Why is it that almost every time a new and groundbreaking film comes along that takes our breath away, it only takes a few months to pass and a sequel is produced? Most of these sequels are not based on having more story to tell, but more to do with the film companies having deep pockets to fill. Compared to the success of the original, these sequels are often rushed, poorly written, predictable and simply disappointing. Some of these include Basic Instinct 2, Battle for the Planet of the Apes, Son of the Mask, Rocky V, Jaws 3D, Speed 2, The Matrix Revolutions, Batman and Robin, Dumb and Dumberer, Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, Oceans 12, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and the list goes on….
However, on very rare occasions, these sequels can and have surpassed its original or at least rivalled them for greatness. I have selected five sequels that I believe demonstrate this.
The Dark Knight
Christopher Nolan’s re-imagining of this classic comic book super hero franchise continues with ‘The Dark Knight’. Compared to its predecessor, ‘Batman Begins’, this sequel jumps straight into the action and cuts away the slow build up that ‘Batman Begins’ had and reveals one the greatest movie villains of all time, the Joker. This is made all the more enthralling by Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker. It was to be his penultimate role, with the performance of a lifetime, and whose tragic death before its release no doubt added to this films calibre. Ledger’s performance is so good in-fact that it makes Jack Nicholson’s interpretation of the Joker in ‘Batman’ seem like an actual joke. Nolan clearly sets the scene in ‘Batman Begins’, which lets ‘The Dark Knight’ off the leash with amazing action sequences and fantastic story telling along with award winning acting. It has redefined the way in which movies should be made and told. This film, although a darker story, shows how a sequel should be made and the result was not only one of the best films made to date but also a box office smash.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day
The original film ‘The Terminator’ was a great success at the cinema, so what makes ‘Terminator 2: Judgement Day’ a worthy sequel? Firstly, James Cameron’s pulsating spectacle keeps its story moving at lightening speed. Terminator 2: Judgement Day sees the coming of age of CGI and marks the first time human motion was used for a character. Set 11 years after the events of the first ‘Terminator’ movie, this sequel reverses the roles of Arnold Schwarzenegger as he is no longer the villain, but the hero. He is sent back through time to protect the future leader of the humans fight against the machines, John Connor, the son of Sarah Connor from the new Villain the T-1000. Played by Robert Patrick, the T-1000 comes away from this film as a screen icon with some of the most memorable scenes in cinema history. Not only is this film littered with breathtaking action sequences but fantastic character development and not to mention some very memorable catchphrases, “I’ll be back”.
Following on from Ridley Scott’s masterpiece ‘Alien’, James Cameron strikes again and produces another fantastic sequel with ‘Aliens’, but what makes it so successful? Firstly this movie changes pace and genre from the science fiction / horror and turns it into a science fiction / action movie. Many critics regard it as a benchmark for all films of this genre. ‘Aliens’ moves away from the suspenseful mystery of the original and replaces it with a testosterone filled adrenaline rush of revenge. Cameron does what he did with Sarah Connor in ‘Terminator 2’ and turns Ellen Ripley into even more of an iconic movie heroine. Without question or doubt, what Ridley Scott produced with ‘Alien’ is an unrivalled cinematic masterpiece. However, what Cameron has done is stuck to the story and doubled the action, carnage and raised the stakes, resulting in a fantastic film worthy of being a sequel to the original.
The Godfather: Part II
Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 masterpiece ‘The Godfather’ is regarded as one of the best films of all time. The sequel entitled ‘The Godfather: Part II’ was going to have to be an impressive film to equal or better this original. Firstly, this film is both a sequel and a prequel to that of its original, ‘The Godfather’, and continues to portray the dark side of the American dream. Co-written by Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo and also directed by Coppola, this film sticks with what worked in the original.
The film follows the reign of Don Michael Corleone as the head of the Corleone family as well as showing flash backs of his father, Don Vito ‘The Godfather’ Corleone, slipping into his life of crime and coming into power. As Michael Corleone rises as a mobster he gains the world but loses his soul. It shows how Michael can never really come to terms with the fact that his father’s empire was built on love and respect, whilst his is built on fear, violence and treachery. As Michael realises that his allies are trying to kill him, he becomes paranoid and soon discovers that his ambition has crippled his marriage and turned his own brother against him. Michael soon turns his attention to dealing with his enemies, completing his own corruption. It is this juxtaposition that makes this film so brilliant. The success of this film comes down to its continued story and the same cast. With performances of a lifetime from Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, stunning cinematography and eleven Academy Award nominations, its no wonder this film is regarded as one of the best sequels ever made.
Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
You will have to go a long way to find someone who has not heard of ‘Star Wars’. Following the huge success of the original ‘Star Wars’ (Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope), comes ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ (Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back’). It’s partly due to this film that it’s now a set criteria of a sequel that they must be darker than that of the original. George Lucas now gives the director’s seat to Irvin Keshner and originally receiving mixed views from critics, it has now grown to become one of the most highly rated films of all time. The original film ‘Star Wars’ had great effects, especially when you consider the time it was made, appealing characters, along with impressive action and cinematography, which left fans wanting more. ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, on the other hand, is better. The storyline is much better, there is even more action starting with the immense and memorable ‘Hoth Battle’. There is a lot more character development in this film and there is the addition of some new very memorable characters such as Yoda and Lando Calrissian. With plenty of brilliant performances most notably from Harrison Ford and Billy Dee Williams, its easy to see why this film is highly regarded as not only one of the best sequels but one of the greatest and most influential films ever made. The films climax is the lightsaber duel between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. Full of suspense, drama and mind boggling revelation, it’s the ultimate battle between good and evil, father and son. Empire Strikes back turn Star Wars into something mythical and sparked a world wide devoted following.
So there you have it, my top five sequels of all time. I know that there are more good sequels out there but I selected these five mainly because their originals were already fantastic and iconic films, therefore to equal or better these in my opinion is an amazing achievement. Honourable mentions included, Star Trek: The Wrath of Kahn, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Spider-Man 2, Evil Dead II and Toy Story 2.