Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler...Former teacher... Scientist... Published author... Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published January 17th 2019
Sequels can be more than equals
This column is brought to you by "arguments on the Internet", "disagreements" and, everyone's favourite, "opinions".
Okay, here's the story: I was having an online discussion about the various Star Wars movies, having finally seen The Last Jedi, and the three of us ended up agreeing the best film was not the original (the one we decided upon mutually as the best of the eight to date is in this list!). So far, so good. Then one of the guys brought up that he thought Godfather II was better than Godfather, these films having been on TV recently. The other guy disagreed, while I said I could not separate them; they were as good as each other.
Things were starting to get dicey, and that was when the third guy brought upTerminator 2: Judgement Day being better than The Terminator. I disagreed. The first was a horror/sci-fi film; the second was pure sci-fi. I prefer the first. And thus the arguments began!
But what it did do was get me thinking about this very question. I went through my DVD collection and had a look at the sequels I own; I went through lists of films that I've seen. In the end, I found five sequels which – in my opinion – are better than the original.
So, I set some rules: I have to like the original and the sequel. So, of course, I have to have seen them both. Sequels to sequels and prequels are all fair game. And I decided against using kids' movies, just because I didn't want to have put myself through watching them again now my kids are beyond that sort of thing.
I also decided to not use any James Bond films. Dr No, the first 'official' James Bond movie, was not brilliant (though not terrible), and most of the sequels are an improvement on it, but very few of the previous films have bearing on subsequent ones. Some do (especially in the Daniel Craig era), but… well, it's too complicated so I said, "Nope."
So, to start with, some close calls. Thor: Ragnarok is an improvement on Thor, but there is something about the original I find a bit more appealing from a comic book nerd perspective. A Shot In The Dark, the sequel to The Pink Panther, is a very different film. The first focused on the Pink Panther, a thief; the second on Inspector Clouseau (the Peter Sellers character). It's hard to compare them. I put the original Mad Max and Mad Max: Fury Road on a par. I also find myself considering the three Lord Of The Rings films just three parts of one rea-ea-ea-eally long movie; ditto with The Hobbit.
Superman was a fine film for its time. Some of the blue screen work was dodgy (even for 1978), but the film had a heart and a goodness at its core that was fine, and it told the origin story cleanly and well, not really deviating from the comics. Great. Then came Superman II, with three super-villains, a darker heart, more violence and action, no time reversal crap, and the concept that Superman is not all boy scout good and also scarily mortal. There is something about Christopher Reeve's look that says, "Superman." He looks the part more than anyone before or since. Just a shame films 3 and 4 were so awful… But the first sequel, now, that's a good film.
I enjoyed the first Cap film. Its setting in World War Two was perfect, the creation of the super soldier (despite seeming to advocate using steroidal formulae) was well done, and the battle against Red Skull and Hydra was fantastic. Nice origin film. Then we come to the second film, and Captain America is in a quandary. Not just because this new villain is his old friend, but because the government he has been working for and defending does not seem to be upholding his own values. The psychology of the super-hero is turned around: What if what you're fighting for isn't what you're fighting for? We can see the conflicts in many people in the world at large mirrored in Captain America, leading directly to the rebellion of Civil War (which I consider almost an Avengers sequel of sorts… wow. The MCU is confusing!) and then everything else. Still, awesome sequel, that makes super-hero films suddenly more than simply good guys beating up bad guys for two hours.
Look, I can't separate them. Wrath Of Khan is not only a sequel to the first film but also the original TV series, with Ricardo Montalban reprising his role as a super-man type person abandoned and wanting revenge. The Voyage Home is the most fun of any of the Star Trek films, with them coming to 1980s Earth to find a whale. Many people don't like the first film. I didn't mind it; it was just a bit long, that was all. But the special effects were awesome, and the fact it was a human object that had come home creating the issue made it a rather unique concept. Then you had the first sequel, with more action, a proper villain, and explosions and great special effects. Then the fourth sequel with its environmental message, more humour and such a sense of joy that it rubs off on the audience. Two for the price of one, but that doesn't matter. Both are great films.
Batman Begins re-imagined the character of Batman brilliantly. Christian Bale gave Batman the humanity that Michael Keaton had given him but added a more menacing under-side as well as a more vulnerable hero aspect. Nice way to start a new franchise. And then came The Dark Knight… Wow! Yes, a lot of it was made by Heath Ledger's frankly awe-inspiring Joker, madness personified, but the descent of Batman into a form of depression, where he questions what he's doing, is really well done. And the supporting cast is marvellous, especially Michael Caine as Alfred the butler. But it's more than just the characters. The set pieces are incredible – the blowing up of the hospital with the Joker pressing the button is almost humorous… - and the stunts and fight scenes are jaw-dropping. The first film was really good; the second was incredible.
Star Wars was a fine piece of sci-fi hokum, with better special effects than we were used to seeing and characters with depth. However, it was really just a Western set in space – a band of heroes set out to get rid of the bad guys. The plot was nothing special, but there was something brand new about the film that made it resonate with viewers. Then came The Empire Strikes Back. Suddenly the small part of the world we had seen in the first film was expanded. We were introduced to the Force through Luke's training. Han Solo's past came back to bite him on the bum. Princess Leia went from damsel in distress to arse-kicking female heroine and general in command of many. A romance develops organically. And Darth Vader became slightly more human. The film was darker, not only in its palette but its tone, and the characters started to become more than mere stereotypes. It left itself open for the sequel nicely, but its whole tone left the audience with doubts as to just what the outcome of it all was going to be. This was George Lucas at the peak of his creative powers. The first film was a great introduction; the sequel was incredible. (Oh, and for the record, when I was a kid, there were no episode 4, or 5 stuff… that was all a rumour that MAD Magazine made fun of… who knew they'd be right?)
And there you have it. What did I get wrong? What did I miss out? (And for those playing at home, I have not seen the Harry Potter films…) Comments, etc., are most welcome.
whether your into them or not any movie buff of any level should watch the Harry Potter movies even if you only have watched them to be able to relate to any conversation you may find yourself in... or movie reviews :)
Spread your arms and hold your breath and always trust your cape!