As far as film categories go, sequels are often the most contentious. Simultaneously most anticipated and often worst received, sequels have the potential to enthral or disappoint viewers, more perhaps than original movies.
When you watch a new movie you are able to explore the world, meet the characters and understand relationships for the first time. You are surprised and your imagination is sparked with interest. As soon as the movie ends, you are able to make your own decisions about the fate of the characters. With the announcement of a sequel, conjecture becomes rife and arguments proceed about where the story goes and which characters will do what. Fans of the original are usually equally parts excited, to become reacquainted with characters they love, and nervous, that the studio is just using this as an easy money-grab and they will be bitterly disappointed.
Sequels unfortunately fall into that disappointing category alllll too often. And I think it is a combination of factors that lets them down. Most films are not made with a sequel in mind (aside from those common book-to-movie adaptations but I’ve got other problems with those!) and so are usually self-contained stories not necessarily lending themselves to any further exploration. It is way too common for a sequel of a well-received film to be churned out way before there was any chance for a properly engaging story to come to fruition. This shortened timeframe often results in the second (or even third) movie to be essentially a copy of the first. However, just because the formula worked once, does not mean it will necessarily work again and again.
Another predicament faced by sequels is that of the creative team. When the writing team or directing/ producing team is different, or when members of the cast are unable to return for whatever reason, it often leaves the audience feeling dissatisfied. Chemistry, particularly on-screen, cannot be formulated, and when an ensemble is left wanting, even if the hole is filled it never feels quite the same. If a new director, for example, is brought on mid-way through a franchise it often feels as though they never quite realise the dream of the original director and captive audience. Or they again go back to the predictable formula of the first.
The third major problem I often find with sequels is that they are not often standalone films. A sequel is most successful, I find, if it doesn’t rely too heavily upon the audience having seen the first movie. While it is nice for there to be references to the original film, maybe incorporate some running jokes for example, it can be quite an ordeal if every joke is replayed or every scene references events that occurred before this film began– particularly if there are several years between film releases. Not everyone can be an avid fan, and people will inevitably watch the second film without seeing the first, so it is important for the film to be able to be enjoyed alone.
So taking all these things into account, what is a good sequel then? For me, one of the best movie franchises is Toy Story. The three films were created a span of 15 years. This left ample time between helpings for a fully engaging, interesting and believable story to be created within the universe. The creative team was led by John Lasseter for each movie. This ensured the vision of the films followed and continuity was on point. Also, the majority of the wonderful cast reappeared with each instalment and renewed the magic.
Andd, each film is a touching ride in and of itself. There is no real need to understand the first before viewing the second, or third, but this only heightens the emotions. Each film scored close to 90 on Metacritic and was nominated for at least one Oscar, which in and of itself is quite a feat. Let alone for a movie about toys.
This wonderful tradition is being sustained by Pixar’s latest offering Finding Dory, the much-awaited 13 years-in-the-making sequel to the smash hit Finding Nemo. With the perfect amount of Easter eggs for lovers of the first, and a captivating story for children of all ages making their first trip under the sea, creator of both, Andrew Stanton has created another family favourite and Pixar classic.
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