Why Sequels Suck
A MEMO TO THE DIRECTOR
Congratulations! Your film has done admirably at the box office. Your combination of (breathtaking effects/clever writing/wicked action scenes/biting social commentary; circle one) and (breathtaking effects/clever writing/wicked action scenes/biting social commentary; circle one) has led the producers to greenlight a sequel. Please begin (eviscerating the film?s soul/firing every original actor/hiring a retarded monkey to write the script/slashing the production budget/obscenely inflating the production budget/marketing the movie to angsty 12-year-olds; circle one) in preparation for the sequel?s release.
So maybe movie studios aren?t always that point-blank about their plans to create sequels. Really, though, if you look at all the spectacularly bad sequels that have come out in the past decade or so, it wouldn?t be any stretch of the imagination to see memos like the one above being sent out every few months by production companies.
Sometimes it seems like movie studio execs simply have no idea what they?re producing. Certainly, the box office success of one movie does not guarantee the success of a sequel. There are so many variables that go into what makes a good movie that it?s nearly impossible to capture all of them and repeat the success a second time.
Take the recent release of The Ring 2. You may have noticed the less-than-positive review in last week?s Pillbox ? the film had no possibility of living up to the original, which was a highly regarded and well-executed movie. Of course, The Ring 2 has been performing well at the box office, but that is more an effect of having no other even marginally entertaining movies in theaters right now and especially because it?s only PG-13. Even considering that, this movie should never have been made. In fact, The Ring 2?s Japanese counterpart, Ringu 2, was only created because people didn?t like the original sequel (titled Rasen, or ?spiral?).
A lot of sequels don?t even get the restrained respect that The Ring 2 is starting to get. For example, take the release of Son of the Mask earlier this year. Even on the film?s own merits and if the movie were a completely original film devoid of franchise ties, it would have been a miserable failure. The film cost $84 million to produce and even more to market, and to date (in the month and a half it?s been out) it has made just over $25 million worldwide. This is a perfect example of the worst way to go about a sequel: Not only did the production company take a franchise that has been dormant for 11 years, except for a mildly entertaining cartoon show, but they also got rid of the original director, original screenwriter, original cast, and even the original feel of the movie. In fact, Son of the Mask was produced and marketed as a kids? movie ? the inheritors of the enchanted mask are a dog and a baby. Stunning filmmaking, indeed.
And then there was the brilliant idea of making bad sequels to already bad movies. Elektra, released earlier this year, was a sequel to the mediocre Daredevil. No one expected the production company to spin off a relatively uninteresting character (who actually ends up dying in Daredevil) into her own movie ? even though they did give it a hefty budget and kept the star. The production company simply couldn?t solve the problem of an uninteresting story and poor acting. The producers of the movie haven?t yet disclosed how much they spent to make the movie, but it?s only made $52 million worldwide ? a paltry amount for any Marvel Comics film.
There are exceptions to bad sequel syndrome, of course. X-Men 2 and Spiderman 2 both kept the original cast, the original director, and the spirit of the film, and both were regarded to be great sequels. Even The Italian Job and Ocean?s 11, while not proper sequels, were both remakes of older films and kept the spirit of the originals alive, while updating the films to make them relevant and enjoyable to modern audiences.
Fortunately, sometimes it is possible to redeem a franchise. The abysmally rubber-nipple-tastic Batman & Robin was definitely a low point in superhero movie history. Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze, wearing a chromed
bondage suit, was something no one should ever have been subjected to. The film was horrible enough to end Alicia Silverstone?s career (the biggest movie she?s been in since then was Scooby Doo 2). However, salvation may be coming in the form of creepy tough guy Christian Bale, who is taking the role of a young Bruce Wayne in the upcoming Batman Begins. The film has been testing very positively with critics and fans at prescreenings, so there is hope that it will bring the franchise back to its respected roots.
In a few rare cases, sequels have done even better than the original movies. Die Hard: With a Vengeance, the third film in that franchise, which went back to the director and ?yippee-ki-yay? attitude of the original, became vastly more popular than its predecessor, though not quite as highly grossing.
The spirit of a film is its heart, its soul, and its ability to perform at the box office. Too often, in the rush to make a quick buck, movie executives lose sight of the movie?s original spirit and tend to go for whatever will get the most attention. With marketing costs ever rising, the pinch to squeeze money from the public is getting stronger ? and unfortunately for moviegoers, the easiest way to do that is by making horrible sequels in already existing franchises. On behalf of the production companies that make these horrible sequels: my apologies.