Sequels Suck

“Sequels suck!”: the iconic (ironic sp?) words of Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy) in the horror film parody Scream 2, but where did the world’s obsession with seeing the same characters in a slightly ‘darker’ environment with more sex, death and explosions than the first time around come from?
Sequels are by no means a new phenomenon, you only have to think back to Rocky I-V and the countless Dirty Harry follow-ups, but the constant dominance of the sequel risks making the movie industry lazy and complacent.
The most obvious reason for a sequel is the studio executives’ “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mentality, since it’s proven that audiences engrossed with the first in a series will check out later films, even if they know little or nothing about them apart from what they’ve already seen.
Lately releases from the “…Movie” series have been increasing in frequency, the latest being the imaginatively named “Disaster Movie”. Strictly speaking these films are not sequels, but their humble beginnings were with Scary Movie and its latter incarnations, and all the films follow the same pattern and style, having generally been produced by the same people.
Now it’s not to say there isn’t a place for parody or pastiche in modern film (“Airplane!” being the most impressive example from history), but when it gets to a stage where a film merely ‘steals’ parts of other recent blockbusters for cheap laughs, the public deserves better.
Some films have benefited from recent sequels, such as Sylvester Stallone’s “Rocky Balboa”, which shows our favourite hard-as-nails boxer battling with his age to prove to everyone he wasn’t the wash-out he became by Rocky V (irony anyone?), but sadly for every Balboa there is a “John Rambo”.
A different take on the same idea is another strategy used in recent years, particularly in the guise of the superhero. “The Incredible Hulk”, “Superman Returns” and “Batman Begins”/”The Dark Knight” are all positive that they aren’t ‘re-makes’, but ‘re-imaginings’. These take existing characters which have already been immortalised on film, to varying success, and re-invent them for a modern audience.
Batman lost the over the top clown that was Jack Nicholson’s joker and gained a dark, moody, but still comical replacement in the form of a top-form Heath Ledger, a risky but well executed move that made “The Dark Knight” the second best-selling sequels of all time, grossing over $949million worldwide, but still falling short of Titanic’s whopping $1.84billion.
Sadly though, other attempts weren’t so successful. In the case of Superman, whose return was directed by the legendary Bryan Singer, helmsman of “The Usual Suspects” and “Xmen”, the plot focused too much on love and family and neglected action, despite an excellent performance from newcomer Brandon Routh and impressive visual effects.
Hand-in-hand with sequels come trilogies, audiences have come to expect them and movie bosses will not disappoint, obediently churning out further incarnations, which often go from bad to worse.
“The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” is the most recent tragedy; having lost director Stephen Sommers and co-star Rachel Wiesz, to be replaced by Rob Cohen and Maria Bello respectively, the franchise faultered, leaving John Hannah’s comic relief Jonathan Carnahan stranded and overlooked and the plot in pieces. It just goes to show that even when the previous films flaws are considered, mistakes can still be made.
All of this bodes ill for the return of James Bond in October. “Quantum of Solace” (based on a Fleming short story) will be the first true Bond sequel, set between a few minutes and an hour after the end of “Casino Royale”, but surely with 007’s pedigree the film-makers can avoid the typical pitfalls and produce a truly stunning follow-up, right?
The long and the short of it is that sequels aren’t going away, but remember in the midst of the “Terminator 4”s and “High School Musical 8: The Pension Years” there will always be original classics tucked away waiting to be discovered.