I was perusing what the youngsters like to call “the net” the other day and came across this article on one of my favorite movie news sites. According to the article, Hollywood is apparently making a War Games 2. This got me thinking about movie sequels, good and bad, and what I think about them. I’m pretty sure you’re going to be interested in what I have to say, otherwise you’d be doing laundry or washing your car right now, so I thought I’d pass along some “nuggets” from my own noggin about movie sequels. Write them down, grasshopper, cause these nuggets are gold, I tell ya, GOLD.
First off, I am not patently against sequels. I don’t automatically think they are going to be awful. Being a movie whore gives me the wonderful freedom of thinking movies that should suck, are going to be awesome. It’s liberating. If I enjoyed the first movie and some or most of the original cast returns, then I’m willing to give it a try. But what sounds like a good idea on paper, may turn out to be box office poison. In light of this, let’s look at some of the factors that, I believe, will immediately count against the success of a sequel.
One type of sequel that I will immediately hate is the “in name only” sequels. You know the ones, more often than not they didn’t have a theatrical release. You see them sitting in Blockbuster and you’re like, “HOLY CRAP, THEY MADE A SEQUEL TO BAMBI?!” (yes they did). If these eyesores were released in theaters, there would be chaos in the streets, it would be the Kent State riots all over again. I ask you, how is the movie a sequel when not one person from the original movie appears? Even worse is when one of the characters in the sequel is the son/daughter/uncle/cousin of one of the characters in the original to make up for the fact that the studio was too much of a Scrooge to pay for the original actors. That’s the definition of cheap, people.
Let’s talk a bit about the aforementioned War Games: The Dead Game. First off, the title. They use the original title, but instead of putting a giant 2 in it, they give it some generic ominous sounding subtitle. You aren’t fooling me, MGM. Also, the odds are against Matthew Broderick coming back for this. Likewise for Ally Sheedy (is she still alive?) and Dabney Coleman. It’ll be all new people we’ve never heard of who look like they should be in a WB hour long drama doing something vaguely similar to the events in the first movie. Why even call it War Games, why not just The Dead Game? I’ll tell you why; to get people who wouldn’t normally go see a movie filled with nobodies to go see it. Even if Broderick gives a small cameo at some point (which would help), this is just lazy. War Games 2, to me, is Matthew Broderick as David Lightman, grown up, working for a software development company and he uncovers a plot by his company/the government/some random shmuck to take over the company/stock market/country/world. THAT is War Games 2. MGM, call me when it’s in the can.
Another example you ask? Of course, I answer. How about Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights? Another omission of the giant 2 and the addition of a sultry subtitle. In reality, this movie should have been called just…Havana Nights. There was absolutely NO need to tack on Dirty Dancing to the beginning except for the simple fact that no one would have seen it. Yes, I realize Patrick Swayze himself had a small part, but, come on, they didn’t even call him Johnny (his character in the original). He was credited as DANCE INSTRUCTOR. WTF?! WHY?! He’s in the movie, he has several scenes with the main characters, why couldn’t SOMEBODY call him Johnny?! ONCE?! Drove me up the wall. The movie wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t that great either. I kinda feel the same way about the original, too (Sorry, Steph). Moving on….
So you see what I mean about the “in name only” sequels. 9.9 times out of 10, they are going be a huge pile of dog ass. Let’s move on to another factor that will most definitely sink a sequel; recasting the main actors. I hate it when a sequel is announced and one of your favorite characters is recast. I would actually prefer the character is dropped than have another actor brought in. What usually winds up happening is the original actor left such an impression that the newer upstart is overshadowed, leaving you feeling like he’s just copying the original performance. One of the better examples of this is Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd. While this movie could have stood on it’s own as a dumb high school comedy (maybe), the studio instead forces the actors to ape the characteristics of Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels. Parts of this movie made me laugh, but parts were cringe-inducing. Another example is Major League 2. I really enjoyed all three of the Major League movies, but one of the main characters, Willie Mays Hayes, is recast. Originally played by Wesley Snipes, in part 2 Hayes is played by Omar Epps. Epps did a nice job, but he’s not Wesley Snipes. While Major League 2 did have a few other issues, this was one of the big ones (the original and Part 3 are the best of the trilogy). The last glaring example of recasting I’ll bring to your attention is The Sting II. The original, starring Robert Redford and Paul Newman, was a classic heist movie that helped launch Newman and Redford even further into superstardom. The sequel, using the same characters but different actors, barely deserves to be mentioned. The studio did get Jackie Gleason to take over the Paul Newman role, but, despite that, continue on your merry way.
These are just a few of the examples. How many other crappy sequels are out there? Did anyone see Starship Troopers 2? Son of the Mask? How about Hollow Man 2? American Psycho 2? What about the 15 or so “sequels” Disney churns out every year? Did the public at large really need 3 sequels to the Lion King? I mean really. There are tons of other titles that litter the Blockbuster shelves like a giant landfill. To be sure, sequels can be bad. Very bad. Like, genitals wired to a car battery bad, but they can be good, too. If not for sequels we wouldn’t have Empire Strikes Back, Back to the Future II, Clerks II and Godfather Part II. But, then again, no sequels means no Godfather III, so it’s a double edged sword.
Personally, I like the idea of sequels because I love revisiting the characters I’ve grown to love in a movie. If you entertained me once, I’ll give a second movie a chance, but I’m prepared to be burned. Gigli 2, anyone?
Fun movie links:
1. Trailer for The Sting II
2. Trailer for Dumb & Dumber re-edited to look more like a drama
3. Hilarious MTV Parody of Star Wars Episode III starring Jimmy Fallon