It could be said for some time now that Hollywood has run out of ideas; all you see are sequels and remakes. The success of the merchandise-driven Lego movie, which led to a sequel and its contribution to the creation of a marshmallow Peeps movie, should be proof enough that sequels are a viable option for studios.
The Atlantic pointed out in May that since fewer expensive movies are being made, producers want to work with a known factor more than trying something new. The summer movie season then unloaded “The Amazing SpiderMan 2,” “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” “X-Men Days of Future Past,” as well as the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” reboot, proving their point. It’s not all that bad of an idea, since many of the new titles have either bombed or not passed the $100 million marker.
Sequels are just sometimes better than the first movie in the franchise. While many have chosen to omit some sequels from memory, such as the two movies after “The Matrix,” in other instances sequels are not only the best movie in the series, these are some of the best movies of all time. Another cool thing that sequels feature is that they don’t have as much world building as the origin story film, which lets them focus on the characters.
Let’s look at Marvel movies for a moment, specifically the “Iron Man” franchise. If Iron Man’s character arc took place all in one movie, you get what you always get when you shove life experience and instant character growth together with sudden resolution: a Disney movie. He would have a traumatic life experience that instantly gave him the maturity to fix his life and get the girl, while the movie ended by saying everyone lived happily ever after.
Instead of stuffing all of that into one movie, we get to see how that traumatic experience Tony Stark lived through in “Iron Man” put him on a better path in “Iron Man 2,” though he still had to deal with having self-destructive habits that took until “Iron Man 3” for him to solve. Living in the real world, we know that change (especially within people) that takes time. It isn’t instantaneous.
So now it’s time to play a game. Pick a popular movie franchise and odds are that the sequel is the best movie in it. Best “Star Trek” movie? According to Rotten Tomatoes, any movie that isn’t the first one. “Star Trek” the motion picture rated only a 45 percent while “Wrath of Khan” got a 90 percent. Even better than that, the reboot in 2009 rated a 95 percent. And do I need to ask about which “Star Wars” movie is the best? No, it’s “Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back” with 96 percent. In the “Lord of the Rings” franchise, everyone may quote from “The Fellowship of the Ring,” but you shall not pass up “Return of the King,” which won Best Picture.
Recent movies show this trend too. Was “Batman Begins” the definitive Batman movie? No, it was its sequel “The Dark Knight.” Before being passed by “The Avengers” (the sequel to every Marvel movie), “The Dark Knight” was the top-grossing comic book movie. “The Avengers” made so much money that it is third on the all time box office list, behind “Avatar” and “Titanic.” Not only are these sequels great, they are up there with the all-time classic movies.
It might be because sequels have an advantage over the first movie. The first movie is almost always an origin story, and gets bogged down in exposition. Think back to “Pacific Rim.” Its introduction lasted 17 minutes before the movie started. At that point, I don’t think people wanted to see the robot fight monsters. I think they might’ve been looking for a different kind of Jaeger.
The origin stories would be better if they didn’t have try to explain everything. Did audiences need 17 minutes to explain giant robots fighting monsters? Last time I checked, the longest running live-action show for children was and still is “Power Rangers.” We get giant robots fighting giant monsters, but for the stories that need more explanation, you can’t get away with hoping your audience will. “Pacific Rim” did well enough that it’s getting a sequel that won’t have to explain all the back story. It won’t have to do that because the first movie took care of it all. It will most likely do as well or better than the first movie.
Hollywood is said to be running out of ideas when it comes to sequels, but really the industry is just giving people what they want.
Patrick White is a senior in mass communications.