As an aspiring screenwriter, I, like many, sometimes get caught up in the haughty conceit of thinking of film sequels as a tasteless, feeble and gratuitous attempts to elicit the hard earned from the film-going masses.
Why can’t they write something new? We wail, convinced that if – when – they read one our brilliant works or even just an outline, they would find the next great tentpole movie. Of course, if that were to happen, we would never do a sequel. No. Nope. Never. A sequel is the laziest kind of movie. What self-respecting scribe would take on a sequel gig? Stop shouting about Joss Whedon and Alien 3! He was trying to help! Never diss Joss!
Anyway, as much as there are one or two films that may have gone somewhat sequel-mad, following the tried and tested formula of getting progressively worse – Police Academy, The Terminator, Die Hard, The Matrix, Resident Evil, Jaws – to name a few. Sequels are not always a terrible idea, some stories naturally lend themselves to an extension. You want to know what happened next. Sometimes the sequel tops the original.
One of the best sequels ever made (if you have not seen it, stop reading now and go and watch it! You should hang your head in shame!) is The Godfather part two.
Generally speaking, films of books tend to depart from the source material. Sometimes it’s because some aspects are unfilmable or would be prohibitively expensive to make, though with the rapid advancements in CGI a lot of things that were considered unfilmable in the past, are now even possible on a home computer! There was also the egos of creatives involved, director or writer thinking they have come up with a better filmic view, or even the studio just wanting a more audience-friendly film.
Whatever the reason many a book to screen translation has ended up an unholy mess. The Godfather and its brilliant sequel were written by Mario Puzo. Puzo also wrote the book so understood the nuances that needed to stay in the film and script. As an aside, he also happened to write the Christopher Reeves’ Superman one and two. Pity he was no longer around to help Zack – it’s too damn long! – Snyder! Though studios generally like to keep the authors away from the films – looking at you Anne Rice – director Francis Ford Coppola, a man known for getting his way, was team Puzo. The Godfather part two is truly an astounding sequel.
Another egomaniac director, James Cameron, who generally hits home runs, though his insistence that the truly awful Terminator: Genisys was a good film has put him on my laminated hate list forever, what he did do was make one of the greatest sequels ever in T2.
The advance of computer graphics in the intervening seven years between films, allowed Cameron to bring an exciting, bigger spectacle to the screen, whilst still retaining the relentless urgency of the first film. Not only did we see a newer and more dangerous terminator, we believe the story.
For an X-men fan, especially of the Chris Claremont era, Bryan Singer has a lot to answer for when it comes to the X-men canon. Having taken extreme liberties with almost every aspect of the X-men history, from their ages, group make up, founding members and costumes, it’s a wonder his X-men is watchable at all. Of the films he has made, the sequel to his first X-men film is probably his best. With a cracking opening, introducing a battling, teleporting Nightcrawler/Kurt Wagner, the film thunders along nicely, showing fantastical set pieces amid a modern take on oppression due to differences. After the first X-men film, with all its faults, fans were unsure as to whether he could follow it up. X2 tops the first film.
Staying with the super powered, the most surprising sequel, especially considering its predecessors, is Logan. If you suffered the two previous standalone outings of the Wolverine franchise you have my sympathies. What is truly surprising about Logan is not how utterly brilliant it is, it’s that it was directed by the same person who did the Wolverine! James Mangold directed the risible The Wolverine, a film so bad it made me angry. Logan is possibly the biggest improvement in a franchise I have ever seen or heard of. From the opening scene – no spoilers – through to the final resolution, Logan is as close to a perfect X-men film as cinema has ever got.