Saturday, March 23, 2013

Sequels: The Good, The Bad, The Underrated and The Forgotten. Part 1

Why are sequels seen as bad? Why the stigma? Why are they made? In other cases why are they not? What are some of the greatest sequels? And why do people decide that one crappy film in a franchise of awesomeness, all of a sudden wrecks all the credibility of the previous films? I ask these questions a lot. I love to know why people get their panties in a twist when sequels don’t do as well as the original film in the specific franchise. Why do people act all shocked and betrayed because it didn’t live up to THEIR hype that they created in their head? There is a hell of a lot to cover with sequels, so this will be split into a series of articles. Just sit back, grab yourself a Cherry Coke and enjoy.

Going to the video store as a child always made me happy. It was the one place I felt I could hear myself think clearly. I used to love looking at all the VHS covers, especially the Exploitation, and Action genres. But another type of film I have gravitated towards is sequels. I LOVE sequels. If I love a movie that much, and I believe a sequel is warranted, then I try to telepathically contact the director and tell him to make a killer sequel. And sometimes it happens, but not from my mind controlling ways, but because the fans out there demand it. If you make a tonne of money off a film which is critically acclaimed, as well as making big bucks selling merchandise, why the hell wouldn’t you make a sequel? But how do you recapture that cinematic gold? Truth is, it’s incredibly hard to do so. Why? Because you got big studio executives breathing down your neck, pushing you to write your new script faster, so you start shooting ASAP. This where it goes down hill. I can only imagine how much you would have to rush to get another sequel onto the big screen, just so you can make more money for the big wigs sitting in a boardroom. There is two ways things can go down from there…Firstly you make a tonne of money from the sequel but it is scathed by critics and your everyday film goer, so this in turn makes people sceptical IF another sequel is made. OR the film can crash and burn completely and the franchise will be dead, and no one will touch it for quite a few years and it will be a brunt of pop culture jokes for a long time.

 When a sequel crashes and burns, why do people just separate themselves completely from a franchise they ACTUALLY loved? That never made sense to me. The perfect example of that is the original Batman franchise which was started by Tim Burton. In both ‘Batman’ and ‘Batman Returns’, Burton understood the characters, the setting, the dialogue and the story. He brought together such unusual elements of his own creative psyche and mixed them in a snow globe with the history of Batman and we got the dark masterpiece that we had been looking for. ‘Batman Returns’, was a success but was given not so nice reviews from critics. It was seen as too dark for the kiddies, and they feared it wouldn’t sell as much merchandise for them as its predecessor. Apparently making a tonne of money from the merchandise is a lot more important than the integrity of the film.  And in comes Joel Schumacher…I know what you are thinking; ‘He put nipples on the Bat suit’. Who cares really? ‘Batman Forever’ is still one of my favourite films. It is a lot of fun, and while it doesn’t have much of strong story in some of the parts, it has heart. And it does remind me a lot of the 1950′s era of the comics. That was a time in the comic book era where it was more ‘campy but with an edge’ and that is what ‘Batman Forever’ has. Not so campy as ‘POW’, ‘ZAP’ and ‘WHAM’, and not as dark and edgy as the previous Tim Burton films. It was a good mixture because it has a true comic book feel. A world like no other. Just because you have a comic book movie doesn’t mean it needs to be serious all the way through. Comic books in general are fun, so have fun with a comic book movie. ‘Batman and Robin’ was the film that to this day seems to be the ‘face’ of the franchise. It isn’t a great film at all. To be honest, it’s quite bad, but I do get enjoyment out of it. There are many reasons why people hate that film, and that is their opinion, but don’t let pop culture and EVERYONE ELSE’S OPINION cloud your own judgement. Don’t let one film wreck an entire franchise. If you were to say that this original Batman franchise is better than Nolan’s trilogy I can guarantee the first thing everyone would say is this ‘Batman and Robin was so bad, there was nipples on the bat suit, it was just silly’. But they never ever mention the other three films…funny that.

It is a real shame that people just don’t take sequels seriously. There is only a couple of groups of cinema goers who appreciate sequels even if they are not as good as the original. Those people are die hard fans of, Sci-Fi, Action, Exploitation, Spaghetti Westerns and of course HORROR! How many horror film sequels have their been in the history of film? Hundreds! Die Hard horror fans, find excitement and awesomeness in the way the practical FX are done, the creativity of the plot and of course they want to see people get hacked into. Obviously with sequels it is hard to get the same scares out of an audience that was managed in a previous films. As an audience, they prepare themselves, because they don’t trust the film maker, but deep down they do like to be scared. Horror film sequels do tend to cop a lot of the flack. They are usually reviewed badly by people who have zero interest in the genre or they just don’t understand the genre and don’t acknowledge what the director was trying to do with the film. Sure it does get a little repetitive when the same killer comes back from the dead and want’s even more revenge and carnage. But if you look past that it is a tonne things you can enjoy with sequels like that. Don’t be ashamed to say you like those kind of films, there is nothing wrong with it.

I have grown up a lot in the past few years in terms of my movie taste. I have become a lot more accepting of other genres and other films, and I can now see films for the tiny charms that they possess. Not every film is a masterpiece, and not ever film is going to win awards or critical acclaim, but that doesn’t make the film any less relevant to the industry. This is what people need to start to realise. You cannot watch a film like ‘Predator 2′ and compare it to the likes of ‘Rain Man’, because they are too different films and two completely different genres. I would have to say majority of cinema goers find that sequels have ‘hurt’ their movie senses too many times, and that is fair because there are a lot of terrible sequels made. HOWEVER, don’t just assume a sequel is going to be bad just because it’s a sequel. And more importantly don’t just listen to a reviewer and think their opinion is ‘scripture’, because it isn’t. I see reviewers, paid and unpaid, as a guide. They have their opinion, they will either tell you how the film made them feel or what they liked and disliked, but that isn’t your opinion. Broaden those damn horizons and watch what you feel could be entertaining, and that goes for sequels. If you want another mind numbing action sequel with a tonne of explosions and cheesy one liners and buff men, then go see it and enjoy the hell out of it.

Sequels are made because you wanted it. After you saw ‘The Avengers’, don’t tell me you weren’t pumped up at the possibility of a sequel. Because EVERYONE felt the same. But what if the sequel to ‘The Avengers’ doesn’t live up to your expectation? What then? Will you write off the franchise and say it wasn’t imaginative or that it was turning into a ‘Transformers-esque’ type of film? Sequels are made because studios know they have potential to make them a lot of money, and also because the fans want one. Sequels should be embraced, and respected in a lot of cases. Why? Because they are trying to recapture the greatness of the original and to do that, a lot of effort has to be put in, even if the studio wants it to be rushed. They have a great weight on their shoulders, so cut them some damn slack. There are a lot of great sequels out there and I don’t just mean ‘Terminator 2: Judgement Day’ or ‘Godfather Part II’; there is a lot of forgotten ones too. Some choose to be forgotten, and some just get lost in the midst of the competition and don’t get recognised. I could go on about how much more awesome ‘Back to the Future Part II’ is, but it’s been done, so let’s try something different. In the next few articles I am going to explore sequels which have been forgotten, classified as ‘crap’ and personal favourites of mine.

This article was just scratching the surface. I just want everyone to know how important sequels are to the film industry, whether movie snobs like it or not. They have their place, and they should be given a lot more credit. I am not saying that sequels are the best thing since Cherry Coke, but they cop a lot of flack because of ignorant movie viewers, pop culture and stupid Facebook groups. Open your eyes and your heart to sequels and just let them take you on a ride. Even if it’s so bad it’s good, don’t deny yourself of that pleasure.

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