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« Beasts of the Southern Secret Garden | Main | 20 Days 'til Oscar: The Live Action Shorts »
Tuesday
Feb052013

Burning Questions: What Kind of Sequels Should Be Made?

I've hijacked Michael C's column this week because I have a burning question of my own to ask. 

With that hot buzz for Before Midnight from Sundance warming the expectant hearts of even the coldest cinephiles this winter (it'll win more fans in warmer temperatures next month at SXSW), I've been thinking about movie sequels. Why do we get them, how we receive them, and whether or not we need them.

The first and usually sole reason of "why" is money. Humans are creatures of habit so it's an organic reality that nearly every artform indulges in sequels (whether they're named as such or not) and has since long before "branding" was a term people without business acumen understood. Branding is so common and catch-phrasey now that even non-sequels feel like sequels. What is, for instance, each new Johnny Depp and Tim Burton collaboration but an endless series of sequels Johnny & Tim: Now...Vampiric. Johnny & Tim: Now... Caloric... Now... Johnny & Tim: in Garish 3D. Usually sequels make enough money to suggest that Hollywood should make them forever and preferrably split each sequel up into two parts to double investment. And, if they can control costs, make them for everything that was successful. 

But what kind of sequels should be made?

Maybe it's the edge-of-my-seat expectant bliss/wracked nerves regarding Before Midnight (dare I trust the critics who've already seen it? Critics are least trustworthy, I find, during the heat of festival mania and during the heat of awards season when constant conversation/groupthink and jetlag/movie-binging are most likely to affect them.) Maybe it's my now comical tries at seeing Yossi (things keep going wrong and I still haven't seen it!) which is the ten-years later sequel to the charming Israeli gay drama Yossi & Jagger (2003). The point being that I've decided that my absolute favorite kind of sequel is the "let's drop in on these characters again for no particular reason" When these films are done right it feels like they're done for the art of it, to illustrate what changes and insights the passage of time brings. And because we love spending the time with the characters. Now of course this doesn't always work out. The Evening Star was a big letdown for anyone expecting Terms of Endearment 2. But in concept, why not revisit one of the most indelible characters of 1980s cinema?

Terminator 2: The Return of Sarah Connor

Come to think of it this stance also helps explains my super-intense abiding love for Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) which is a sequel of the traditional kind (i.e. this will make TONS of money!) but which I would rank -- easily -- near the tippity top of a list of the greatest sequels ever made. And that's largely because of the authentically shocking evolution of character. The Sarah Connor therein is nothing like the one we met in 1984 but once you're past the 'what the hell!?'reveal the new one feels like a natural progression nonetheless to traumatic events from the first film. And it immediately shows how lazily written most characters are in sequels where nothing between films has ever affected them. Big blockbusters so rarely feel that deeply rooted in actual human drama. 

What kind of sequels do you long for?
Which film characters would you love to drop in on again?

 

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Reader Comments (29)

I like sequels as long as they expand the story enough to justify it without altering the first movie.

February 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSad man

Having not seen Before Midnight yet, perhaps I can't make this comment, but what I found astonishing about Before Sunset, was that not only was it a sequel that only works properly if you've seen the first, but it transformed the first film Before Sunrise into something that needed Before Sunset. We suddenly see the naivety, the bliss, the remarkable night that they had in a new light. I've never seen that happen before, where the first film as much tied to the second, and it is the other way around.

February 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoFo

I agree with you. When you have great characters and room to revisit them, why not?

And I need a sequel of You Can Count on Me. I feel like I know Sammy, like I'd like call her to know if she is ok. She is a real person.

Sequels should not be about "what happened to X" but "I fell like meeting X again. How is he/she?"

But sometimes movies are not the best option. I love Sammy so much that a sequel wouldn't be enough. What about a tv show? I'd love to see Lonergan writing for tv. He is SO GOOD with characters that I want to meet them once a week!

February 5, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

You all: don't see Before Sunrise and Before Sunset again before seeing Before Midnight. Think of them as friends you haven't seen for a while. Allow yourself to be wrong about what you know about them.

