Thursday, October 31, 2013

Is Once Enough? Contemplating the Sequel

                Scrolling down my Twitter feed recently, I discovered that filmmakers are looking to resurrect the 2011 R-rated comedy, “Horrible Bosses” with a sequel. While it received mixed reviews from critics, I personally liked it.  It was hilarious, with some memorable lines which I endlessly quote with my family and friends.  The film had closure at the end as well.  All was resolved, and I was satisfied with the run of events.  Does it really need a sequel?  As much as I loved it, I think that its originality would be lost if they tried to take the film a step further.  Even the best movies out there don’t need more to them; they are best left off as is.  Unfortunately, this hasn’t been the case.
Often, when a film becomes a box office smash, is popular among critics and audiences alike, and renders a lot of profit, filmmakers consider a sequel.  Extending the alleged end to a film can be a great idea.  Who needs closure to a storyline when you can have more!  In theory, this is a great idea.  Given there is enough money to be spent and film makers have a team willing to resurrect such a great story, what is there to lose?  How about originality, closure, a timeless story, or even simply the up-keeping of a director or an actor’s reputation?
                Originality is a key factor for a good film.  A fresh storyline that no one has heard of before can make or break a film.  If brilliant enough, a film can receive positive recognition that ranges from a simple film critique to a nomination from the Academy.  Films like “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “Inception” are quality original films.  John Hughes wrote the script for “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” in a week, and over time it has become a cult classic.  “Inception” brought a new concept of planting thoughts into the mind of a CEO’s son; with layers of dreams and an ending that still has me thinking, it has definitely stood the test of time.  Plots and concepts like these are important for any good story or film.  If ideas are being recycled, there is a slim chance that a film will be successful. 
                Closure is an important aspect of a film.  It is the defining factor of a stand-alone film. If you can watch a film and in those two hours (or whatever the length may be) and let the credits role feeling the story came full circle and resolved anything that wasn’t right, then there is closure.  Closure comes in many forms, whether it is morals taught, people falling in love, or the unfortunate death of a significant character.  It is what makes a film worth watching to the end.  How many of us have watched one (good or bad) just to see what happens at its conclusion?  I have, just to know how things end up.  Without this element, it would be hard to distinguish what the really important parts of a film are. 
                One may argue that the lack of closure is a good thing.  For example, television series, book series, films that require two or three motion pictures overall to serve their purpose.  When there is originally intent to make another film after the first, directors and screenwriters choose to leave windows of opportunity.  By taking advantage of their position early in the game, successful sequels can and will (potentially) be the result.  The Christopher Nolan “Batman” films are an excellent example, as each film got better and better upon release.  The endings to the first and second left me on the edge of my seat, filled with excitement to see what was to come next. This is not the case with every film, sadly. 
There are some good things that come out of sequels; all should not be put down.  Superhero sequels, for example, are usually satisfactory.  Picking up from where the vigilante left off and continuing their saga can make a great picture.  With a strong enough first film, given it introduces the struggles and the lifestyle that evolved from ordinary to extraordinary that each hero goes through, a platform for a sequel is easily set up.  The same applies to book series, like Harry Potter, or film series, like Star Wars. 
On the other hand, some films are better off left alone.  If directors keep recycling plot lines just for the sake of raking in a lot more money, then they have lost the idea of what makes a film worth watching.  Let’s take “The Prestige”, for example.  Christopher Nolan’s film about two feuding magicians looking for the better trick has a fantastic plot line, though it can get confusing with the constant twists.  It is one that will make you replay the film as soon as the credits begin to role.  The ending provides closure, and although our mind is blown, we are happy with the fact that all had come full circle.  Is there potential to squeeze in a sequel and extend the story? Sure.  But will Nolan continue it? Absolutely not.  Getting it right (and then some) the first time is good enough to leave all happy at the end (more or less). 
Unfortunately, directors find that they can push their luck and spend more money in hope that their next film will rake in more cash. Films can make a director or an actor (or anyone involved in a film, really) have their reputation skyrocket into infinite fame and fortune.  However, a film can also break them apart and keep them from ever being A-listed again.  Once a bad sequel comes along and a high-profile actor bandwagons onto it, their career can potentially be destroyed.  It's a sad thing, but it has happened a few times too many.
How many times have you highly anticipated a fantastic sequel to one of your favorite films? Let’s take “the Hangover” for example.  Wildly inappropriate, hilarious, and quickly became THE R-Rated comedy of 2009, this film took audiences by storm.  Upon the release of its sequel (which everyone thought was going to be as top-notch as the first, if not better), it was a disaster.  It recycled the plot of a drug-induced tirade, and began to lose its luster.  Clearly the Wolf Pack didn’t learn their lesson the first time around and just not get involved in anything risky.  That’s what made the first one so bold.  Last Memorial Day, a third film was released, which wasn’t even worth seeing. These films could have potentially destroyed the reputations of Bradley Cooper, a well-respected actor who has received nominations for various prestigious awards. Fortunately, it didn't.
Fellow moviegoers, be weary next time you consider buying a ticket, purchasing a Blu-Ray, or simply hopping on Netflix to view the movie that follows one of your favorite films.  Unless the first one left doors open for a potentially awesome second part, then don’t become upset upon your two hours of cinematic letdown.

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