Saturday, February 7, 2009

Sequel 2: This time, it’s personal

I saw this link at Bill Crider’s Pop Culture Magazine that directs the individual curious enough to click on it to a Times Online article listing twenty film sequels Michael Moran feels are better than the originals. “Whenever a movie sequel is announced, the cry that Hollywood has run out of ideas won’t be far behind. But which are the follow-ups that buck the trend?”

Of the twenty sequels listed, I have to reserve comment on Clear and Present Danger (#17 on the list), Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (#16), Before Sunset (#8—though I have seen Before Sunrise…and anything that followed in that overrated film’s pretentious wake would have to be an improvement), The Bourne Supremacy (#7) and The Dark Knight (#3) because I’ve not viewed any of those films. Then there are several on the list that are sort of no-brainers: Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (#13), From Russia With Love (#11), Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (#9), The Empire Strikes Back (#4) and Mad Max 2 (#2) are the ones that immediately come to mind.

The rest of the list is populated with what I would categorize as “crazy talk,” “daring choices” and “myths.” It goes against the grain to suggest that Magnum Force (#19) is superior to Dirty Harry, just as it’s just-plain silly to suggest that Back to the Future II (#14) surpasses the original…and why Moran chose to argue that The French Connection II (#15) outpaces the first is anybody’s guess…I don’t know what he’s smoking, but he’s welcome to share it with me. Subsequently, I’d rather watch the first Terminator instead of Terminator 2: Judgment Day (#5) and I’d put Alien in a Netflix queue before Aliens (#6).

Under “daring choices,” it’s suggested that Superman II (#12) is better than the first Superman; I find this daring only because the two movies are pretty much cut from the same bolt of cloth (you may be familiar with the story of how the films’ producers intended to make two movies but were only going to pay the actors for one) and to suggest that one is superior than the other doesn’t make a lot of sense. The one that really surprised me was After the Thin Man (#11) because I think you could argue that it’s slightly better-made and better-acted than the first (and its denouement of an unlikely screen actor as the killer is a plus) but in the final analysis (your mileage, as always, may vary) I like The Thin Man more only because of its breezy, unpretentious feel.

As to the remaining films on the list, Bride of Frankenstein (#20)—despite its stellar reputation—is not better than the original Frankenstein (although it is an outstanding film in its own right) only because its emphasis is on fantasy and not horror, like Frankie I. Dawn of the Dead (#18) may be a more accomplished work than Night of the Living Dead (with a slightly bigger budget), but that doesn’t mean it’s better than its source, which can still raise a goose pimple or two if I watch it in an empty Rancho Yesteryear by my lonesome. And why people continue to perpetuate the myth that The Godfather, Part II (#1) is better than “Godfather I” is a question that will occupy film buffs and critics for years and years to come. (Part II has to do without Marlon Brando, who was the life force behind the first picture.)


Edward Copeland said...

I also have been puzzled by people's insistence that Godfather 2 is better than the original. I think Aliens is better than Alien. While I think Back to the Future II is underrated, he's nuts to put it ahead of the original. My own daring choice: Tobe Hooper's Texas Chainsaw 2 is better than his original. Granted, the sequel is a satire, but the original is overrated and I think it makes up the difference.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the Superman origin has been told too many times, making some people feel the first Superman is "less original" than its follow-up. But Superman II suffers from re-writes, re-shoots, re-edits and a replacement director, which perhaps explains some of the lackluster special effects and general WHAT THE F? moments. - Philip Schweier

Jaime J. Weinman said...

All those dubious choices, and no Gremlins 2? (Also Son of Paleface, but I didn't expect that list to include more than a couple of token pre-1970 films.)

Anonymous said...

Evil Dead II is by far the better film. It had distribution and a budget for special effects & more than five people saw it on its original release unlike the original.Same thing with Mad Max in my local theater it opened on friday and was gone by the next Wendsday.

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...


Son of Paleface was the first movie I thought of before I read the article...and I was disappointed when it wasn't included.


I think my preference for Alien over Aliens is that for me, Alien plays like a real horror movie...while Aliens is more like an amusement park ride. I like both films, it's just that I've come around (courtesy of the eventual passage of time) to appreciating the first one more.


I guess my objection to the author's choosing of Superman II is because to me it comes across as all one movie. It would sort of be like splitting Star Wars in two and arguing the second half is the better of the two films because all the action happens in Part Deux.

B. Barrett:

I think the only way you could maybe make an argument about Mad Max being better than The Road Warrior is by noting that the first film explains how the post-apocalyptic world fell into place. But Road Warrior's stunts make the second movie the superior of the two.

Samuel Wilson said...

I'll confirm the superiority of Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey over the original film, and I'll add two items to the superior sequel list: Tarzan and His Mate (1934) and Batman Returns (1992). Also, count me as a vote for Godfather Part II, mainly because I see both films forming the story of Michael Corleone above all. But both films are great.

Anonymous said...

Must disagree with Batman Returns as being superior, largely due to the whole Penguin end of things. To wit: Wealthy (and undoubtedly well-known) couple toss their deformed son (most likely the subject of gossip among Gotham City bluebloods) in the river, where he floats into the sewer. Did they not think the police would come knocking; "Mrs Cobblepott, can you explain how half of your baby's carriage ended up in the river?"
The child is found by a colony of penguins either A) living underground unbeknownst to all, because the sewer is similar to a penguin's natural habitat; or B) living at the Gotham City zoo, where no eagle-eyed zoo keeper ever noticed there was semi-human infant living amongst his aquatic birds. 30 Years later said Penguin has still escaped the attention of Gothamites everywhere. - Philip Schweier