I’m fed up of poor film sequels - things aren’t always better second time around
- Credit: Fox UK
Squels. Every year we see a vast increase in sequels. 2017 alone will feature Fast And The Furious 8, Guardians Of The Galaxy 2, Alien 6 (technically), Pirates Of The Caribbean 5, Transformers 5, Despicable Me 3, Cars 3, Blade Runner 2, Star Wars 8, Thor 3 among others.
Sequels have been around for decades but with franchises and shared universes being the most sought after cinematic intellectual properties by studios, the majority of future big-budget mainstream releases will be follow-ups to previous features.
Ultimately studios can't shoulder all of the blame, as they are merely reacting to ticket sales. In truth, the cause is audiences favouring the familiar over taking a chance on something new.
Thus far I would say the best releases of 2017 have been Moonlight, Get Out and The Handmaiden but their combined revenue doesn't even come close to the box office sales of a single Star Wars installment.
The real disappointment hits when you realise that all too often studios don't seem to understand why their original film was a success in the first place. So with every passing release we get a diminished rate of return and the novelty starts to wear off.
Back in 1997 Wes Craven's horror film Scream 2 brought up a self-aware discussion about the nature of movie sequels. Film connoisseur and exposition fountain Randy, played by Jamie Kennedy, states that to create a successful horror sequel the body count has to be bigger and the death scenes more elaborate.
To a degree this is completely true - if you think of a sequel to any film, chances are it's a grander and more bombastic experience but somehow inferior to what came before. The real challenge is to name a sequel that was better than the original.
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Again, Scream 2 attempts to do this but every suggestion falls flat because it requires the events and foundation of its predecessor to have any true meaning or worth.
But there are exceptions to the rule. Aliens, The Godfather Part II, The Empire Strikes Back, Captain America: The Winter Soldier; films which excel, elevating and improving upon the story thus far to provide a thoroughly entertaining experience. Which highlights a very interesting fact: it is technically possible to create a good sequel, providing you have an exceptionally clever writing team.
Enter Norwich-based podcast group The Sequelisers. For the uninitiated, a podcast is effectively a radio show without the radio and this particular show pits two teams against one another as they try to improve bad sequels to good movies, with an impartial moderator making the final call of which is the best. The first episode took on the mammoth task of producing story pitches for Jaws 2 (if you aren't familiar, Jaws had three sequels, all equally terrible in their own unique way) and with all the hypothetical resources of any potential director, release year and stable of actors, both teams managed to prove that good sequels can indeed be a regular thing providing you appreciate what made the initial release a success and gauge what stories are left for the characters to have.
Future episodes will tackle many more titles and it's definitely worth a listen.
So the next time you watch a sequel and feel somewhat unimpressed with a third or fourth chapter in a franchise already long-in-the-tooth, spare a thought for the sequelising process.
How would you improve it? It may sound silly, like a bit of playground fantasy, but the more vocal you are the more likely studios and writers could take notice and change their films for the better.