Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sequels: Sometimes, You Must Kill Them

It's like beating a long-dead horse skeleton. Really, really not worth it.
Then again, once in a while, magic happens, ie Godfather, Dark Knight, Aliens, Toy Story.

But last weekend, I saw Pirates 4--yes, FOUR--and going into it, I just kept thinking, "Really? Really?" I'm almost starting to forget that the original movie is so magical and ingenious, though not really because that's impossible. Why do they keep making movies? I mean, I know why. It's because we buy the tickets to see it, usually on opening weekend, and no matter how bad it is, there's a pretty decent and guaranteed return on the investment. Leaving practically no incentive to make the sequels actually good.

And Disney is the biggest culprit. I will admit, a lot of kids enjoy watching their favorite movies over...and over...and over...and over...and over again. Having a sequel available can help slow down the drill that's destroying the parent's sanity. But...still. Cinderella was given two sequels. So was Aladdin, and the Lion King. Once again, Pirates was given three. Fantastic movies, not-so-fantastic follow-ups. Not that they were all Knife status, but the mere idea of it is so unappetizing that I can never really get excited about them.

Crazy as this might sound, I'm beginning to compare half-baked sequels to fan fiction. Oh yes, you read that right. There are some strong similarities to what makes them good, and what makes them blind the audience in their hideousness.

Problem 1. If the original was amazing, great. You fell in love with the characters, the author's universe, and the story itself. And every time you get to the end, you just don't want it to end. And so you come up with hare-brained ideas to continue the story when it just needs to end--and often, these fan fictions end up being erotic, which is just weird. Keep that to yourself. Lesson: Let it go, let it die in peace. Don't torture it!

Problem 2. Riding on the glory of original work, so that you can avoid being original yourself. Maybe this doesn't apply to sequels as much as franchises like Halloween and its counterparts, James Bond, and so on. Instead of coming up with your own idea, you just tweak someone else's. In the novel world, I see so many Pride and Prejudice spin-offs, it's sickening. Sometimes, you get something good (like adding zombies to Pride and Prejudice, or Rob Zombie's Halloween) Lesson: If you have legitimate skill in storytelling, no matter the medium, prove it. Do it yourself.

Problem 3. Familiarity. It's just easier to get people excited about something they already know and/or love, again reducing the incentive to make it a quality product. And yes, once you've established something everyone loves, you can take more risks. But personally, I value the original risk more. Lesson: You can be good by improving what's there, and you can be great by starting what isn't. Think the PC and Internet.

This summer is so full of sequels, that it's time we look back and reanalyze why we're doing it. Make no mistake, I will see X-Men, Kung Fu Panda 2, Hangover 2, and HP 8. Although, HP doesn't count. That one has to finish. When they made the first movie, I didn't doubt they would finish all seven books. And I am going to the midnight premiere, and may end up standing and cheering as if I were at the Superbowl. Some obsessions are unhealthy.

I will not see Spy Kids 4...I mean, really, why? This is just wrong.

Anyway, Pirates 4. Good not great. I'm glad they completely refreshed the storyline, taking out some key characters to put in Penelope Cruz, who was excellent. Depp lost absolutely none of his charm, and that is not easy. The plot was messy in its details, if not in its overall points, and I laughed and had fun. Especially at the end. If you're really not enjoying it and want to leave, stay for the last scene. It's worth it. So, Fork. I was prepared for the worst, and got okay, instead.

Here's a reminder of why there is a Pirates 4. Okay, it's all Captain Jack, and there are good moments that don't include him, honestly, but I like this one.

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