Recycle the Sequel

Have you ever seen Casablanca 2: Rick’s Quest? What about The Return of The Birds? Maybe you’ve been lucky enough to catch Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: The Early Days?

No, you haven’t. Because they don’t exist.

There’s a comparatively recent trend in cinema, which is to prolong a movie franchise beyond all previous limits. With the recent additions of the fourth Rambo movie, the fifth Die Hard movie, and the upcoming fifth Terminator movie, sequels seem to be the rule rather than the exception. As the years progress, there seems to be more reliance on sequels as well as modern versions and adaptations of old movies. Whether writers and directors are getting lazy and uncreative, or the viewing public is becoming complacent and less demanding, there is certainly a shift from the earlier days of cinema.

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The beauty of watching old movies such as Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, and Rebel Without a Cause is that they were original ideas with fresh characters and concepts that you were watching and enjoying for the first time. You watched the movie, and it was essentially like reading a book. The story was told and completed in that one sitting, and you left the theater satisfied and entertained. You were excited because you were part of something fresh and unique, without any recycled ideas or characters.

Today, it seems that movie studios, writers and directors rely on the possibility of being able to capitalize on a sequel (or two or three.) They become lazy, and don’t have to put as much effort, time, or money into creating a whole new concept from the ground up. They realize they will make money off the previous success of the earlier movie. Oftentimes, they are right. They ride the sequel train until they have squeezed every last cent out of it. Sometimes this means one sequel. Many times, like the Fast and Furious franchise, it takes more than half a dozen.

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Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy a good sequel at times, and sometimes it is logical and makes sense. I grew up on the Indiana Jones movies, and until the last one, it was a great franchise. The movies were well written, well acted, and the stories progressed in a logical manner. Each movie was a solid production in its own right, and could easily stand on its own. Many sequels, however, are made to capitalize on it’s predecessor’s success.

Where are all the original concepts and ideas? Did we run out already? That’s hard to believe, considering we are always changing, adapting, and experiencing new events and technology. These should provide sufficient inspiration for new screenplays.

I am not advocating for the elimination of sequels or re-imagining of older movies, I’m simply suggesting that it shouldn’t be the standard; it should be the exception. I feel that we need to encourage a return to traditional creativity. Movie studios need to put more time and effort into creating original, fresh ideas, and the viewing public needs to be more demanding of what it watches and considers to be “acceptable.”

I think it’s OK to raise our standards. I want my grandkids to have DVD’s (or whatever media form they use then!) of some of the “classic” movies from the early 21st century.

Somehow, I don’t think “Twilight 7” will be in that collection.

2 comments

  1. I agree with your overall premise. Evidence of this can also be found in the continuing emergence of reality television in addition to the examples you have noted. However, it is important to note some of the exceptions that have proven in some cases better than the original. For example, the Batman Returns, Dark Knight, Dark Knight Rises series has been nothing short of incredible. This particular director also has submitted one of the more original movies in recent history, Inception.

    Argo is another exception to the rule. Ben Affleck, as a director has been a pleasant surprise in being a contributor of original work, The Town is another example.

    Kathryn Bigelow is another notable exception with The Hurt Locker and now Zero Dark Thirty.

    Although I am not a fan if these films, Beasts of the Southern Wild and Moonrise Kingdom were stark departures from the norm.

    Silver Linings Playbook is another great film to have come out this year.

    I believe there is a lot of original work being done, but unfortunately as you have noted, it doesn’t sell. Ruby Sparks was an interest effort, but it only showed in select movie theaters. What is available in most theaters are movies like The Expendables 1 and 2 or the new Stallone action film. That new Prohibition Era gang film appears to follow a familiar formula.

    I will say though that this past year has been a refreshing one with respect to a greater choice of interesting movies to see such as (in addition to what I have noted above): Flight, Premium Rush, Looper, Django, the new Bourne movie, and the new Bond film Skyfall.

    So although your premise highlights some disturbing trends in film, I believe it was important to also note some good that has emerged over the past year or so. It also should be noted of notable actors who continue to choose different roles to play (Bradley Cooper, DiCaprio, Ben Affleck, Jennifer Lawrence, Sandra Bullock in Blindside, Daniel Day Lewis, Steve Carell in Crazy Stupid Love, Ryan Gosling, Gary Oldman), and directors who continue to make intriguing film (Affleck, Spielberg, Bigelow, Cameron Crowe, Chris Nolan, and others).

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    • You make a good point.

      I think what it comes down to is whether or not a movie, story, or character is rooted in a solid foundation. If it is, then I believe that any subsequent sequel has a chance at being successful.

      I think Lethal Weapon is a good example. The character depth of Riggs and Murtaugh, both in the script and the way in which Gibson and Glover chose to play them was rich and complex, and we as viewers cared about their journey. It became real to us.

      The scene (in the 3rd sequel?) where Riggs and Murtaugh are on the boat fighting because Glover’s character had to shoot his son’s friend is a beautiful scene. The dialogue, characterization, tension…everything. It’s just so well played. That scene alone shows you how well the script is, and I think that’s why that franchise did so well.

      So I think you’re right…there are definitely exceptions. I would just like to see Hollywood and all the writers, producers, directors, etc, start turning out great, original material consistently. Just like in Lethal Weapon.

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