It seems like sequels are becoming more and more commonplace in film. Is this a period of Hollywood enlightenment or a dismal slump in the quality of movies?
Let’s take a look back at the past year in movies. In 2017, we had:
- xXx: Return of Xander Cage
- Fifty Shades Darker
- John Wick: Chapter 2
- Kong: Skull Island
- The Fate of the Furious
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
- Alien: Covenant
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
- Cars 3
- Despicable Me 3
- Transformers: The Last Knight
- Spiderman: Homecoming
- War for the Planet of the Apes
- Kingsman: The Golden Circle
- Blade Runner 2049
- Thor: Ragnarok
- Pitch Perfect 3
- Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi
And these are only the most popular sequels. Of course, numerous original movies also hit theaters last year, but it just seems like there’s a trend of sequels crowding out more creative films. So here’s my question:
Where are the original stories?
Why All the Sequels?
If we want to understand why movie theaters are inundated with sequels every year, we need to first understand why directors make sequels in the first place.
Roger Ebert once said, “No movie executive has ever been fired for greenlighting a sequel.” If the original was popular, there’s a good chance the sequel will be equally as popular–even surpassing it in many cases. This is why we have franchises like The Fast and The Furious and Terminator.
Sequels especially tend to do well with action or superhero films. Take Die Hard (1988), for example. It took in $140.8 million in its original theater run. Its sequel, Die Hard 2 (1990), took in $240 million. Another example of this is the Iron Man franchise. Iron Man (2008) took in $585.2 million, Iron Man 2 (2010) took in $623.9 million, and Iron Man 3 (2013) took in a staggering $1.215 billion.
So, in other words, the odds are good for Hollywood executives to make a profit when they film a sequel to an already popular movie. Moviegoers can’t resist seeing their favorite heroes back in action–even if the plot gets watered down with every new movie.
Sequels: Good or Bad?
The big question is if sequels are good or bad for us as the audience. And when I mean good or bad, I don’t just mean if the movie was good or bad. I mean do we really benefit from seeing the same regurgitated stories over and over? What does that do for our creativity? Our originality?
Consider these words from esteemed director of the Godfather series, Francis Ford Coppola, “I think a sequel is a waste of money and time. I think movies should illuminate new stories.” This, from a man who actually regretted making one of the few great sequels of our time: The Godfather Part II (1974).
Films are made for creative expression — to entertain, to surprise, to be something different from our “humdrum lives” (as Lina Lamont would say). When movies begin to focus on what’s already been made, can we really call it an art form any more? Can it really bring us the same entertainment that a brand-new story can bring us?
I don’t think we gain anything from watching these recycled stories over and over. Sure, they all have slightly different premises and overall plots, but we know we’re just fooling ourselves. The newest Captain America is probably going to be like the two before it. Pirates of the Caribbean will probably once again be about our favorite pirate Captain Jack Sparrow getting himself into another mess involving pirate lore and scary sea monsters. Going to the movies can’t even be considered an experience anymore. It’s just reruns with overpriced popcorn.
If you couldn’t tell, I’m not a huge fan of the sequel. Sure, I enjoy them as mindless entertainment and there were a few good ones this past year. But believe me when I say that I am tired of all these sequels. I want new ideas, fresh stories — I want to be surprised again. Until we get off of this sequel kick and start making more original movies, that won’t happen. For now, I’ll continue eating my Junior Mints and watching the newest superhero movie or franchise reboot because what else am I’m going to do in the mind-numbing world of film?
Thanks for reading! What are your thoughts on The Rise of the Sequel: A Blessing or a Curse? Comment down below!
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