Why Do So Many Sequels Suck?

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February 14th, 2017
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(We are treated to the "Sequel Month (the sequel)" title, before cutting to the NC, who looks rather listless)

NC: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic; I remember it so you don't have to. Well, as Sequel Month is winding down to a close, we realize there are some good sequels out there, but there's a lot more bad ones! (beat) Why is that?

(Clips from various movie sequels, good and bad, are shown)

NC (vo): After all, the movie prior had to start from nothing and win people over. You could argue sequels have more of an advantage. It starts from something the people are already familiar with and enjoy, so technically, that should mean there's a greater chance the film will connect with people, because it already has in the last one. Yet time after time, we get dud after dud. Why does this happen so often?

NC: (speaks in an over-the-top manner) Well, I may be an old-fashioned critic, (normal) but I believe it comes down to (shows four fingers) four specific failures.

(Footage of six sequels that fit this category is shown)

NC (vo): The first one is: Too much repeating. There are certainly some things we expect to see in a sequel, usually involving past characters or similar themes and moods. However, people want the story to continue, not be retold to them. A lot of folks want to see a character or a story they've grown attached to evolve. The reason for this is, because they see something of themselves in the character, and they don't want to just see themselves doing the same thing over and over. Movies like Home Alone 2, Hangover 2, and the Transformer films get a bad reputation because there's little to no differences. We do want to see these characters again doing similar things in the previous film, but not the exact same things. Just changing the location or adding one or two different elements doesn't make it a grander experience. Filmmakers often think that something bigger must be newer.

NC: And it's not. It's just bigger.

NC (vo): Kevin being alone in a house fighting off burglars is funny and original. Doing the exact same situation, just in New York, is the exact same situation, except in New York. Both this film and Hangover 2 are so guilty of this that they constantly make references by reminding you that they already did it.

Phillip Wenneck: (from The Hangover Part II) It happened again.

Kevin McCallister: (from Home Alone 2: Lost in New York) Yikes! I did it again!

NC (vo): We get the joke that the situation is so crazy, it can't possibly happen again, yet, of course, it does, but to have a whole movie dedicated to that idea isn't enough to hold our interests. Lost World, U.S. Marshals, Speed 2, these are just a few that fall victim to doing the exact same thing, just in a different location, and none of them are usually seen as fitting sequels.

NC: But most of these films were made relatively close to each other, which brings us to our next big failure: Letting too much time pass.

NC (vo): We've seen what happens when a film can be rushed out too fast, but sometimes, waiting too long can be just as bad. Now, don't get me wrong. Sometimes, waiting is good. Directors and actors can improve their craft, new ideas can bubble, and a fanbase can grow.

NC: But most of the time, the exact opposite happens.

NC (vo): A director's talent fades, the ideas don't keep updated, and an audience can either grow tired of an idea or become too obsessed.

NC: Take two giants, like Star Wars and Indiana Jones.

(Footage of The Phantom Menace and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull are shown)

NC (vo): Two classic filmmakers returned to their groundbreaking franchises after years and years of venturing into other genres. Time away obviously created a disconnect with their fanbases, as most people didn't get into any of these sequels. Complaints of too much CGI, poorly written dialogue, and focus in the wrong areas seem to be major complaints for these films. Movies like Godfather 3 and Blues Brothers also fit into this category. The original filmmakers returned for one last hurrah, but nobody asked for that one last hurrah. The last film they left off on was fine, no improvements or additions necessary. Because they let so much time pass, they both move slower, lacking energy and passion that the previous installments had, possibly from the very real fact that the people just got older, the directors, writers and actors. Many performers can get better with age, but as with most people, age can slow you down very easily and not keep you open to what's new and also appealing. Films like Zorro 2, Clerks II, and Terminator: Genisys all have this problem. By the time the follow-up came around, nobody had the excitement to be sucked into the same cast or creative team reuniting.

NC: Which, I guess, ties in to the next big failure: Not understanding the source material.

(Footage of various Batman movies is shown)

NC (vo): We've seen this happen a lot with the Batman movies, constantly going from award-winning game-changers to laughably lame misfires. The creative team for Dark Knight Rises, Batman v Superman, and especially the Schumacher Batman films, often missed what we liked to see with one of the most treasured superheroes of all time. Sometimes, they focus too much on jokes, other times, they focus too much on blowing people away, and recently, they focused too much on Batman blowing people away. But while these films do still have some crowds who will defend them, films like Son of the Mask, Blair Witch 2, and Exorcist 2 do not. These are all movies that attempted to give a sequel that in some way tied into the original, but completely missed what it was about the original that grabbed people. Son of the Mask tried to be too ugly and obnoxious, Blair Witch 2 tried to be too complicated and weird. Even the director of Exorcist 2 admitted he didn't like the original that much. Um...is that such a good choice for someone to direct a follow-up to one of the most popular horror films of all time? Films like [X-Men Origins] Wolverine or the Matrix sequels also didn't connect well with their fanbases, claiming they were too different from the original that they love. Often times, they either try to do too much or too little, either throwing a ton of story and characters at us or not enough for us to make any kind of connection. And, not such a big shocker, absolutely none of these films that I listed made any goddamn sense.

NC: But probably the biggest problem that most people don't list doesn't even have anything to do with watching the film, it has to do with making the film...

NC (vo): Not having enough time. Even if there's a long gap in between making movies, most films are still bound with a due date. There are exceptions, with films going overbudget and overtime, but the fact remains it also has to come out at a certain point. Often you don't have enough time to find the appropriate actor, or enough time to convince someone of the actor who would be better for the role. Commonly, a location can only be used for a certain number of days or hours, meaning not everything can be shot as intended. Other times, there just aren't enough test screenings to figure out what to fix before the release date, or time to go back and make the changes needed. A movie can even come out at the exact wrong time. It's a Wonderful Life bombed at the box office because it didn't come out around Christmas. UHF, despite previews going fantastically, came out during the biggest blockbuster summer in years. Sin City 2, despite it being just as cool as the first, simply waited too damn long to keep the energy up. Sacrifices always have to be made when making a film because of time. Sometimes, those sacrifices work out in the long run, but other times, there's just not enough to convince someone what a film does or doesn't need.

NC: Perhaps there are more elements that go into making a bad sequel, but these are the four that stand out the most.

NC (vo): The good news, though, is that if these are the downsides to making bad sequels, then the opposite must be true of making great sequels. If repetition is too much, new material can be made. If a film comes out at the wrong time, then the right time must also be available. If the essence of an idea is missed, then somebody can recognize and fix it. And if someone's not willing to give enough time, there's someone out there who's willing to give more than enough time.

NC: Sadly, it's easier to destroy than it is to create, but creation is what we value and often reward more.

NC (vo): It takes more effort because it's difficult to do, thus we remember and respect them more because they delight and surprise us. Maybe it's good that there's more bad sequels than good, because if we had more good ones, we'd be spoiled. We wouldn't appreciate the hard work of the good ones, nor praise them when they blow us away with their imagination, restraint, and ingenuity. Are we ever gonna get more good sequels than bad? Probably not. But honestly, that might be the perfect way to have it. If we always knew the next one was going to be good, then there'd never be any surprises in the next part of our thrilling story.

NC: I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to.

(He gets up and leaves. The credits roll)

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