on the general suckiness of sequels.

So I hear the Transformers sequel is pretty good….if “good” is defined as “sucks only slightly less than ‘Gigli’.”

I have a pretty dim view of sequels in general, mostly because the majority of sequels merely tries to cash in on the success of the first movie, rather than offering something new and original.  The worst sequels, coincidentally, are those made after surprise indie hits like the excellent, creepy and claustrophobic “The Descent”—the follow-up gives us the very same storyline, disregards the ending of its predecessor, and negates everything that was laudable about the original.

There are exceptions to the rule, of course.  A handful of sequels managed to expand on the narrative of the original and surpass the first movie in both impact and quality.  The first and best example that pops into my head is Aliens, which took the horror template of its predecessor, and liberally blended it with military adventure, serving up a whole new meal instead of just reheating the leftovers from Alien.  Other than that, however, there aren’t too many sequels out there that are as good as the originals, much less surpass them.

(To yank the “sucky sequel” stats back in line, the third and fourth movies in the Alien franchise were once again forgettable, unnecessary, and underwhelming, especially Alien 3, which starts by killing off two of the three main characters whose fight for survival was the core dramatic thread of Aliens.  Way to alienate your fans right from the start.)

What other movie sequels are markedly superior to their predecessors? 


31 thoughts on “on the general suckiness of sequels.

  1. Kommander says:

    The second Mad Max movie is better than the first, but the third was a fraggin mess. The Dark Knight is also an excellent example of this. While the first new Batman movie was great, the second was even better.

  2. Lissa says:

    I agree on the Dark Knight beating out Batman Beginning. While I prefer the first Godfather, I know several people who swear the second is the better movie. I liked Terminator 2 better than the original Terminator and X2 better than X-Men; likewise Spider-Man.

  3. Weer'd Beard says:

    Yep, The Road Warrior and The Dark Knight are damn good.

    While I personally prefer the first one, The Godfather Pt II is not somthing I’ll argue at being inferior to the first.

    The 2nd Bourne Movie was my personal fave, and while they suffer from Hollywood translation, the 2nd X-Men Movie was hands down the best.

    In a slightly different catagory, Of large bodies of work split, Empire Strikes Back, was the best of the Star Wars series, as was The Two Towers, for LOTR. Also I almost always skip disc 1 of Kill Bill, and dive right for volume 2 with it’s more rich narrative.

    One last bit. I understand it suffered from some writing issues (as well as some basic biology problems) but how can you fault David Fincher’s supurb directing style when placing the Xenomorph into a claustrophobic prison planet filled with violent criminals attempting to become good men through piety?

    Aliens is hands down the best of the series, but I won’t lie, I’m really attached to Ripley’s struggles on Fury 161.

  4. David says:

    A few that pop into my head …

    Toy Story 2 (Toy Story was excellent for sure, but this was a much better story and lots more fun than the original)

    Godfather 2 (A continuation, no wonder it was the best of the bunch since 3 sucked mightily)

    Empire Strikes Back (The entire series goes down in flames after this movie)

    Star Trek 2 (KKHHAAAAAAANNN! Hard NOT to improve on one of the crappiest movies ever made)

    I will not count Two Towers though I think it was better than the 1st, only because it’s a continuation but not in the same league as Godfather which could’ve ended after one movie and stood as a masterpiece. Ending LOTR after one movie would only piss people off …

    … but it would’ve been funny.

  5. can’t add to the list, but i’m here to propose a major wager…

    i’m laying 3 to 1 odds that ghostbusters2 will not be -can not be- better than the original.



    • Kaerius(SWE) says:

      You mean 3… ghostbusters 2 came out in 89.

      Hmm.. adding to the list, I seem to remember Young Guns 2 being better than the first, or at least on par with it…

  6. Jay G. says:

    I’ll argue that Mad Max was better than Road Warrior.

    The groundwork is laid for the character of the Road Warrior in Mad Max. We learn what made him the way he is. In Road Warrior, we just start off with Max all PO’d ahead of time…

    And they already MADE Ghostbusters 2. This is 3, which I predict will suck worse than any 2 other bad sequels.

  7. Tam says:

    While nowhere near as fun as the first one, the 2nd Star Wars move was the best of the lot as a movie.

    Terminator 2 was an over-the-top popcorn action extravaganza that made the first movie look like it had been shot as a college project.

    Everybody ever involved with the Star Trek franchise would prefer you forget about the first motion picture.

  8. Tam says:

    …on the other hand, Highlander 2‘s subtitle should have been “There can be only one!

  9. the pistolero says:

    “There can be only one!”

    I know it’s so wrong, but I thought of this when I read that…
    I also liked Terminator 2 better than the original.

  10. perlhaqr says:

    Tam: Highlander 2 is actually a pretty good movie, if you don’t look at it as a sequel.

    I had the fortune of being exactly the right age to see H2 in the theater, never having seen the original Highlander. I didn’t understand what all the fussing people were doing was about, until I saw the first one.

    Transformers 2 was pretty goddamn terrible. It’s like they took every characteristic that made any of the characters interesting, and turned them all up to eleven, thereby simply making them horrifyingly obnoxious. It was idiotically puerile.

