Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide
Ok, first off I don’t expect that everyone will agree with me on this. In fact I am hopping everybody who reads this thinks that I am wrong at least one place in this post. I also understand that the word ‘better’ is very subjective. For the purposes of this essay I am going to defend it as “I liked it more.”
It is not uncommon for sequels to suck. The theory behind the concept of the sequel is sound. The first one worked, and we the audience want to see more of the characters, that in the space of two and half hours, we have grown to care about, but the second film is at best an iffy proposition. If the end product is too close to the original it becomes old hat. Differ too much from the successful source material then it becomes too different from what we wanted to see.
There are also the rare movies sequels that are equal to the original. My list of those movies includes Godfather I & II, the Fellowship of the Ring & The Two Towers, Bat Man Begins & The Dark Knight, and Captain America: First Avenger & Captain America: Winter Solider. Hey I love it when a sequel at least meets its predecessor but for now I am focusing on one that I personally thought were superior.
Also for today at least I am only discussing direct sequels, I loved Dr. No, the first Bond movie, but my favorite of the franchise is Goldfinger. The second Bond Movie is From Russia with Love. And even though it has grown on me, I didn’t really like it when I first saw it. But since GF didn’t directly follow Dr. No it doesn’t count for this discussion.
Now you are going to see there are a lot of science fiction and superhero movies on this list, that may because they are the type of movies that are more likely to have a sequel or more than likely the reason is that these type of movies are what I watch the most.
So first let’s talk about a sequel that I don’t think is better than the original. Star Wars & The Empire Strikes Back. I get that a lot of people like Empire better than the original. And it is a great movie. It is a perfect bridge between the first and third movies. But personally I don’t enjoy it as much as the original. Probably because it is just that; a bridge or a connection between two other movies. It doesn’t have a beginning or an ending. OK, that isn’t completely true, it starts and it has credits at the end but you get what I mean by that. Star Wars is its beginning and Return of the Jedi is TESB’s closure. Star Wars to me is more than a good movie or the first mega block buster. It is the PERFECT movie. In its heart it is story of how a boy becomes a man, then a hero, in the classic mono-myth tradition. The aliens and light sabers and dog fights are just icing on the story cake. But TESB isn’t a bad movie, maybe not even an inferior movie, but to me at least it’s not better movie.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture & Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. The original Star Trek movie gets a lot of flak. Released ten years after the series was cancelled, it was ridding the concussion wave of the sci-fi supernova that was Star Wars. First it was going to be a TV show then a movie. The plot is a rehash, I had a friend that called the movie “Where Nomad had gone before.” Half of the movie is space panorama shots and space ship effect shots, basically effect porn. But it did something that nothing else did, it brought our friends back home to us. Kirk, Spot and the others came back to us. It also made money, so there could be a superior sequel.
Khan is a sequel both to ST:TMP, but also the TV episode Space Seed ST:II TWoK’s effects may be down played compared to the original, but that lets us focus on the cast. Sure the acting is melodramatic but to me it is forgivable because of the pure passion the actors have for their chachters. The finial battle comes of, very well, as an emotional 3d chess game, where other movies rely on ships darting across the screen and brightly colored explosions. All in all ST:II is a very emotionally fulfilling movie.
Despite being a different prospective on the same story, I can’t say that I like Into the Darkness better than the Star Trek re-launch. The original JJ Abrams movie was a decent enough summer action flick. Just don’t over think it, enjoy the pretty cast and pretty effects, and try to block out the lenses flairs. Into the Darkness has some good points, it has an evil Robocop admiral, and a cute, English accented David Marcus baby momma, (the original actress was Dutch) but to me it really isn’t a movie, it is a collection of at sometimes good scenes. If anything into the Darkness made me realize how much I like Ricardo Montalban. Honestly Benedict Cumberbatch’s, emotionally detached intellectual superman, just doesn’t grab my attention as well as Mr. Roark’s id driven, muscle bound tyrant.
X-Men & X2: X-Men United. When I left the theater n 2000 having watched the original X-men movie I thought, good set up, now when do we get to see the movie? Sure there is a big battle at the end where the X-men try to stop Magneto from mutating the UN, but most the movie is an interdiction. I understand that a lot of people back in 2000 weren’t really familiar with the X-Men. But the first seventy-five percent of the movie was about who these people were, why they can do the things they can do and why the world hates them.
That is the curse of superhero movies, you are obliged to do an origin story. If you do a Bat Man movie then you have to show Dr. and Martha Wayne getting killed in front of a movie theater. The audience has to see peter Parker get bit by that radioactive side. Even if everyone in the theater knows what happened.
Not that there aren’t good origin stories out their Captain America and Bat Man Begins come to mind. Both hold their own against awsome sequels. But in many cases superhero movies come into their own in the second installment’s release.
I think that James Gunn knew this when he recently released Guardians of the Galaxy. A comic book adaptation that most casual comic book readers were unfamiliar with, so the audience’s mind doesn’t rush ahead during the intro part. But other than Peter Quill being abducted by aliens there wasn’t much of traditional origin story. We over hear how Rocket was operated on but rather than showing us that in flash backs we see the scares and cybernetics from the experiment. We hear about the death of Drax’s family, but only understand the story by his actions, and Gamorea being raise by Thanos is acknowledge, but the story is played out by scars, and her rivalry with Nova. This may become the new gold standard for origin stories.
