The Sequel Rule

By Adam Lippe

hannibal______2Quite some time ago, I came to the realization that I had not been to a sequel in the theater since Hannibal, a book which I hated, but I was dragged by my ex and a friend who wanted to see it. I thought about why sequels were made and to what kind of movies they choose to make them to.

Obviously they choose successful movies, but successful Hollywood movies. There isn’t going to be a Swingers 2: Still Money, or Life is Beautiful 2: Please don’t eat the Jews! And these successful Hollywood movies are generally films where there was a lot of time and money spent making.

When there is a sequel to a movie, it is one of two things. It is either an expansion of the core idea of the first film, or it is a louder and larger retread of the same material. If it is the former, if they had all time and money the first time, why couldn’t they get it right? If it’s the latter, why am I paying for them to repeat themselves? Therefore, I only rent sequels or watch them on cable. That way, the studio sees none of that money, and I can save my finances for something more deserving that hopefully will start a trend not of repetition, but originality.

blade-2-wesley-snipes-sunglassesThe only two times since I have instated this rule, that I regretted not seeing the movie in the theater was with Blade II and Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams*. This is because both not only expand on their initial film’s ideas; they improve on them, and transcend the notion of a sequel by being able to exist outside of their pigeonhole. Blade was a movie that did not look like the filmmakers, nor the actors were enjoying themselves, apart from the opening scene, and so the wasted its goth and action notions in favor of endless plot exposition and deadening dialogue. The sequel, as directed by Guillermo del Toro (in exchange for financing for The Devil’s Backbone) dumps all of that in favor of extremely skilled action sequences, a frenetic pace, amazing set design by David Cronenberg vet Carol Spier, and a sense of humor.

The first Spy Kids is an amazing achievement in terms of how it manages to combine idiocy with incredibly bizarre and imaginative visuals and still keep its tongue in cheek attitude. It’s a kid’s movie only in the way that it doesn’t have any real violence or cursing in it. Spy Kids 2 is as if writer/director/editor/caterer Robert Rodriguez put every ridiculous idea you had as a child, where you let your mind run wild to where you no longer made any sense to anyone but yourself and put them all on screen simultaneously. I sat at home in awe, trying to figure out how he got into my head.

*Since this was written, in 2003, I have only one other sequel to add, Eli Roth’s Hostel: Part II, an enormous and hilarious improvement on the middling original.

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Roadracers

By Adam Lippe

Whenever there’s a genre parody or ode to a specific era of films, such as Black Dynamite’s mocking of Blaxploitation films or Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof, the second half of Grindhouse, the danger is that the film might fall into the trap of either being condescending without any particular insight, or so faithful that it becomes the very flawed thing it is emulating.

Black Dynamite has nothing new to say about Blaxploitation films, it just does a decent job of copying what an inept [...]


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Featured Quote (written by me)

On Cold Fish:

Though the 16 year old me described the 1994 weepie Angie, starring Geena Davis as a Brooklyn mother raising her new baby alone, as “maudlin and melodramatic,” Roger Ebert, during his TV review, referring to the multitude of soap-operaish problems piling up on the titular character, suggested that it was only in Hollywood where Angie would get a happy ending. “If they made this movie in France, Angie would have shot herself.”

Well Cold Fish was made in Japan, where Angie would have shot herself and that would have been the happy ending.