February 5, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

linda hamilton deserved awards attention for T2.
what happened to her?

February 5, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdavid

JoFo- Perfectly stated on how the sequel relates so well to the original.

Since American Graffiti dropped the ball so hard with having a sequel, one that was unnecessary as it just lived out most of the events in the epilogue of the original film, I would love to have the creative team of The Myth of the American Sleepover, a kindred spirit of American Graffiti, all come back in a few years and see where the characters are. Have it be the summer theme where the characters have returned from whatever their lives took them for a summer vacation.

And although I want to avoid genre films, I feel like Looper is asking for a sequel but specifically on that kid.

There are a few Richard Linklater films where a sequel does not seem completely implausible beyond the Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight films. School of Rock, Slacker, and Dazed & Confused come to mind. Heck, give me another film that has Christian McKay as Orson Welles again. I think that speaks to how well-written and fleshed out he makes his characters.

February 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

I long for sequels that are not pre-ordained before the first movie even comes out. Why, it seems it was only yesterday that studios released movies without having already locked up the cast for a three movie trilogy, without planting easter eggs for the sequel in the end credits to the first film. It's so arrogant and presumptuous, treating the audience like just another cog in their industrial process. Tell a good, complete story - then we can talk about sequels.

February 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

Interesting that you mention T2, which I agree is a great sequel, since director James Cameron was also the man behind probably my favorite sequel (at least in the action/adventure/sci-fi genre): Aliens. Just a great film that takes the Sigourney Weaver's Ripley on a completely different journey from the first film. I personally didn't like any of the Alien sequels that followed, but that may have more to do with the fact that I wanted the win that Ripley gets at the end of Aliens to stick.

(By the way, I would not count either The Two Towers or Return of the King -- which you know I love -- as sequels, even if technically they would fit. That's one story, justifiably told over three films, like the source material.)

February 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSusanP

My favorite sequels is Cars 2. No wait, I still haven' t seem it.
My fav were actually Toy Story 2 and Bourne Supremacy.

February 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRic

I think the problem with sequels is money and commitment and fear of change and the suits having too much say in the final product. Too often, they feel like the same script, rehashed with bigger explosions, etc rather than moving the story forward. If you think of the most successful sequels (Bourne, Bond (each lead actor is his own series), Godfather, Indiana Jones, Dark Knight, Terminator, Nick and Nora), each was driven by the same creative forces, same principal characters and even a sameness in tone, but without the fear of making changes in many areas even to cutting much loved characters from the original and introducing very different new ones which is how life works. The fun of a great sequel is seeing a character you love in a new situation, not being static. Same goes for books and TV. Part of what makes Downton so good is that it never really settles into a routine. I hate that Sybil died, but it makes me excited to see what happens next. Ditto Breaking Bad, Walking Dead, Good Wife. The people who make film sequels could learn a thing or two from good TV.

I'ld like to see The International, Women on the Verge, Prometheus and Inception as sequels.

February 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

The Incredibles and Annie Hall.

February 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBeau

I was also going to mention Alines which changed the tone of the series. The first Alien felt like a sci-fi horror movie in a way (the last virginal woman lives!), but Aliens was a bad-ass war movie, only with monsters instead of, what, the Nazis I guess?

I'd love to see a sequel to something like The Big Chill which almost played like a sequel at the time. A sequel to their earlier more naive selves. What are those people up to now? How many are alive? Happy or sad? etc.

Or like Dazed & Confused. What happened to all of those guys?

What we don't need are half-baked sequels that have no reason for being like the Matrix sequels, or heaven forbid things like Cheaper By The Dozen 2, and the no doubt sequel More Parental Guidance.

February 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDave in Alamitos Beach

The ending of Naked is perfect, but I can't deny I would like to see Mike Leigh pick up with David Thewlis's character 20 years down the road.

I also think there is much left to explore in the world of Dark City.

February 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMichael C.

Mean Girls 2: The High School Reunion

February 5, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdan.