With the obligatory origin story over. With X-Men we now can get, X2 which a good story. The government swooping in on the Xavier school is a great scene, I love how mutant enemies must team up against those who should be protecting them ie the government. We get one of my favorites the introduction of Night Crawler. The cast which are on the top of their game on this outing put in a stellar performance.
The Fast and& 2 fast 2 Furious. OK, I haven’t seen the first movie, in fact I haven’t seen any other F&F’s other than 2. So you are thinking how can I say this is better than the original? Easy it has been proven by science that number two is the best of the franchise. The other Fasts are woefully lacking in Devon Aoki, and she makes any movie better. (And yes I have seen DEBS)
So let me tell you what I remember of 2F2F, there is this white guy and he is a cop or an FBI agent or something and he needs to infiltrate the street racing scene, for some reason. I think he is looking for a McGruffin. So he goes to a street race, Devon Aoki is there looking all hot with her posse of female mechanics, they race, Devon Aoki jumps her car over an open draw bridge. Latter on white guy goes to talk to Devon when she is at a pool wearing a red bikini and drawing pictures. She then washes a car in a modified schoolgirl outfit. For some reason I haven’t the faintest reason why, the cops think they are chasing the FBI agent in a car and when the door opens up, Devon Aoki gets out wearing a black football jersey barely large enough to cover her butt. Play hip hop music, roll credits the end. Really that all I can tell you about the movie. But Dev made it better than all the other ones with The Rock and Vin Diesel.
So now comes the question, how is Sn City: A Dame to Kill For going to do without her? As deadly little Miho she not only won me over but she also impressed writer Frank Miller. He even gave her the sword that she used in the movie. (Which he stole out of Quinton Terantino’s garage.) The sequel has a lot of potential. I like Jamie Chung in Sucker Punch and she does look more like Miller’s Miho form the books. A Dame to Kill for is the most literate of the Sin City yarns. By this I mean it has the most cohesive plot and reads like a true noir novel. The truth is, to find out if Dame rises to the level of its predecessor we are going to have to wait a few weeks.
Mad Max & The Road Warrior. This is a case of what can happen when a good movie gets money to make a sequel. The first movie is a gem about a dystopia and anarchist Australia. Somehow back when it came out the setting made it more exotic and futuristic, even if they had to dub over Gibson’s voice in the first one because it was too hard for American’s to understand. One of the scariest scenes I think ever filmed is the scene when Max’s wife played by Joanne Samuel is trying to get her son through the woods, knowing that there is a deadly biker gang after her.
By the time the second movie is out all semblance of order is gone. Where once the Main Force Patrol (MFP) roamed the back roads of the content at least attempting to keep order, now there is only raiders and thugs. Where the original had to rely on inference and subtle acting on showing the declining of civilization the sequel could draw large broad strokes to portray the near end of the world.
Alien & Aliens. Don’t get me wrong I love Ridley Scott’s movie Alien. When it came out in 1979, it was the scariest thing to hit the screen in a long time. There are a lot of reasons why it is a scary movie. There is the vastness of space, yet the crew is trapped in the Nostroumo’s hull so there is also a claustrophobic feeling to the movie too. Your bosses are supposed to protect you but instead they send you and your fellow space truckers to a planet full of deadly aliens and disguise a robot to kill you if the monsters don’t. Lovecraft’s outer gods are no longer coming to earth we are going to them. And what is scarier than a monster that can make a man pregnant?
So James Cameron took this scary little horror movie set in space and made it a block buster adventure movie. I love Aliens because it didn’t lose all the things I liked about Alien, when it became an action franchise. I get that a lot of people say that they can’t say if one is better than the other, because they are two different types of movies. I agree with that but I have it on my list because it is a sequel I like more than the original, even though the original is a great movie.
But another James Cameron movie I don’t like as much after getting a big money action make over is Terminator. Terminator like Alien is more horror than sci-fi. Not only do we have to deal with the terrors of our time, the future is sending their nightmares back to us too. Still and I can’t put my finger on it, Judgment day just never did it for me. I admit that the special effects for the time were incredible. Still it never reached the level that the original did for me. Maybe I just like my Linda Hamiltons cute and innocent over lean and lethal.
I remember when I first saw the Christopher Reeves Superman movie thinking how awesome it was that superhero weren’t being treat as a joke lime Adam West’s Batman. It was giving me permission to like superheroes. Fortunately the second one didn’t fall into the camp trap. It flirted with camp with Clark Kent, but not with Supes. I know it sometimes feels like two different movies, one an action adventure the other a screwball romantic comedy, because well it is two movies welded tougher by two different directors. And yes it is corny and cheesy, but if you know what you are doing you can make a good meal with cheese and corn. Besides it had Terrance Stamp as Zod and that is good enough for me.
Well I hope you liked this list and I also hope you disagree with something here too. Let me know either way.