Movie Musings: Sequels – When it’s Time to just say “STOP!”
The word has become so ingrained in our culture, that it’s expected as much as news that Lindsay Lohan has spiraled further into career ruination.
These days if a film goes over big, the studio can’t help but announce when the next follow-up to that film will be. Sometimes, they’ll get so full of themselves, that they’ll announce preset dates well in advance of the latest film’s release. Such an occurrence happened in January, when strong word-of-mouth before The LEGO Movie‘s opening day, prompted Warner Bros to announce that they had already started work on a sequel.
I recall that happening with Spider-Man 3 in 2007, when Sony claimed that they had already locked in release dates for Spider-Man 4-6. Of course, we all know how well Spider-Man 3 did, and those additional film dates soon disappeared (leading to an eventual reboot 5 years later).
In recent years, one of the worst trends has been to sequelize films that are often some 10-20 years old. One of the finest examples of this was 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Fans kept begging and pleading for a new Indy film, and when they got one, they came out underwhelmed.
Some could even say the same about Tron: Legacy, the 2010 release that was a sequel to the cult classic feature that was released in 1982 (a span of 28 years between films!).
Currently, the world is falling all over itself to find out information about the upcoming Star Wars sequels, Episodes VII-IX, which are said to take place in the Star Wars universe some 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi (and ignore the decades of Lucas-approved “fanfiction” known as The Expanded Universe). As well, many are giddy about word of original cast members coming back, let alone seeing familiar places and vehicles.
Though the upcoming Star Wars films could have been the focus of this Movie Musing, there are two current film properties that have been in the news for so long, that recent talk in the last few months have influenced this writing.
The first of them, is Ghostbusters 3. This film idea has been talked of/in-development for so long that it just does not sound viable. Given it’s been 25 years since Ghostbusters 2, the majority of the cast has aged, retired, or passed on. As well, Bill Murray has said he won’t be a part of the film, and Ernie Hudson claims that the recent death of Harold Ramis has made him feel the film shouldn’t go forward. However, Dan Aykroyd feels strongly that it can be pulled off, even though Ivan Reitman (who directed the first two) has also pulled out.
The second news, was in regards to The Goonies II. Aside from a strange Konami video game made in the 80’s, there has never been a filmed sequel to the 1985 kids adventure film. Though for many years, fans have clamored for more adventures, even though many of the actors were soon adults, and well beyond the. Word kept going on and on for years, with some online claiming to have found early script drafts. But the internet pretty much exploded a week ago when the original film’s director Richard Donner claimed that it was ‘going to happen.’ Word is that Steven Spielberg may also be on board as an executive producer, and Chris Columbus will also pen the script (both men had the same duties on the first Goonies).
While some claim “Goonies never say die,” I feel that truly, some things need to be put to rest.
The way people go on and on that they want sequels to things even after all the years have passed, is rather insane. I’ve tried talking to a few and tell them that the majority of the time, there’s no way this sequel is going to live up to their expectations. They’ve been dreaming of this for so many years. “Yeah you say that,” some say, “But it could be amazing!”
Therein seems to lie the problem: so many have hope that their wildest dreams are going to come true, that they can’t quite entertain the possibility of letdown. It’s like people blowing hundreds of dollars on the lottery, overly-confident that their gamble is going to pay off.
I’ve compiled a number of my own thoughts as to why these decades-later endeavors are bad ideas, and you can read them below:
1) “You’re 10 years too late” – This to me is around the time when it’s time to just put a series to rest. One of the exceptions is Toy Story 3, but then again, it didn’t have many grand plans to keep pushing its characters into movies going onward and upward. It’s also one of the worst things you can do, to sequelize a film after this long. As seen in films like Tron: Legacy and Crystal Skull, the films had to spend plenty of time re-establishing the world from the first film.
7-10 years of time is enough to pass for a newer generation of filmgoers to appear, and when it comes to this amount of time passing, many films find themselves mired in becoming “a bridging vehicle.” The film ends up acting less like an actual sequel, and more like a film that tells you, “here’s what they did before, this is how things are now…and now that that’s all wrapped up, the next film can get going at full takeoff without all this boring exposition!” Of course in those cases, some films seem unlikely to ever get beyond the “bridging vehicle phase. There’s just been talk about a Tron 3 or an Indiana Jones 5, but no solid word that either is in full-on production.
2) “You’re no Spring Chicken” – Another name for this could be, “not as spry as I used to be.” 10+ years after the previous film came out, there are definitely going to be changes. It’s like when I went to my 10-year high school reunion. While we weren’t “old” perse, a lot had changed in our lives. That can often be a crutch when it comes to sequels taking place after so long: many of the things a character did previously, they may not be attuned to doing now. Crystal Skull served as a good example of this: though Harrison Ford could do some stuff, he wasn’t able to do as much active adventure as he once did.
As well, characters are expected to grow and mature. It’s a pretty good bet when Episode VII is released, you won’t get that same adventure dynamic from 1977’s Star Wars. Han and Leia are most likely grandparents by now, and Luke has probably slowed down to much the same speed as Obi-Wan Kenobi. And I’m sure we’ll even see that Chewbacca wasn’t able to keep from going grey.
