Sequelitis!: The Necessary Disease Ravaging Hollywood

Remember 2011? Not a particularly memorable year, but some highlights stand out. That was the year Obama released his long form birth certificate, it was the year of a major tsunami hitting Japan, it was the year we got Osama bin Laden…it was also the year of 27 sequels.


Yeah, that sounds like a bad title to 26 Sequels, my favorite Cambodian/Peruvian film (sarcasm), but how crazy is that? Now, I want to point out that this year…it’s 30. That’s right, 30 sequels. This isn’t counting reboots mind you, or universe expanding films, this is the straight sequel. “We are carrying out the story from one onto the next, enjoy it.” That kind of sequel.

Before you grab your pitchforks and torches, and certainly before you start screaming: “HOLLYWOOD HAS NO ORIGINAL IDEALS! BOOO, PROTEST! HISS! RABBLE RABBLE,” you need to hear me out on this.


I’m gonna level with you here, folks. I used to be one of you. In fact, one year I refused to go see a certain sequel just because it was a sequel. How dare the industry I love not foster original ideas and just keep grabbing for that cash? How dare they spit on the creatives and just treat movies like they are a machine? Well, it turns out, that’s what Hollywood is.

Hollywood is a movie making machine. It’s a business hiding behind an art form. The films that spawn these sequels are what allows the studios/production houses and all in between, to stay afloat. They give people jobs, they give people a sense of security, and, most importantly, they give their audience what they want. Who wouldn’t want a sequel to the 2014 hit Kingsman: The Secret Service? I thought I did, but I really didn’t.

What more could the Kingsman franchise do that they didn’t do in the first one? Over the top violence, taking quick punches at an equally long running franchise (James Bond), and just having fun; it was all there, so what could the sequel have done differently? Why was the first a breath of fresh air, while the sequel offered up nothing new? It’s because it wasn’t a true sequel. It was the same flesh and bones of Kingsman, but re-skinned as Kingsman: The Golden Circle, thus costing it it’s sequel title.


You see, I have rules when it comes to sequels, and if you like, I’ll share them here:

1) A sequel must introduce new characters and new challenges, instead of rehashing the first
2) A sequel must go above and beyond it’s predecessor in the areas that it excelled in originally
3) A sequel cannot just be the same story, done again with different people. That’s re-skinning
4) A sequel should tie themes and elements from the original into the current.
and finally…
5) A sequel should either be better than the first in some regards or blow it entirely out of the water.

Obviously these are just my rules and I don’t expect the world to follow them, but it goes to show that we shouldn’t outright hate sequels. I created this list after 2011, when I decided enough was enough. I needed to start judging the industry I love without rose-colored glasses. Now–back on track–I’m a fan of films that tell a self contained story and that don’t need two or three other films to wrap it up. However, there are exceptions to that. I love ‘Rocky II, ‘Empire Strikes Back, ‘The Dark Knight, and, most recently, ‘Trainspotting 2. I want to focus on Trainspotting 2, because, unlike the other films, it’s not a bombastic epic film. It’s fairly subdued and an interestingly stylized character study about people we knew twenty-years ago.

It wrapped up the first story thematically without having to blow up the world, or wrestle a god. It was just a story of four friends and how their lives intertwined. I don’t ever need a third one. I think they’ll have run out of things to say by that point, but it was a necessary film to really cinch the deal on the original narrative flow. But, some of you will disagree. And that’s okay, film is meant to be a discussion, but there’s another reason that sequels are necessary and it ties back into my earlier opinion of other sequels.


Remember how I said that I was once one of you? That was the year that I really discovered foreign and independent cinema. I had a slight understanding of that cinematic world before, but because of Hollywood spitting in my eye, I was hellbent on seeing what else the world had to offer. It made me broaden my horizons, just because I needed another option than what was currently on my local multiplex’s docket. Hollywood’s sequel machine eventually broke for me. I was done with it, but, because it broke for me, I noticed that there were other films that were coming out from other places. Mom & Pop studios if you will–getting distributed–just barely, but enough to where I got to explore them.

That’s when I realized that sequels aren’t the worst thing in the world. Sure, we all know ‘Hangover II‘, but we also know ‘Spider-Man 2‘. We can appreciate these films just for what they are, or hate them for the same reason. Just because a sequel exists, doesn’t mean it’s bad or that Hollywood doesn’t have any fresh ideas. It just means they want to keep a roof over their head and they’re trying to make you all happy.

You don’t have to follow my rules, Hollywood’s rules, or anyone’s rules other than your own. I know that sounds scary as an audience member, while ticket prices continue to soar, but it’s okay. That ol’ Hollywood machine might listen to you after this year’s dismal box office and multiple flops; or, it will just keep chugging along. Just remember–it might be time to look beyond this particular machine and explore the other options. Who knows, you might even find your favorite film in a little twelve seat theater in the back alley of downtown Santa Monica and you’ll never be the same again.

Kingsman: the golden circle


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