    Actually… I bet with the raw footage, I could cut Transformers 2 both down to a reasonable length, and into a less noxious film.

    No, nevermind, the plot itself was pretty retarded. I’m not sure it could be saved.

  11. T.Stahl says:

    I agree that sequals usually suck.

    The Magnificent Seven, Rambo, Sniper.

    Fortunately the Dollar Trilogy consists of three equally good movies.

    And just as fortunately there won’t be a sequel or prequel to A Bridge Too Far, BHD, Private Ryan,…

  12. T.Stahl says:

    Sequals? What was I thinking about? Seagulls? Seagal? Seequallen? Örk!

  13. Wharf Rat says:

    I’ve noticed that (in my humble opinion, at least) any set of movies in a trilogy tends to follow the same pattern – the first one is great, the second one sucks, and the third is either as good as, or better than, the first. Not with all trilogies, of course, but most –

    Pirates of the Caribbean
    The old Star Wars Trilogy
    The new Star Wars trilogy (follows the pattern while being an absolute abomination)
    The Lord of the Rings
    The first three Fast and the Furious movies
    The Transporter

    and that’s all I can think of at the moment…

  14. Wharf Rat says:

    …as a side note, I wasn’t even aware “The Descent” had a sequel…creepy.

  15. Marko says:

    I don’t know that I’d consider LotR’s two final installments “sequels”, per se. The whole thing was written as one volume, after all, and only split up into three parts for publishing reasons.

  16. Turk Turon says:

    So far there’s no Citizen Kane II.

  17. Louise Townsend says:

    Ice Age, The Meltdown.
    I thought they did a terrific job and am looking forward to the next one coming out this summer.
    I’m a sucker for good animation.

  18. MarkHB says:

    Turk: “Rosebud: The Reckoning”. I think it’s slay the BO take, really. “Kane’s back – and this time, it’s personal!”

    Another dob for Toy Story 2. It did do the thing.

    Hold on. Processing.

    I’m going to make you all hate me and vote for Alien: Ressurection. For one simple reason: It’s proto-Firefly. If Joss Whedon’s hadn’t scripted a rag-tag bunch of merks on Auriga, Firefly probably wouldn’t have happenned. So that’s my off-kilter vote: Alien Ressurection.

  19. wolfwalker says:

    tam: “Terminator 2 was an over-the-top popcorn action extravaganza that made the first movie look like it had been shot as a college project.”

    ?? I thought the first Terminator WAS shot as a college project…

  20. MarkHB says:

    Wolf: Pretty much. With the same “brat pack” that crewed the Sulaco a bit later on.

    I was at a talk where Stan Winston (pbuh) showed us the rubber “mcdonald’s ashtrays” they used for the shotgun hits on the T-1000.

    Stan Winston was a Good Man.

    • wolfwalker says:

      Stan Winston was a genius. Perhaps the only SFX dude who ever came close to matching the pure undiluted celluloid awesomeness produced by Ray Harryhausen in his prime.

      • MarkHB says:

        He was also a *bloody nice bloke* who’d take the time just to talk to engineering and animation students in completely unrelated fields to say “Hey, guys – you could be doing this!”.

        It worked. *GRIN* And I’ve never been happier.

  21. MarkHB says:

    *grins* And that sums it up to me… the quality of a movie doesn’t matter a slap to me. I might enjoy it. I might not.

    But when you tell me a movie’s “shit despite the effects” then I can put you in touch with a few hundred people who don’t care how good the movie is – we got paid. So welcome to the split-world scenario. For us VFX types, we don’t give a toss if it’s a good movie or a bad movie – we’ll just make it look as good as we can.

    And none of you buggers will ever care. We’re fine with that. *grin*

  22. sasu says:

    The lates Rambo was a very pleasant surprise. After the dummy sequels this latest film manages to surpass even the original.

  23. Tony says:

    Blade II was better than the first. Okay, they are both just macho posturing by Wesley Snipes, but a) the martial arts coreography was much better in the sequel than the first (all that high kick ballet looked kind of silly) and b) hot female vampire – need I say anything more? 🙂

    Agreed on Star Trek 2, Terminator 2.

    However, when it comes to Star Wars, I actually like The Return of Jedi over the first two released films better. Yeah, even though there are bloody Ewoks in it. I’ve never much liked plots that basically go “some naivé idiot manages to take on a competent, dangerous opponent and win because of sheer dumb luck / because of being born with some special power or skill, as opposed to having to actually work to develop their skills”. In part 6 Luke no longer acts like the idiot kid in the two earlier films, which makes the whole thing much more enjoyable. Besides, there is the final fight between Luke and Vader.

  24. MarkHB says:

    I have to put in another vote for RotJ as being a darn good film, as well – much richer and more complex than ANH, and (despite the frelling Ewoks) was full of much more satisfying combat. Also, Han telling Leia he loved her when he saw she was hiding a pistol probably tweaked what I find desirable in a ladyfriend quite a lot at a tender age 😉

    And the Falcon escaping from the Death Star is just a brilliant bit of VFX artistry.

  25. Ken says:

    The Wrath of Khan and Aliens are the pinnacle of the type, of course.

    I don’t know about markedly better, but Toy Story II is a deeper, richer, better story than the original (which was pretty good).

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