Sequel Prequel Cash Cows (Modern Blockbuster Pt. 2)

I'll be back....for more greenbacks

Did you read my previous post on blockbusters? Good, now you’re up to speed. Otherwise this tame profane-less rant won’t make much sense and besides, I hate doing recaps. Prepare yourselves, I’m going to talk about sequels

Continuing where we left off, another problem with blockbusters is that they inevitably led to more blockbusters or sequels within what ever universe they’ve created. Sometimes, this can lead to great things and were warranted with how the first movie wrapped. We all know that destroying the Death Star was just the beginning with the first Star Wars and we were presently delivered a second installment that was a masterpiece in every sense of the word. But that tends to be the exception, not the rule. Most sequels suffer from not understanding their original premise well or having too many juggling parts with the next films, whether that be director, actors, or just too many villains, etc.

Sam Raimi found a way to wrap all those problems into one scene

I’m not against a sequel when it makes sense and I also see the financial side of it as well. If I’m a studio exec and just made a billion dollars off of a property, I’m green-lighting that sequel yesterday. I don’t have a problem with that; my issue is when there isn’t a clear plan to follow-up what you created before. I like for the most part how Pixar handles that (before the mandated sequel non-sense that come from the Disney merger) They have a very strong desire to protect their previous installments by making sure that they actually have a story. They want to honor what they did before and find ways to match it or exceed it if possible.

Cars “Although I’m still debating if that applies to this stinker”

This doesn’t mean you need to have everything planned out to a tee for a shared cinematic universe either. (I’m looking at you Marvel, we’ll get to that later) But you should have some sense of what worked in the first film and what made it successful; why did people like it or what can you improve upon? If you answer those questions successfully and craft a worthy story to succeed and advance what you did before, you can get films like the Dark Knight, Empire Strikes Back, or Terminator 2. These films had great storytelling with memorable scenes and excitement that also made their respective studios ridiculous amounts of money. Every film will not be up to par with these films, it just won’t happen. I’m not expecting them to either, I just want a more concerted effort towards making good films and not just passing films that get reviewed for mediocre scores, mixed audience response, but still generates good sales. It’s that mindset that allows horrible films like any Transformer films besides the first one to be made.

Scratch “make millions of people watch swinging CGI balls while making millions” off of Michael Bay’s bucket list

Now, if the sequels are hit or miss, it’s definitely the prequel films that don’t ever need to be made….ever. Think about the body of work we have from films that are considered prequels…Can you name 5 that are legitimately good? And when I say legitimately good, you would put them right up there with some heavy hitting films. I could only think a few, here’s my list:

The Godfather, Part 2

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Monsters University

*Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

If you’re confused about the Godfather, you should remember that as much as it was a sequel to the first film, it also showed how Don Corleone rose to power. This was probably one of the better examples of telling a good story that happened to have its foot in two places in time: a father’s past and a son’s future. That’s a very small list, which is also indicative of how few prequels actually get made. But I usually roll my eyes every time I hear that someone wants to do a prequel. Sometimes, it can be better to leave a off-screen moment that was mentioned or inferred just like that: off-screen. We don’t need to know exactly how the aliens landed on LV-426 in order to be terrified of them. And quite honestly, seeing more of their origin will probably only hurt that sense of dread rather than enhance it. The same criteria I gave above for sequels applies to prequels as well. Why do you need to tell this story? If you can’t come up with a good reason other than money, you have already failed before the camera starts rolling.

The driving force of continuing a story should be to resolve something that wasn’t complete in the previous installment. Like I said before, we leave the first Star Wars knowing that the Empire is still there regardless of destroying the Death Star; so adding a second movie is logical. They are on the warpath led by their choke happy antagonist and we love every minute of it. This is the example of a sequel that needed to happen so that previous events can be enhanced, have more meaning, and move towards to resolution. What we don’t need are 3 extra movies that undermine the legendary status and examples that were displayed in the original 3 films. I’m resisting the urge to go into full-blown Star Wars prequel rant, but I’ll only say this: explaining the mystical element of the force by giving it a quantifiable form has to be one of the biggest storytelling blunders I’ve ever seen. Someone should have raised their hand and said something rather harsh…

Like this guys friends should have said to him
Like this guy’s friends should have said to him

And as I lamented before in the previous post, I doubt much will change because Damon Lindelof already has our money. It’s hard to get some sweeping change to occur when studio execs know that people will line up to hand them money gleefully for loads of CGI coated, plot anemic films.

This may or may not be hanging in a frame at Fox Studios
This may or may not be hanging in a frame at Fox Studios

This is the fundamental problem with a sequel when it doesn’t actually make sense to create another franchise entry. If a director/creator is unwilling or doesn’t own the film rights to the franchise in question, they can just cast new actors and get new staff in to pump out a sequel. There’s nothing holding them back from doing whatever they please with certain properties and running those beloved ideas into the ground. This, above all else is what irks me about continuing a film franchise; we don’t know when to stop, both as consumers and creators. We don’t know what the word “No” or finished means when it comes to movies. It is way too easy for us to green-light proven money machines than to take a chance on something new. We, as film-goers, need to support new and original films whenever they make a showing. And I realize how few and far between those are becoming, but they do exist. I never expected Ex Machina to be some major runaway at the box office, but I am glad to see how well people responded to that film. It was one of the most intriguing films of the year that didn’t have a ridiculous amount of star power or effects. But it showed how a strong and smart script can shine through the entire way through. It makes mind numbing flicks like San Andreas and Terminator Genisys stand out like sore thumbs. Hopefully, we’ll get the message and start denying bad franchises our hard-earned dollars. That way, we can start to see better stuff get pumped out. Otherwise….

I'll be back....for more greenbacks
I’ll be back….for more greenbacks

*Feel free to knock Planet off of my prequel list if you like, because it was rather weak being on there. I just have a hard time not calling those prequels especially when we know what’s coming next. Impending primate enslavement!!

0 thoughts on “Sequel Prequel Cash Cows (Modern Blockbuster Pt. 2)

Leave a Reply