Published on February 19, 2013 | by Shawna Warmington-Brown

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Sequels are the beginning of the end for originality

ALN reviews deputy editor Shawna  Warmington-Brown Image: Jack Henshall

ALN reviews deputy editor Shawna Warmington-Brown Image: Jack Henshall

“The road to hell is paved with bad sequels,” once uttered former poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion.

If the release of the fifth and sixth installments of the respective Die Hard and Fast and the Furious franchises are anything to go by, he may just have a point.

Admittedly I rolled my eyes to the heavens, sighed inwardly and recited a Hail Mary for the future of the film industry when it was announced that Fast and the Furious was set to hit movie screens later this year – again.

Seriously, how many more films can screenwriter Chris Morgan spew out centering on the group of illegal street racers and their insatiable hunger for elaborate heists, which more often than not involves drug cartels and copious amounts of cash?

Don’t even get me started on the ever-increasing ludicrously titled Die Hard movies. I’m fully expecting another sequel two years down the line entitled Die Harder, but not too hard because we’ve still got four of these to make.

The newest addition to the franchise sees five-time protagonist and resident ass-kicker Bruce Willis travelling to Russia to help his estranged son out of prison.  Cue fist-fights, explosions, guns and all the over-used components seen in every previous installment.

Horrendous tagline aside (Yippee Ki-Yay Mother Russia – dear God) the trend begs the question of whether this whole sequel lark is in fact encouraging a culture of lazy film-making and in turn resulting in predictable, poorer quality movies.

Lack of originality

As a self-proclaimed movie-lover and former thespian (ok, so I dropped out of a modern drama studies degree two years ago) the world of cinema and the art of film-making is something that has always fascinated me.

However, it is incredibly difficult to find a truly original script anymore. Whether it’s the Judd Apatow-esque buddy comedy, the epic period romance or the biopic, these days endless films tend to recycle the same formula.

The Hobbit’s conclusion was so obviously made for a follow-up that instead of feeling excited for the next one, I just felt cheated.”

It is virtually impossible to be 100 per cent original, but when the majority of sequels released end up simply being rehashed, minimally tweaked versions of their predecessors, surely this isn’t helping the cause.

Many directors have even created films with the intent of making several sequels before the first film has even been made.

I vividly remember seeing The Hobbit in the cinema and thoroughly enjoying it. Right up until the end that is.

The conclusion was so obviously made to pave the way for a follow-up that instead of feeling excited for the next one, I just felt cheated.

OK, so it is meant to be the first in a three-part film adaptation, but the ending still felt like a badly forced cliff-hanger. Almost as if to say “we know everyone’s expecting two more of these so why make the effort?”

It’s not all bad

Of course I won’t be entirely pessimistic here. There have undoubtedly been some amazing sequels in the past that have not only added credibility to a film but helped to seal its iconic status.

Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather immediately comes to mind. The Godfather II saw acting heavyweight Robert De Niro delivering one of the most defining performances of his career and making a classic film even better.

The fact is that sequels can and do make money. Alot of it. Now this does not necessarily a good film make *cough* Twilight.

“Calm down a little bit film industry, there’s only so much Vin Diesel a girl can take.”

It just shows that when your audience are deeply invested in a story and/or characters it doesn’t matter how shamelessly crappy the film itself is, they’ll keep coming back. This translates into major guaranteed box-office bucks. Hey, maybe these directors are onto something…

Sure there are some films that actively warrant a sequel (such as a book trilogy for instance) but ultimately I think it’s safer to leave original films – for the most part – untouched.

After all, that’s how some of the truest classics to achieve legendary celluloid status are made.  We don’t know what happens next since the story is never revisited, and that’s the beauty of it. We’re able to either create our own endings or are simply left in a daze affectionately cursing the director for leaving us in this sweet cinematic limbo.

From Casablanca all the way to the Sixth Sense, truly good films should be able to captivate our attention and leave us wanting more when it’s over but being secretly happy that there isn’t. The one-time experience makes it all the more special.

So; Dear film industry, there is nothing wrong with the occasional well-written, deeply thought-out sequel. However, I implore you to calm down just a little bit. There’s only so much Vin Diesel a girl can take.

 

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