More Of The Same With A New Name: There Are Too Many Sequels!

The oversaturation of sequels has made the public wary of trusting Hollywood. The exhaustion of North American audiences can be seen with the relatively weak results for Transformers: The Last Knight, Alien: Covenant, Pirates Of The Caribbean and others. That is not to say all sequels are being rejected, the latest Apes sequel, War For The Planet Of The Apes has managed to find an audience and critical respect, matching the box office haul of its predecessor.

The problem lies in the fact that the Hollywood machine pumps out too many sequels to films we do not care about. A sequel should happen in theory when there is more story to tell; the characters invite more inspection, or there is more of a world to explore. Most times it happens when a film makes a lot of money, and there lies the core issue. Most sequels simply rehash a story, and audiences can tell by the dreaded numeral at the end, more and more movies are trying to switch audiences expectations by coming up with an elaborate title, but that doesn’t fix the fundamental flaw.

Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before…

Have you ever been told the same joke twice by someone you know? Maybe they changed the details but you know in your heart it’s the same joke. That is Hollywood. Your friend takes your time but Hollywood takes your time and your money. A good example of bad sequels would be The Hangover and Men In Black franchises. The Hangover only needed one film; it was a hilarious story of people regretting a night of overindulgence in Las Vegas. The cast was great, the setting familiar, and the story perfectly told. It made Zach Galifianakis famous. The fact that it got two more movies around exactly the same premise is mind boggling. Men In Black 2 recycled the first plot and switched the main actors around. It was a soulless film, but at least the third outing would fix that somewhat (although I’ve got more to say on that later).

One More Time

The Fast And The Furious franchise has something in common with the Police Academy and Saw franchise, the sequel count is far higher than it reasonably should be. While the other two have an excuse because horror and comedy movies get pumped out for empty reasons. The Fast franchise growth is perplexing. These are not (all) bad movies, but it is becoming uncomfortable just how many have been made. Since 2001 there have been 8 entries, making over $5 billion at the box office, not bad for any franchise. Yet the latest entry, according to some critics and audiences, was a repeat of the older films, and some have even gone on to say the latest entry felt tired. I am not the biggest fans of these movies but the critiques highlight a problem with sequels. Eventually, the same thing has to be redone unless you change your cast, but that can be a problem too.

Jump Street Was Right!

There were only two Jump Street films, with rumours of third crossing over with the Men In Black franchise. This was at a point when Sony, needless to say, was desperate. The end credits for 22 Jump Street brilliantly lampooned the Hollywood sequel…and they were right. Who could forget the seemingly bizarre and ridiculous sequels that were imagined in the credits? The team going into space, swapping actors, crossovers, and the crew getting older. A senior citizen Vin Diesel still making Fast films is likely in future, if the Indiana Jones films are an indication.Machete Kills In Space is seriously a project being shopped around by Robert Rodriguez. Obviously, Hollywood is aware of its own addiction. This article is not advocating against sequels, but rather refraining from them if they are not necessary. There are some good sequels out there, and some rather surprising ones.

Men In Black 3 Bucks The Trend

One of the sequels that did surprise me was Men In Black 3. There are few excellent third entry films like Toy Story 3, yet MIB 3 was the sequel we needed by exploring their main characters properly. By going back to the 60’s and examining the growth of Agent K we got a great story. It linked two characters and created something sweet. It’s not the greatest film but it does what a good sequel should do, explore the world. If there are any further entries maybe the world of Men In Black should be looked at beyond Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. That sort of uncertainty scares a studio but attracts an audience.

Shyamalan Returns To Glory

M. Night Shyamalan was on a streak before The Visit….the worst films of all time were being pumped out unashamedly by one director. Shyamalan was the scourge of the internet, and had become synonomous with repeating himself with twists and even narcissism thanks to The Lady In The Water. But it was with Split that he managed to do something amazing; create a sequel without creating one. That seems perplexing if you have not seen it, but Shyamalan has created a franchise by stealth. By creating a story with a mythology and not building it solely focused on making a franchise the director made an engrossing tale.Using the Marvel style Easter Egg to great effect, Shyamalan surprised audiences by then linking it to his earlier work. Now his eventual sequel to two films, Glass, is hotly anticipated. He re-established trust with his audience and then made a sequel by crafting the potential for a larger tale. Studios should take note.

Audience Fatigue

Pixar has provided a guide without how to do sequels: space them out. Too often audiences rightly view the next entry in a franchise as simply pushed out to make more money. The Ice Age movies, Alvin And The Chipmunks and many kids films are released to take advantage of audience fatigue in between monster box office films. In the end, these awful movies are just as bad as their adult counterparts, the difference is kids have not learned yet. If studios should learn one thing, it is to protect their audience trust. This can be done by being sensitive to how often a new chapter comes out. There is a reason for the Assassin’s Creed video games taking a small break between installments, trust is an important part of building a franchise.

Will There Be An End?

Most franchises no longer have a dignified end. The Godfather gracefully stopped at its third chapter, the quality may have definitely dipped but it knew when to stop. Toy Story did not need another chapter, its conclusion was practically done but market forces dictated another chapter. Even Mama Mia is getting a prequel/sequel. Studios know we love certain characters and we want to spend more time with them. The idea of another Blues Brothers movie did not seem so bad….until we saw what they came up with.

We have a desire with the right story to want more. As long as there is always a possibility, studios will be shameless with how they do sequels. As audiences, we just need to be more discerning about what we spend our hard-earned money on.