I never understood the critical treatment of The Godfather Part III. While deeply flawed, the story of Michael and Kay cried out for revisiting, and the result was quite fascinating. I don't think any of us will get over that denouement and Sofia's role, but all in all this is a rich, complex portrait of a family coming to terms with the past and the meaning of tradition.

February 5, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I have a recurring nightmare that they remake Nine and a Half Weeks. Mickey and Kim, both in the final throes of crack addiction, decide to have one last hurrah. It's called Nine and a Half Hours. This time, instead of whip cream, it's heavy-duty medicinal ointment.

February 5, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I can understand some of the critical treatment of The Godfather Part III yet I felt it was misdirected. Making the Catholic Church the new point of comparison was incredibly ambitious and did not quite follow through in its aims. The criticism of Sofia Coppola was overkill and it just came off that she had no choice on the matter of her casting (Winona Ryder backed out of the role at the 11th hour, IIRC). That and the Michael Jr. character was incredibly underdeveloped when you consider his two identities crossing in the film. Al Pacino did his best but it did not quite feel like Michael anymore, Diane Keaton was good, Talia Shire was good as always, Joe Montegna was good, and Andy Garcia was great. Bridget Fonda felt like, 'hot chick of the month' miscast for a pretty lousy role and having Tom Hagen no longer alive (and having George Hamilton fill his shoes was a little deflating.

February 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

There were a lot of themes that weren't fully explored, and I agree that the character of Michael was not very well-defined. But Pacino did a great job of showing how someone can be trapped in a life no matter how hard they try to escape. The Shakespearean aspects of the story picked up where Godfather II left off, though of course not nearly as successfully. Sofia was cast after Ryder collapsed due to exhaustion and had to back out. Winona starred in three other films that year. She would have been terrific in the movie.

February 5, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I think sequels to You Can Count On Me, Weekend (2011), Kids, and Fish Tank would be really interesting. I'd like to see what happened to those characters and what they were like years later.

February 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMeghan

I'd love to drop in on the characters from Parting Glances, Fish Tank, Wendy and Lucy, and, um, Nicole Kidman in Birth (I'm only half joking on that last one).

February 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Aliens and Terminator 2.

February 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAgent69

Sequels should not be about just making money- or just a mindless rehash of the first movie.

February 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

Meghan and David: As it is right now, a sequel to Fish Tank is a double edged sword. On the one hand: "Yay! Katie Jarvis gets another possibility to seriously break through." On the other hand: "NOOOOOO! She's going to get inextricably linked to a single character!"

February 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Congrats, dan. You win. Mean Girls 2: The High School Reunion should definitely happen. (Though would it be too similar to Romy and Michele's?)

Also, for the lol factor, I'd be down to see a sequel to Margaret, perhaps where Lisa is in college. You just know she went to Wesleyan or the like. ;-) Too bad that Anna Paquin is in her mid-20s now.

Another character I wonder about: Margot from Take this Waltz. That story could go in a number of interesting directions if it was picked back up years down the line.

February 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

I reject the idea that we "need" any movie, if something is good on its own standards (meaning it doesn't have to live up to anything else) than it was a good idea. Same with remakes, this whole idea that movies some movies have to earn their right to exist more than others is just silly and incorrect. A good movie is a good movie.

February 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike F

Oh no! You still haven't been able to watch YOSSI :(

I agree that these are the best kinds of sequel... of course, there are times when you get more THIS IS 40 than BEFORE SUNSET and nobody wins then.

February 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

Evan -- but wasn't the last 10 minutes of Take the Waltz basically the sequel already. This is what happened to her as a result of the first movie... ;)

February 6, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

One sequel I would have like to see made is "The Way We Are." It was written and Streisand was willing. But Redford never came on board. It was supposed to take place 20 years after the original.
And I was really hoping for The Godfather IV, with Andy Garcia leading the cast, maybe with Talia Shire and Diane Keaton with cameo appearances.

February 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMarcos

I think this is why the Toy Story sequels work so well. I consider them to be some of the greatest sequels of all time. We are seeing the beloved characters in new and interesting environments. Each movie is very different.

February 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJeff

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