Written by Dylan Deppe. Media by Jason Wang.
“Not as good as the first one.” That’s what people usually say about sequels. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, sequels have been the thing sort of keeping multiplexes open for the past 20-ish years. People who love these noisy moving pictures like to blame the decline of “good” movies on the sequels. While I partially agree that sequels are killing the industry the way we’ve enjoyed it for approximately 100 years, detractors haven’t had to try too hard to demonize the concept. But, are sequels bad? Let’s talk that movie talk.
A friend of mine stated that the film industry is being rather nostalgic in not just reviving our favorite intellectual properties (IPs) like “Star Wars,” “Alien,” superheroes, “Mad Max,” etc., but it’s also nostalgic in how they handle the artistry that births these things we watch. In the past, studios took hot young directors like George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola and said, “Here are a few million dollars. Try not to have too much fun!”
When many of those bushy-tailed directors made hits like “Star Wars: A New Hope,” “Jaws,” and “The Godfather,” that invaded our cultural zeitgeist, the studios did what businesses do: they saw dollar signs in more movies. There’s nothing wrong with that, though. A business exists for the purpose of giving a market what it wants, and we want movies.
But now, they’re taking older and newer directors and giving them even more money to revive franchises into being huge things they hope audiences will eat up. Even franchises we thought were dead. “Mad Max: Fury Road” was, for lack of a better word, amazing. Nobody expected the fourth movie in a dead-for-30-something-years franchise to be more than half good. So, because of that movie, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” and Ridley Scott’s grand ambitions for franchising “Alien” and “Blade Runner,” studios really want to franchise, and even cinematic-universe-inject, their old IPs.
But, there is cause for concern. First off, audiences seem to be tired of many of these franchises, especially the ones for older movies, but the studios keep pumping them out. Second, when a studio both plans and announces cinematic-universe entries and sequels, it defeats much of the point of watching a movie to begin with. If you announce a movie slate that stretches 10 years into our future, we know even more now that most of the big characters are safe. Whatever studios are thinking, we shouldn’t watch movies just to watch Iron Man tell a fart joke or the like; we should watch them because we want to be surprised and learn something new.
So, is the sequel even a viable concept? Since we’re talking about an art form, I’d say the answer depends on taste. The point of the sequel is to go further, and because of narrative interest, usually the character gets morally or ideologically tested in a way that isn’t expected. But because it’s a movie, a sequel also has to be visually/viscerally more than whatever it follows. You can say a character is in danger, but it doesn’t work as well as just showing that. Sometimes people like it, and sometimes they don’t. Traditionally, critics don’t like “noisy” or “busy” movies. But, where were the calls of heresy when “Aliens” showed lots of aliens? How deep did Rotten Tomatoes stab “Captain America: Civil War” for actually being “Avengers 2.5” (or as I call it, “Rich Man vs. Boy Scout: The Other Guys Having the Same Argument a Few Months Later”)? The point is, a loud sequel can still get good reviews and even be a good movie.
Bobby Burns may be a grouchy mope who doesn’t know how to enjoy things, but he’s a smart kid that makes good points, especially in this video. There are all kinds of sequels, for all kinds of franchises, from bad sequels to good movies (“Avengers: Age of Ultron”), good sequels to good movies (“Godfather Part Two”), and good sequels to bad movies (“Star Wars‒Episode III: Revenge of the Sith”). Whether you like sequels or not, studios are pumping them out. Remember, you vote with your dollar. So, if you don’t like something, just don’t see it.