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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Problem With Sequels

    Every year seems to bring with it at least a handful of sequels/reboots/remakes of old (and sometimes beloved) film franchises.  I’m not talking about sequels in the vein of Dark Knight Rises, which are planned from the getgo.  I mean the sequels that are tacked on after a film succeeds in an effort to repeat its success, or remakes/reboots with the same intent.  This year’s crop has included such films as The Amazing Spiderman, Ice Age: Continental Drift, Men in Black III, and Madagascar III. 

    For the record, I have not seen any of these films, and, quite honestly, I do not plan to.  I am aware that these films have gotten fairly decent reviews, and were box-office successes (all four currently rank among the 10 highest-grossing films of 2012 thus far).  Plenty of my friends saw them, and liked them.  I am still not going to see them. 

    Why?  Not so much because of the films themselves, but rather because of what they represent.  All are part of the unique trend to art forms specifically involving stories and entertainment- the desire for repetition.  People tend to want (and will pay money for) something they’ve already seen. 

    No other forms of art are treated this way, not quite.  Imagine if painting was treated the same way as video games- if Da Vinci pulled a COD and just painted the Last Supper over and over again, would he be hailed as the genius and visionary that he was?  We all remember Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, but how many of us remember the 12 other composers who, upon its release, promptly wrote their own symphonies with the exact same chord structure, themes, and instrumental/choral breakdown, but in a different key?  If they did write them, no one remembers, and rightly so. 

    A creation of art, like the creation of a child, is a singular act.  Although the act itself can be repeated again and again, the products of each act, though often similar, can never, ever be duplicated.  Books and movies are, in this regard, no different from paintings, sculptures, music, or any other form of artistic expression.  Each movie made has a story and existence all its own, and it is my firm belief that this individuality of every film, book, and piece of music should be celebrated every bit as much as the individuality of every human life. 

    Why, then, do movies seem to be victim to such constant repetition?  Men In Black as a film franchise floundered years ago when the second film bombed.  Ice Age was a fantastic, funny film the first time around, and offered no avenue for a sequel.  The previous Spiderman trilogy barely finished, and Paramount made it clear that this new film was made solely to maintain their rights to the franchise.  Even the FIRST Madagascar wasn’t that great a film, and yet, somehow, it’s already become a trilogy.  That there will be sequels is inevitable, but why THESE franchises? 

    The cynic in me would like to respond with a single word- “money.”  But, while that is clearly a factor (sometimes more so, sometimes less), that would be rather harsh of me, not to mention naive.  However I might wish it otherwise, money-making and the arts have always been rather intricately connected.  Many great masterpieces of film, literature, and music had their origins in a desire to make it big (Apocalypse Now and most classic rock, for example).  The impulse to create genuine art and the desire to make malenky craptons of money will probably always go hand in hand.  It’s the simple nature of the beast. 

    I must remind myself every so often that this should not be cause for despair.  Many profit-driven enterprises have resulted in great strides throughout history, in all areas of human society.  And plenty of sequels and remakes done for Geld have had their own merit.  And even though they aren’t always good, they can still be enjoyed.  So perhaps I’ve a bit harsh on the offspring of shameless coin-grabbing by the studio execs in Hollywood.  Just as the poor shall always be among us (according to Jesus anyway), so shall the soulless Boardroom Director.  And as long as some people find enjoyment in these movies, I suppose there’s no harm done.  Or at least not *too* much harm.  Probably.   

    So I guess I should rescind my earlier statement.  Perhaps I will see some of these movies one day.  Or maybe just Spiderman.  As long as I don’t have to pay for it. 

-Judge Richard


  1. If making sequels is like fornication, does that mean the Land Before Time and Beethoven franchises are like herpes?

  2. Yes. And the Avengers Initiative is like incest.

  3. Well-spoken, Judge. I think you're right about the Almighty Buck. Hence why we have franchises--studios KNOW people are going to go see them.

    Still, some sequels are made without being planned from the get-go that can equal or even surpass the originals. These are rare, yes, but they do happen. T2: Judgment Day for example. And even while you and I don't think Dark Knight was as good as Batman Begins, I'd say Dark Knight was a worthy sequel.

    My concern with sequels is that they stymie original films from being widely released or even made at all. The sequels get released everywhere and great original films like "In Bruges" or "Martha Marcy May Marlene" get limited release in New York and L.A.

    I share your frustration. The thing I have opted to do? Not to go see sequels. I've even given up on seeing any more superhero films--they start to bleed together after a while. It's a personal thing.

    In any case, I remain,

    Humbly yours,

    The CineMaverick

  4. I agree, there are sequels that actually do what they SHOULD do, but it's hard to escape the conclusion that that occurs far less than it should. I really only see sequels when I trust the people involved in the film (like Chris Nolan and the Batman franchise). We'll see how the new Les Mis is when it comes out.

    Thank you for your comment!