February 6, 2013

Film snobs: are sequels worth the time, effort of production?

By Will Ryan–

When a film snob finds out that his favorite movie is getting a sequel, his initial reaction is one of grief. “It’s just going to ruin the original,” he might post on Facebook. “The studio is blatantly trying to squeeze as much money out of this movie as possible.” Even though it feels like sequels have only recently overrun the film industry, they have been around, for better or for worse, for as long as anyone can remember.

I’m sure that many U of L students have read Homer’s “The Iliad, the story of Achilles and the Trojan War.” Well, its spinoff, “The Odyssey,” pretty much launched the sequel craze 3,000 years ago. More recently, however, movies like “Paranormal Activity 4,” “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance’ and “Ice Age: Continental Drift” have led viewers to question whether or not they should gouge out their own eyes.

While the upcoming “Grown Ups 2” and “Smurfs 2” movies are guaranteed to be about as pleasant as finding out that your dead internet girlfriend never actually existed, there have been notable standouts in the world of film sequels.

“Mad Max 2” is the quintessential post-apocalypse film that everyone hoped the film adaptation of “The Road” would be. It’s overflowing with unrelenting, sadistic action and features cinematography that highlights the desolate beauty of the Australian outback. It single-handedly launched Mel Gibson’s career and set a high bar for cinematic car chase scenes.

Nine out of 10 people will say that “The Godfather: Part II” is the greatest film sequel of all time. Those nine people are probably correct. The movie perfectly continues the plot arch from its predecessor, juxtaposing Michael Corleone’s moral corruption and descent into paranoid madness with his father Vito’s creation of an underground empire, creating an intense, gritty, nerve-wracking atmosphere that simply cannot be upstaged. In other words, it’s really, really cool.

The 1990 film, “Troll 2,” is a perfect example of how not to make a movie. I don’t think I can accurately communicate just how incredibly hilarious of a flick this is. The director/screenwriter and crew were Italian and far from fluent in English, leading to an incredible train wreck of a film that has developed a cult following, rivaling in size those of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “Manos: The Hands of Fate.” Seriously, you need to watch this movie.

Perhaps the weirdest of sequels is “Staying Alive,” the follow-up to the legendary dance film “Saturday Night Fever.” It was directed by Sylvester Stallone, a simple fact that says more about this oddball movie than a review from a college newspaper ever could. I have no idea what to say about this sequel, except that it stands out. I’m not sure how exactly it stands out, but it certainly does.

While no one denies that production companies view movie sequels as “easy money,” their existence is so ingrained in popular culture that they should be celebrated as novel experiments. They are investigations to discover the extensive lengths that studios will resort to in order to further the industry. Even with their flaws, the pseudo-serious sequels are at least worth watching for a good laugh, or maybe you could just use the DVDs as shiny, futuristic coasters. It doesn’t really matter. Production companies are going to be making sequels for as long as they possibly can, so get used to them.

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