Friday, November 24, 2006

Sequelitis – You Get What You Pay For!

Here's another one from The Files: This article first appeared in an issue of an American magazine in early 2004. Given that Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest has been, gone and, ultimately done the business (on several levels) some of this may seem to be perceptively brilliant with hindsight! Although, the failure of Serenity to pull in any kind of audience at all, thus making the chance of any sequels as remote as the Pitcairn Islands should destroy my almost Nostradamus-like appearance in one fell swoop.
One of my favourite panels at this year's Gallifrey One convention was Home Sick With Sequelitis on which a few of us talked about what were our favourite sequels to movies and which films did we think could stand up to the sequel treatment but that, thus far, hadn't got one. My own nomination for the latter, I'm proud to say, was Yellow Submarine 2: Back To Pepperland – and, if that ever happens, rest assured that I’ll be ringing up Neil, at Apple, and asking him to ask Sir Paul, Ringo MBE, Yoko and Olivia if I can have my ten million quid “development fee” in small, easy to carry, bills.

The questions asked during the panel were simple. Do we really need a ‘part two’, ever? What’s the allure of the sequel, of a continuing narrative, and why are there so many being made?

These days, of course, a sequel is almost guaranteed if a film does reasonably well at the box office. Sometimes, sequels are pretty good (Die Hard 2’s a case in point). Sometimes, they're thoroughly rotten (Speed 2). Sometimes a series just hits the ground running and never looks back – the Bond movies (probably the best example yet – thirty years, twnety movies, still going strong), the Indiana Jones movies (fourth one due into production soon, according to John Rhys Davies) and the Star Wars movies (back on track after that shaky Phantom Menace malarkey). Sometimes, it takes a while for a series of movies to get all the required elements right, with a resulting fluctuating quality over several films – the Star Trek franchise is a textbook example. Sometimes, a film seems set-up for a sequel and never gets one, thus, curiously, increasing the magic of the movie (The Italian Job). On other occasions, a movie so perfect, so absolutely of its moment, subsequently has its memories sullied by a coda that just wasn't needed (Highlander and Highlander 2). And then, there are those occasions when a great film is made, followed by an even better sequel, followed, twenty years later, by an 'oh, I really wish they hadn't done that' sequel to the sequel (The Godfather, Parts I, II and III).

We know there’s going to be another Pirates Of The Caribbean movie next year and, those of us who loved the first film are looking forward to it but, sadly, we've all got our fingers crossed that it’s going to be Aliens rather than Alien: Resurrection, or, Terminator 2 rather than Terminator 3. But that's always the problem, isn't it? The Matrix was fantastic but we knew (deep down) that the sequels were going to be an example of diminishing returns, both conceptually and in terms of actual audience. Ditto Jurassic Park. Ditto Batman. I have to break ranks with accepted wisdom concerning the latter series, however. I might be in a minority of one, here, but I don’t think Batman & Robin is anywhere near as bad as a lot of people made out. It’s got Alicia Silverstone in a schoolgirl outfit. What’s not to love?

The news that Joss Whedon is planning a series of Firefly movies if Serenity is successful, as a fan, is delightful, but also slightly worrying. Not because Joss wrote Alien: Resurrection – the man’s paid his debt to society for that – but because I have a horrible feeling that three years down the line his mind's going to be on something else and that it might be a case of “Jeez, do I really have to knock out another Firefly script in the next three weeks?” That’s why I’m glad Chris Carter is doing what he once promised he would, an X-Files movie every couple of years. That’s why I’m glad that Shaft 2's been put on the back burner for a while. That’s why I'm delighted that the once-rumoured Almost Famous II, hasn't happened and, hopefully, never will. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

Of course, if Scooby Doo II is the hit this summer that most media analysts reckon it’s going to be then all bets are off. With the dollar signs flashing in the eyeballs of every studio exec in Hollywood, welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to a world of nothing but sequels. It is the business of the future to be dangerous!