Funny things, sequels. Not ha ha funny, of course (particularly if that sequel is The Hangover Part II), but funny in terms of the seemingly contradictory nature of the audience reaction. Nine times out of ten, if you ask someone fresh out of the screen after seeing a sequel, their exact reaction will be “ehh, it was alright. But it wasn’t as good as the first one.”
That’s a pretty understandable viewpoint to take. Inspiration is very much a one time thing, and returning to something that was inspired two or three more times often leads to severely diminishing returns. So why do people keep going? Why do we have so much faith in sequels to keep shoving cash down their trousers if we know it’s just going to compare negatively to another film? Well, the answer is pretty simple: because a sequel can be a fun standalone experience when you stop obsessively comparing it to past glories. Of course, this is in the internet age, where everyone’s a critic, and everyone thinks their opinion matters (you fools, don’t you know the only opinion that matters is mine?), so actually-sort-of-alright sequels are twisted into horrible hate crimes against humanity by the practiced malice of folk on the internet (yes, I mean you specifically. YOU). Thus sequels, which initially provoke, at worst, a feeling of indifference when you leave the screen, soon snowball downhill into abominations against cinema, with the amount of time spent on the internet being directly proportional to how many times you say the film in question raped your childhood. With that in mind, allow me to list the top 3 sequels that don’t deserve anywhere near the amount of hate that they get. If you disagree with me, feel free to explain why in the comments, but bear in mind while doing so that you are completely wrong.
The first sequel I will be acting as defence counsel for is The Lost World: Jurassic Park. I alluded to this on Monday’s edition of The Highlight Reel, but I actually think this is a damn fine monster movie. Is it as good as the first one? No, but what could be? If you take the film as a standalone experience, there’s a lot to love here. While a lot of the characters (returning Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough aside) are intensely annoying, that only makes it all the more enjoyable when the real stars of this movie, the dinosaurs, start picking them off. The film does what every good sequel should, which is to take the core concept of dinosaurs running amok and go nuts with it, packing more dinosaurs and more hectic action scenes in that you can shake a claw at. Sure, it lacks a lot of the jaw-on-the-floor moments of the original, but so many of the scenes are perfectly poised monster movie fare – the survivors running through the long grass and being slowly picked off by raptors, the hunt of a stampede of dinosaurs, led by the magnetic Pete Postlethwaite, and of course, the outstanding climax which sees a T-Rex rampaging through downtown San Diego. While it could never be as inspired as the original, it’s far from boring and is in fact a pretty damn good effort, and far better than any sequel to Jurassic Park has any right to be.
Taking up number two on the list is actually two films, because shut up it’s my blog and I make the rules. And, I have to admit, I’m being a little hypocritical here because I have, in the past, stated that this particular franchise hasn’t been good since the second film during a review of a recent video game. That game was Aliens: Colonial Marines, and the two sequels are, of course Alien 3 (or Alien³ as literally nobody calls it) and Alien Resurrection. Now, these movies arguably suffered even more than The Lost World did in terms of audience hype leading to a messy downfall, because they were sequels to a sequel. And not just any sequel, they had to follow Aliens, one of the most successful sequels of all time, and one of the few generally agreed to actually surpass the original movie. Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection were so reviled that even their own creators (Alien 3 director David Fincher and Resurrection scribe Joss Whedon) have publicly apologised for and poked fun at their contributions to the Alien canon. “A lot of people hated Alien 3. But no one hated it more than I did.” Said Fincher. Meanwhile, Whedon said of his effort; “it wasn’t so much that they changed the script, it’s that they just executed it in such a ghastly fashion as to render it almost unwatchable.”
And, I mean, watching those films, are they that bad? Really? They deserve a place on this list not because they’re particularly good (although Alien 3 is decent and Alien Resurrection has Ron Perlman in full badass mode) but just because… well, they’re not that offensive. Did anyone really watch either of those films and bust a blood vessel that their beloved franchise was taking a special Hollywood stiff one, until people on the internet started telling them to? Alien Resurrection was comfortably the worst one, but “unwatchable”? I think not. Sure, it had horrendously stupid characters and it was entirely unnecessary, but it had its moments. Mostly featuring Ron Perlman, of course, but they were there. Perhaps they’ve aged well when compared to what would follow them in the franchise, but while neither is essential viewing, they’re hardly offensive when compared to… well… you know.
It’s almost time to wrap this up, but before I do, I have one more bone to pick with you. Yes, you, the moviegoer who’s reading this blog. I’m just going to come out and say it: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a great film. There, I said it. Not just good, either. I said great, and I mean it. Given the massive outpouring of vitriol this movie has faced since its release in 2008, it’s a statistical certainly that you are one of the many who spit on the floor at the mere mention of the film. And I have to ask: why? What, about this film, is so bad, so shocking, so offensively awful, that makes it an unworthy successor to the original trilogy? Is it the fridge thing? It probably is. That’s the scene most people point to when furiously masturbating to the thought of beheading George Lucas for what he did to their childhood favourites. Honestly though, who cares? Does anybody remember the original trilogy? I sure do, in fact they’re three of my favourite films of all time. Nobody loves those films more than me. They were gloriously silly love letters to the adventure serials of the 30s, and featured Indy finding the Ark of the Covenant (which will melt your face clean off and make your head explode, natch), surviving a 10,000ft drop out of a plane by inflating a rubber dinghy and sliding down a mountain, racing Thuggees along a physics-defying minecart track, finding the freaking Holy Grail at the end of an invisible bridge and plenty more besides, and while that’s all cool, apparently we’re just drawing the line at fridges and aliens. Sorry, if you accept all the goofy shenanigans of the original trilogy, you don’t get to pick apart every single hitch in the new one just because you want something to complain about. That’s called hypocrisy. If you never liked Indy, fair enough, but to say this movie betrayed the legacy of the original trilogy is provably wrong.
The aliens were another bone of contention that I never quite got. While the old Indy films were supposed to pay homage to the 30s adventure serials, this one was set in the 50s, so naturally it instead paid homage to the sci-fi b-movies of the time. That makes sense to me. It’s a different era for both the filmmakers and the characters, and the film changed in setting and tone to reflect that. And anyway, the films are all about an adventure to find a higher power. There’s a telling scene between Indy and Mutt (Shia LaBeouf) where the two are searching a cave for treasure (which is classic Indy, by the way), and they come across drawings of the aliens. “God’s head does not look like that!” Mutt protests. “Depends on who your God is.” Is Indy’s curt response.
I just think when you’re looking at silly action movies, you’ve got to be consistent. You can’t nitpick every little detail of Crystal Skull while stating similarly silly goings-on in the originals are fair game, and as such I never really saw quite what Crystal Skull did to attract such bile from audiences. Of course it was never going to live up to the originals, as I mentioned earlier, an inspired creation is hard enough to attempt to recreate at the best of times, never mind over two decades after the fact.
Just remember, while many sequels are indeed cynical cash-grabs (be careful saying that bit while drunk), not all of them deserve to be lumped into the same smelly, overcrowded boat. Don’t be so protective over your beloved franchises, and try to judge things on their own merits. Part of loving is understanding, and this applies to film as much as it does anything else. Your blood pressure will thank you, if it were a tangible object with thought and feelings that is.
The Hangover Part II still sucks though.