Monday, March 24, 2014

Week of 03/24/2014

New Rules Needed For Sequels
– by David Matthews 2

So Pixar, the animation studio that used to have some kind of connection to Disney, then did work for Disney, and then became fully owned by Disney, has announced they are working on the sequel to their 2004 hit movie “The Incredibles”.

When I first heard the news, I had some skepticism.  I’d like it to work, and I really hope they would keep the same chemistry and some of the characters that really made the original movie the success that it was.

But then the second thought that went through my head upon hearing that news was…


Oh, I already know the answer to that question.  It’s the same answer that applies to every other sequel that is made in Hollywood.  That answer is “Money!”  It’s always been about money and being able to suck every last dollar that studios can get from the great unwashed.

But, other than that eternal reason, why would there need to be a sequel to “The Incredibles”?

It was a good standalone story.  It pretty much resolved all of the underlying issues by the time it went to the end credits.  There wasn’t anything left hanging with it like some movies tend to do.  There really is no reason for Disney and Pixar to do a sequel other than because of the universal answer of “Money”.

And that got me thinking about some of the other movies that ended up as sequels.

“Ghostbusters”, for instance, didn’t really need a sequel.  It was a standalone story that answered pretty much all of the questions asked of it in the beginning.  Nor did “Caddyshack”, “Meatballs”, “Police Academy”, “Lethal Weapon”, “Friday the 13th”, “Nightmare on Elm Street”, or “Oceans Eleven”.  And that’s just scratching the surface.

That’s not to say that the sequels were just as good as or even better than their originals.  In some cases they were worse, like in “Caddyshack 2”.  For every “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” there were others more like “Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment”.

And while direct-to-video has helped tremendously with making more movies available that would otherwise be ignored, it has also facilitated the production and distribution of bad sequels that would otherwise not survive production.  Did you know, for instance, that while the 1988 movie “The Land Before Time” was a box office success, it spawned a total of twelve sequels?  Twelve!  All of them direct-to-video, and none of those twelve sequel movies were associated with director Don Bluth or executive producers Steven Spielberg or George Lucas from the original movie.

Let’s get brutally honest here… I really think that the various studios need to come up with some sort of ground rules when it comes to doing sequels.  I don’t mean laws and regulations, even thought the power-whores in Washington would love to hear that.  I’m talking about guidelines that the studios would be more prone to enforce themselves.

Most certainly there needs to be another answer to “why make a sequel” besides “money”.  Is there some sort of underlying story that hasn’t been explored?  Some thread still left hanging?

Marvel Studios certainly knew how to do that with their series of movies, starting with “Iron Man”.  A few threads were left hanging, such as Jim Rhodes staring at a suit similar to “War Machine” and saying “next time, baby”, and the teaser after the credits of Tony Stark meeting with Nick Fury and mentioning the “Avengers Initiative”.  They opened the door to a sequel but could still keep the movie as a standalone feature.  The same with “The Incredible Hulk”.  By the time they got to “Iron Man 2”, you knew Marvel had a plan for future movies and they stuck with it.  Not bad for a so-called “upstart company”, even if it’s a subsidiary of both Disney and one of the big comic book publishers.

Certainly the studios need to understand and accept that there are simply some movies that do not need to have sequels.  Some stories are self-contained.  Would you want a sequel to “The Ten Commandments”?  Or “Gone With The Wind”?  No?  Then why do you feel there’s a need to have a sequel to “Independence Day”?

I think even stricter scrutiny should also apply to doing prequels.  One just has to look at the two “Star Wars” trilogies to see there are just way too many logical errors between the two groups.  How is it that Owen Lars, Luke Skywalker’s uncle, did not remember C3PO in Episode Four when his step-brother had left the droid to his mother in Episode One and was still on the farm in Episode Two?  Little things like this cannot be ignored or dismissed.

Let’s put this in a way that the studios will understand.  Studios expect to make money off their productions.  They believe that sequels are a cheaper way to have financial lightning strike twice since they already have audience support.  Well that “lightning” can only strike twice if the same conditions are there for it to happen.  Story, attention to detail, proper casting, chemistry… these must still be present.

We’re continually told that success is a matter of hard work and perseverance.  That is the myth spread by businesses.  If that is so, then the movie studios need to heed that advice when it comes to their own works.  Sequels should not be seen as cheats, but as higher plateaus to reach only if they work harder at keeping their audience.  Only then will they deserve the continued support they get.

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