Sequels are certainly not a new thing. Even if you wouldn’t call The Odyssey a sequel to The Iliad, the idea of taking the same characters and recycling them in a new plot following the success of the first outing goes back a very long way, certainly long before Hollywood or even the movie business got involved.
But just looking at last year’s top grossing films, it’s not hard to see why the industry is so reliant on sequels. Those that aren’t directly sequels are either ‘reboots’ or part of a larger franchise (for example, Marvel’s The Avengers). Even many of the ones which are stand-alone were either consciously created as the first in a series (The Hunger Games) or at least have the potential to be sequelised (Pixar are either being ingenuous or very sweet to suggest that they don’t create films in order to make sequels, but it wouldn’t surprise me if a Brave 2 happens).
This is a heavy reliance on sequels, and though they’ve always featured prominently in the charts going back in time, it seems to be more and more the case. So how does this affect the moviegoer? Garrett over on Cinema Train did a similar post asking whether movies were getting worse, and I think he’s right in his conclusion. Sure it can seem lazy to rehash the same characters and plotlines, but then this has been done for years in all kinds of films (not just sequels) under the guise of hommage, or in-joke, or (more often) just brazen contempt for the intelligence of the audience.
This doesn’t negate the fact that there are plenty of good films being made around the world. Even some of those sequels aren’t entirely worthless (for my own part, I found Fast Five to be deeper and more interesting than previous films in the same series). In some ways, the sequel at its best can be a way to open out characters and storylines — find greater depth of characterisation and richness of worldview — in a way that has always been the strength of episodic television.
So, do you think that every passing year of sequels and reboots represents a new low point for the art of film? Or is there anything good that can come from a sequel?