The Best of the Sequel
As a general rule, sequels suck. They’re usually half-hearted attempts to cash in on the popularity of the successful first entry. Either hack filmmakers are brought in to churn out a quick one, or the original creators are rehired, but have lost all passion for the material. Usually what you end up with is number two (I’m all about the classy humor, folks). Every so often someone will remind us that, hey, sequels aren’t only good for a quick buck, but they can be just as good as, or (gasp!) even better than the first. This usually entails not only capturing the spirit or charm of the first movie, but building on it by widening the depth and range of the story and characters. So for my favorite reason (none whatsoever) here is a list of my favorite part 2’s. I hope no one is upset that I chose to leave out all of the
Final Destination 2
Most people will probably wonder why I put this on the list. The answer is because they could have been real lazy with the story and repeated the set up and execution of the first film. Well, they do, but they also do something really cool and expand on the ideas from the first film that also connects the sequel’s characters with the original. That and it’s just an all out fun movie. The opening freeway pile-up is one of the best depictions of pure chaos I’ve seen on screen.
Evil Dead 2
Whereas the first was purely and simply a little high-energy horror film, Evil Dead 2 is everything else; horror, action, slapstick comedy and superhero origin all rolled into one glorious package. If you ever wonder why certain fan boy circles refer to Bruce Campbell as God, look no further than this film. The man cuts off his own possessed hand (after it smashes plates over his head, of course) and attaches a chainsaw to the bloody stump to kick some demon butt. If you could do that, than I’d gladly bow down before you. Until then The Chin gets all the respect.
X2: X-Men United
While the first movie was a good introduction into the comic world, it felt a little light, with some awkward action scenes and weak bad guys. Not to mention one of the worst lines of dialogue in history (I’m looking at you
The first Spider-man was good but flawed in that the pacing was all over the place and the lame villain didn’t have a strong connection with the web-slinging hero. This time out Sam Raimi learned from his mistakes and made a nearly flawless superhero film. Every action scene is story and character based. Unlike most action films, nothing is thrown in just for the hell of it. The creative casting choice of Alfred Molina as Doc Ock gives they character humanity while making his descent into madness plausible. Oh yeah, Bruce Campbell is in the movie and he actually defeats Spider-man! Do you still question the deity status of the man now?
Bride of Frankenstein
I find Frankenstein’s monster to be a metaphor for every human. He was made a flawed creature with no control over his coming into the world. He is abandoned by his father and left to fend for himself. Although he at first tries to do good he is shunned by society either because of his corpse-ish looks or his infant-like clumsiness. All he wants in this world is to fit in and have a woman by his side. Don’t we all? Well if he can’t have one, he can try for the other. In the end the scowling visage of The Bride brings tears of joy to the misunderstood monstrosity. And then they explode.
Dawn of the Dead
Not long after the deceased had risen in Night of the Living Dead, the epidemic has gotten out of control and spread all over the world, breaking down the fabric of society and civilization. A handful of survivors take refuge in an abandoned mall, where they live out the fantasy of every mallrat in the world. But the fantasy doesn’t last long as George Romero makes a stark and cynical commentary on consumerism in modern society. Yes, I say modern even though the film was made in the 70’s because it was just that ahead of its time. And if the film gets too pretentious and arty for your liking, there’re also buckets of blood and guts to satiate your horror movie taste. Zombies, man. They creep me out.
Toy Story 2
This sequel took the small world of the first movie and not only widened its scope to epic proportions, but focused it’s metaphor of the toys as parents, for children eventually grow up and leave them behind. Man, what’s up with movies being ‘about’ stuff? Of course you get the usual Pixar goodness such as smart humor, funny in-jokes, great characters, and amazing action.
Great sequels are all about upping the ante. The first gave you one alien? How would you like hundreds of them? The first gave you a small crew of victims as alien fodder? How about an army of Colonial Marines? The first ended with a thermonuclear explosion the size of
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
At this point James Cameron had made a career out of making sequels of movies that he did not have a hand in originating. Before Aliens he redefined cinema with Piranha 2: The Spawning. This time he lets his Terminator baby grow into a loud, epic, roaring explosion-fest that is also smart. A lot of filmmakers forget that last part. This film single handedly changed the face of action filmmaking not only with its revolutionary visual effects but with its scope and focus on characters as well. I use the word ‘scope’ a lot, but in this case I mean mouthwash.
The Empire Strikes Back
I think it’s funny how people impersonate the most famous line in the movie. Most people say, “I am your father!” with emphasis on ‘am’ instead of “I am you father.” Oh yeah, SPOILER! So before we found out the big secret that Vader used to be a whiny, annoying brat in his early years, good ole’ Darth was actually scary and intimidating. But I’ll save that argument for the Worst Sequels/Prequels list. So in the meantime I’ll give Empire the praise that it deserves. It’s a more emotionally mature and complex film, the action and special effects are better, and it’s got Yoda. He’s funny. But there’s not much that many a fanboy hasn’t already said, so I’ll leave you with a paraphrase from George Lucas himself who said, “We all know Empire is the worst movie in the series.” I’m not making that up.