3) “The Times They Are A-changein” – A decade later may not sound like much time, but things can definitely change, both on film, and behind-the-scenes. A character that was relevant in one decade, may not be so in another. Like in Crystal Skull, Indy can’t be fighting Nazis in the 1950’s, so the next best thing was Russians (aka “The Red Menace”). As well, George Lucas’ vision of aliens was meant to update the adventure genres that he was using. Whereas adventure in the 30’s was based off of the Adventure Serials, Lucas felt that 20 years later, the equivalent in mid-20th Century thinking, were the B-Movies with their science fiction themes.
As well, some have fond memories of the older special effects, back in the day when the industry was crawling out of the dark ages in the wake of Star Wars‘ success. However, in this day and age, the use of practical effects and makeup effects is most likely going to take a backseat to the computer. Even with the use of models and physical effects, there were many who still complained that computer effects in Crystal Skull just distracted from the story. And even if Ghostbusters 3 or Goonies II get off the ground, the days of paint-in-water-tank cloud formations, and elaborate matte painting work is long gone. There’s no way they’ll pull those old ways out of mothballs for films like these.
4) “I saw faces of friends, vanished and gone” – As one gets older, people come in and out of our lives, and we most likely will suffer loss. This is a big part of sequels that take place after a long time: the characters we remember from long ago, may no longer still be around. Or even more, may refuse to take part in the series.
This was a major part of the latest Indy film. Almost all of Indy’s old friends (and even his Dad) were no longer in the picture, plunging us into a not-so-fun world for this character. Dr Jones was still living his life, but with less of his original support team around him. He had found new friends and acquaintances, but to the audience, they just weren’t the same.
5) “You Never Forget Your First Time” – In a documentary made for the Laserdisc release for E.T., Steven Spielberg and producer Kathleen Kennedy discussed how they at first considered a sequel to the film, but decided against it. Word is that even today, Spielberg still gets asked when E.T. will return to Earth. However, he has declined. His idea is that E.T.’s visit and journey on Earth, was a one-time deal, and that anything beyond that would just “cheapen” the memories.
I always loved Steven’s reasoning, because so many people seem enamored with the thought that they can experience that virginal bliss all over again with a sequel…but this just never happens. It’s like when you discover a truth about life: you can never make yourself as naive as you once were.
I’m pretty sure while many out there are excited for the upcoming 2015 sequel Jurassic World, we’ve seen so many computer-generated dinosaurs since 2001’s Jurassic Park III, that the thrill of seeing these creatures for the first time is long gone.
6) “Everyone has already written the sequel in their minds” – Robert Zemeckis mentioned this during a discussion when he was asked to make Back to the Future Part II. And for films that have been gone for so long, thousands of people have speculated away regarding the fates of characters in various films.
The imagination has no limits, and while many can often think of grand adventures to send these characters off on, the final product that will appear still has to adhere to budgets and certain studio aesthetics.
7) “Just use their kids!” – this was one topic that has been bantered around for so long when it comes to these 10+ year sequels: just get the kids of the characters to keep doing what the elders once did. However, you can’t replicate what your parents did (and given some of the mistakes they may have made, would you want to!?). Some fans speculated that in the aftermath of Back to the Future Part III, the most likely chance of a Part IV, would be to have Doc and Clara Brown’s sons Jules and Verne continue the adventures. Thankfully, this has not been done.
That could possibly be the crutch for Star Wars, Episode VII. It is most likely that Luke, Han, and Leia will take a backseat as a younger set of characters take the stage. The audience is going to have to contend with the fact that these kids are not their parents, and this isn’t the same world when the Empire was in control. The newer generation in the Star Wars universe, is going to most likely have to fight new battles, with new enemies. Personally, I would put any hope aside of seeing the return of Darth Vader (or fanboy palpitations that JJ Abrams might bring back Boba Fett). It’s like they say: you can’t go home again.
As one can read in the paragraphs above, I have thought long and hard about these sequels for so long. To me, the best advice I can give (and no, it isn’t a place on the popular song), is simply: “Let it go!”
Sure, we love popping in films like The Goonies, and Ghostbusters. But many seem mainly to cling to those memories of a different time. We saw things we hadn’t seen before, went on adventures we couldn’t even fathom. And to many of us who saw those films as kids, they electrified our still-developing minds. In truth, they were “one-time deals,” amazing viewings that no sequel can ever really rebirth.
Personally, I do not wish to see Mike Walsh and Mouth down on their luck in a small apartment in Astoria, Oregon. I don’t wish to see Ray Stanz pulling himself together to train and recruit a younger version of “new Ghostbusters.” And regarding a recent development announcement that just came out, I do not wish to see Robin Williams dress up as Mrs Doubtfire in a sequel 2 decades after his career was at an all-time high.
I’m sure my cries will fall on deaf ears. I’m probably just some keyboard-typing pessimist, but sometimes I have to be that torrent of cold water in the face.
In the end, I will give one positive. In regards to all this talk about sequels and people begging and pleading for more, my two heroes who have stood against the tide of rabble, are Robert Zemeckis, and Bob Gale. After Back to the Future ended with 1990’s Part III, they vowed that there would not be a Back to the Future Part IV. And after some 25 years, they have made good on their word. The adventures of Marty McFly and Doc Brown are preserved in that time capsule of late 80’s nostalgia, with its filmmakers leaving us to speculate (but never show) just what became of those characters.
If only there were more people out there with that kind of integrity, to allow others to live with their memories, instead of offering them snake oil as a cheap attempt to try and relive their glory days.