Sequels

Lately a lot of remakes have found their way onto the market. For the most part none of them have been any good. Think about it…

Most of the Disney sequels… Ghost Rider 2, Everything after Jaws, the supposed new Ghost Busters move (yup, I’m projecting), Men in Black 2, Men in Black 3, The Exorcist 2: The Heretic, Both Matrix Sequels, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, The Ring 2, Lost Boys 2, Love Never Dies (Phantom of the Opera Sequel… DON’T WATCH IT!!) …What do you mean they made sequels of the Butterfly effect!?

As you can see, we have a lot of really bad examples to choose from. So why are they so bad, how do they keep getting green lighted? Well, let’s start at the beginning.

As far as I’m concerned, there are three types of sequels; the direct sequel, the indirect sequel, and the forced sequel. Two of them stand a decent chance at being good… one has almost none. Care to guess which? Let’s go through them:

The Direct Sequel
Some stories are not stand alone. 1.5 to 3 hours (movies) and 80k-100k words (novel) aren’t always going to be enough to tell a complete story. It’s unrealistic to throw everything into one massive book or extremely long movie… especially given peoples’ average attention span these days. Writing a second book or movie is a logic step in the progression of the story. Now that’s not to say that sequels can’t fall flat on their face, The Matrix was a prime example of this. However, when it is done right, the story can flow almost seamlessly. Good examples of this are The Empire Strikes Back and The Lord of the Rings.

The Indirect Sequel
So when I finished my first book (Divinity) and submitted it to a literary agent, the first question out of their mouths was ‘Do you plan on writing any sequels?’ Stupid me, I answered no! My reasoning was that I was done with the story. All the loose ends were tied up and my lead characters had struggled to the point where they deserved their happy ending. So why ruin that?
Well needless to say, I never heard from that agent again… So then I got to thinking, how could I do a sequel without actually disturbing the Happily Ever After ending that I had set up for my characters. The answer came to me pretty quickly; An entirely new story, featuring new characters, but set in the same world, around the same time as the first story. This could set the stage to have some characters from the first story make appearances! Huzzah! I’d discovered a work around.
This is the way sequels to complete stories should be done. It makes sense, you have a world people enjoy reading about and, no doubt there are several aspects of this world that still need to be explored. New places or takes on certain events. Have your audience see them through fresh eyes and let the characters that have already been through enough, have their happy ending. Dragon Age did this beautifully with ‘The Grey Warden’ and then the ‘Hero of Kirkwall.’

The Forced Sequel
Now we reach the bottom of the barrel. This is where you have a complete story, a good story, a story that needs no extras. Stories like Jurassic Park, The Phantom of the Opera, Most of the Disney movies that got sequels, and The Never Ending Story.
So how do such bad movies get green lighted? The answer maybe more infuriating and simpler than most people think. While sometimes it’s a legitimate attempt to expand a great story and look at characters in a new light… more often (like 99.99% of the time) its…

Yup… that’s right… It’s a money grab, NOTHING more. It’s an attempt to cash in on an otherwise successful title in the desperate attempt to turn said title into a franchise and it very rarely works. See publishers and movie studios don’t want stand alone stories anymore. They want something that they can continuously make money off of. So if they see a title do extremely well, a sequel is almost inevitable. Whether the story needs one or not.
Unfortunately their little ploy works! The reason for this is that most of us know right off that the sequel is most likely going to be bad. We’re not stupid, for the most part. We’re just hoping against all hope that the writers and producers weren’t JUST seeing dollar signs and are actually going to give us something great. By the time we realize that it’s just another mindless money grab that has ruined our image of the first movie, it’s already too late. The studio/publishing exec’s have cashed the billion dollar cheques that we gave them to satiate our curiosity. Thus no statement has been made and they now have the money to trash yet another great movie.

Hope this helps and makes people think twice about knowingly subjecting themselves to bad stories.

Catch you on the flip side!
-Jim

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One thought on “Sequels

  1. […] when characters are called back into action from their happily ever after. (See my post about Sequels for more […]

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