Volume 97, Issue 1
Thursday, May 22, 2003

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So many sequels, so little spice

Why film follow-ups are usually crap

By Lori Mastronardi
Gazette Staff

Gazette file photo
FULL THROTTLE: Charlie's Angels is back as the three butt-kicking girls look for more box office cash.

"I was just watching the movie he had rented, so I wasn't paying very close attention to their fight. They fight all the time, so I figured the movie was at least something different, which it wasn't because it was a sequel."

-Charlie from Stephen Chbosky's
The Perks of Being a Wallflower

From action flicks like Matrix Reloaded and Charlie's Angels 2, to comedies like Legally Blonde 2 and American Wedding, this summer has spawned a multitude of sequels to intrigue movie viewers everywhere. But simply because its predecessor was successful doesn't guarantee a sequel is worthy of precious screen time and film production. More often than not, sequels pervade the film industry in such a way that the search for an original, quality film results in complete frustration.

Simply stated, sequels are created to generate profit. Western media, information and technoculture professor Tim Blackmore attributes the explosion of summer sequels to Hollywood's preference for financial security. "Hollywood is interested in making a lot of money rather than bankrolling new projects and taking risks," Blackmore says.

Western English professor Allan Gedalof agrees with the reliance on familiarity. "Beginning with mass culture, repetition became a feature of popular culture and seriality. If something was good, you brought it back."

Such an explanation relates to society's pseudo-addictions to television series; we are drawn to the familiarity and immersion of well-known characters and situations. We identify ourselves with characters, in such a way that we desperately want to know if Felicity will choose Ben or Noel, who Buffy will have to overcome to save the day and who's got what it takes to fill the American Idol mould.

The first sequel to achieve critical acclaim remains Francis Ford Coppola's Godfather II, as it was awarded Best Picture at the Oscars in 1974. However, the artistic quality of the follow-up film has diminished in modern times. "Since the original Star Wars, sequels have generally been made because they make a terrific amount of money."

Although profit sparks the interest of film companies, certain artistic elements are essential in keeping audiences enthralled. "A director shouldn't violate the premise of the first film," Gedalof suggests.

Viewers crave the substance associated with the first film, yet are eager to indulge in story development. "Success is sought in the reproduction of the original, with added explosions and two or three more endings such as in James Cameron's Terminator films," Blackmore explains.

Filmmakers tend to gravitate towards particular genres, particularly horror and action, to create sequels. In fact, the first sequel which invaded cinematic history was the silent horror film, The Golem and the Dancer. Paul Wegener and Carl Boese directed the 1917 film as a follow-up to the 1914 original, The Golem.

However, genres like drama fail to expertly fill the sequel form. "Films like Terms of Endearment III: Dying Again and Life as a House V: The Chemotherapy would unlikely gain viewer interest," Blackmore jokes.

Ultimately, elements of originality and artistic expression fall victim to the cookie-cutter sequel form. "A huge amount of money is diverted from people who actually have films to make that are genuine," Blackmore points out. "A studio would claim that all the sequel money they generate in the summer goes to pay for the little films we see in October or February. Maybe."

For those who can't decide whether sequels are entertaining or unnecessary, this summer will provide an abundance of films on which viewers can judge.


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