Monday, October 8, 2012

Sequels Episode III: The Return of the Original

In the thrilling conclusion to the detailed analysis of movie sequels comes Episode III: The Failures, although failures may not necessarily be the best word for these movies. Many sequels fail either artistically or financially for one reason or another, whether it is because the sequels lost sight of the original film (The Matrix sequels, Pirates of the Caribbean) These movies were not necessarily bad movies but all of them were considered failures compared to the original.

No, the worst type of sequel is the one that is just lazy filmmaking and an obvious attempt to make money. Some go directly to DVD (or VHS in the olden days). However, many folks don’t consider these to be sequels because the movies did not get released in theaters and are therefore not eligible for award consideration. Also, no one cares about any straight-to-video movies.

The worst type of sequel, although some make an incredible amount of money, is the sequels that are essentially the same movie as the original. In fact, some of these movies are such blatant rip-off of the predecessor that nearly identical shots while repeating the same basic story.

One of the blatant recent offenders of this type of movie sacrilege was “The Hangover Part II.” Once again, dim-witted Alan (played by Zach Galifianakis) drugs his friends who then go on crazy escapades while blacked out, only to wake up to find a member of their party (the groom in the first one, the bride’s brother in the second). The rest of the movie, both movies, includes the remaining members of the group retracing their steps in order to find the missing friend. The movies are so similar that, at one point, Alan actually says “I think we did it again.” Some take this type of acknowledgement as a wink and nod to the audience. However, reviewers were not as kind.

“Major League II” also shot a film that is essentially plagiarism of the original, only the box office was not as kind. The first “Major League” told a story that everyone could relate to: a baseball team of misfits and underdogs rally around their dislike of a protagonist and shocking the world by making the playoffs despite being picked to finish “dead last,” according to Indians manager Lou Brown. There is also a nice side story of grizzled veteran catcher Jake Taylor, who is looking for one last shot at glory, showing his ex-fiancée that he has changed and is ready for a relationship again. The movie ends with Jake and his fiancee back together and the Indians beating the Yankees to win the division.

The sequel told the exact same story. The only difference is that in “Major League II,” it is Charlie Sheen’s Rick Vaughn in the romantic story and grizzled veteran Jake Taylor is now the team’s manager after Lou Brown has a heart attack. Also, the Indians make it to the World Series instead of just the playoffs. Other than that, it is the same movie. Same unlikable owner. Same team of misfits. Same movie.

These terrible sequels are the reason that so many people believe that all sequels are bad and cannot match the original, which just is not the case. “Godfather Part II” is most certainly superior to its predecessor, as is “The Empire Strikes Back.” Sequels can work if the story is strong and the characters are compelling. However, shooting the same movie a second time is a recipe for disaster.


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