Murphy as Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop leaning on a car door, smiling
Eddie Murphy as Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F. Netflix

All the while, the other prong in the original trident, Cameron Diaz, has effectively been retired for a decade, suggesting there could be a little rust from the former big screen superstar.

In theory, all of these performers will be able to channel the spirit that made them so delightfully effective in those first four films, but if this project is used solely as a cash cow for struggling stars, there’s a fear that we may not see a full commitment to the cause.

Each are consummate professionals with strong track records in the past, but it feels a puzzling time to get the gang back together.

This goes for the film as a whole. If the studio, the scriptwriters, the storyboard artists are all looking for an easy, nostalgia-fuelled payday, Shrek 5 threatens to damage the franchise beyond repair.

It may not be the case – there may be a golden story in there that everyone is simply desperate to tell – but forgive me if I’m not first in line to buy a ticket and find out. Shrek 2, at least I’ll always have you.

Shrek 5 will be released on 1st July 2026.


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