Films You Haven’t Seen Yet…The Sequel!

August 16, 2011 | 15 books mentioned 7 3 min read

coverHey! How excited are you about seeing Real Steel 2? Are you stoked? Are you drooling with anticipation to see what happens next to those memorable characters? No? Well I’m not a bit surprised. Real Steel (part one) is a forthcoming Disney/Dreamworks film starring Hugh Jackman about a washed up former boxer who trains a robot to excel in the sport. From what we’ve seen, it looks like a cross between Short Circuit and The Champ. The filmmakers are so confident in Real Steel that they’ve already begun work on a sequel. Sit back and think about that for a minute or two: a film you haven’t seen yet (and possibly haven’t even heard of) has a sequel in development. It’s the most depressing thing I’ve heard since the 1-2 punch of Cars 2… in 3D.

You might think that Real Steel 2 is an exception. You might think that, even by the standards of Hollywood conservatism gone mad, work on Real Steel 2 is a damning, individual act of hubris. But it’s far from the only example. On numerous occasions (that we know of), studios have started work on sequels to films that haven’t even been released, and in some cases aren’t even finished. And we’re not just talking about three-part stories like the Lord of the Rings or Girl with the Dragon Tattoo films.

covercoverIt used to work like this: if a film was a hit and a follow-up was appropriate, then, and only then, would we see a sequel. So we saw second chapters to The Godfather, Jaws, and Raiders of the Lost Ark, but not to Cabaret, Network, or (sadly) Young Frankenstein.

Then, sometime around the 80s and 90s, it became a case of making sequels to films (usually surprise hits) that didn’t really feel like they needed one. Hence, Father of the Bride Part II, Teen Wolf Too, and Grease 2. Thankfully they drew the line before Large Man Tate and Beaches: The Revenge.

Surprise hits put studios in an awkward position; the dilemma isn’t whether to desecrate the original with a shoddy follow-up (they will), but what to do with a film that has no sequel-friendly ending. The solution is as ingenious as it is crass: now studios don’t bankroll individual films – they green-light franchises.

As well as Real Steel 2, follow-ups were planned for The Hangover, for Sherlock Holmes, for The Hunger Games and The Amazing Spiderman, as well as for Green Lantern before part-one was released. What’s more – even the mediocre reviews and disappointing box office didn’t change plans for Green Lantern 2. Like the eponymous robot in The Terminator, these sequels seem to be unwelcome, unstoppable machines with no “off” switch.

coverIt seems once a studio decides on a franchise, nothing can stop it – not bad reviews (Cars), disappointing numbers (Superman Returns), or bad reviews combined with disappointing numbers (Hulk). A possible, and deeply cynical, explanation is that the studios don’t want to waste all that money that they spent on creating brand awareness; they’ve splurged a fortune telling us what a Green Lantern is, and they’ll be damned if they’re going to spend it all over again on a whole new character. Not only is this insulting to you, the filmgoer (“you’ll eat what we feed you”), but also to the filmmakers themselves (“your film is not a stand-alone product”).

So what can be done? It used to be the case that you could vote with your feet – don’t see a film and they won’t make a sequel. But now it’s too late for that. All we can ask you to do is avoid any films that might have a franchise in mind, and eventually, with a hive mind, nudge the trend back to character-driven, stand alone films. Good luck with that.

is a freelance journalist, presenter, and writer based in Dublin. He writes regularly for The Irish Times and frequently contributes to the national broadcaster, RTE. Additionally, his work has appeared in The Guardian, Total Film, gamesTM, The Irish Independent, Film Ireland, and, in Australia, music magazine 3D World and general interest magazine Last. His favorite book is A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe, his favorite videogame is Limbo and his favorite Die Hard film is the first one.

7 comments:

  1. Excuse me? What did you say? I was too busy Facebooking and tweeting my fellow hive members about what movie to see this weekend.

    Still waiting for Romeo and Juliet Part II in 3D.

  2. I don’t understand your reaction at all.

    Despite the fact that it hasn’t been released yet, the makers of “Real Steel” feel their work is good enough (however delusional they may be) to warrant a sequel, and you think we should be outraged by this, because … ?

    In terms of depressing things Hollywood has done, this doesn’t even rank in the top 1000.

  3. Cars didn’t get bad reviews. Bad compared to other Pixar films, but I believe Rotten Tomatoes has it over 70%. Also Hulk didn’t do well so it wasn’t a sequel, they did a reboot. Which is an entirely different argument and justifiable, but ultimately comes down to Marvel believing in their product (and considering the number of successful comics, cartoons and the live-action TV show of The Hulk, it would seem justifiable).

  4. I think you’re confusing tent-pole event movies with art house releases, and I suspect you know very little about the business of large-scale filmmaking.

    These movies are huge undertakings, and not the works of some Mike Leigh-type auteur who’s horrified by the idea of studio notes on a script. They are economies unto themselves, employing hundreds – sometimes thousands – of people for a couple of years.

    To say that filmmakers are insulted by being told their film is not a stand-alone product is ridiculous. The people who write and direct movies that cost as much as Cars or Green Lantern want nothing more than for that massive bet to pay off in the form of huge box office and the realization of franchise potential. Also, writers of big Hollywood action/adventure movies usually think about franchise potential when they write their very first draft. It’s often what makes a project attractive to studios in the first place.

    When a sequel is “in development,” that just means that they’ve hired a screenwriter to work on a script. That’s ultimately a very small portion of a film’s budget, and is basically a small side bet the studio makes so that, in the event a film does well, they’ll be ahead of the game when they want to make a sequel.

    The project is really just one of dozens that each studio has in development; many hundreds of movies never get beyond the script stage for any number of reasons. However, each one of them is a job for a writer, and a seed planted that might lead to a decent movie.

    I really don’t understand why any of this is offensive. And the results of waiting to write sequels don’t necessarily fare any better. Have you re-watched TEMPLE OF DOOM lately? Or Alien 3? Or the ones we waited for the longest – the Star Wars prequels?

    Ok, rant over. That was fun.

  5. Well apparently the commentators have spoken. They are happy with the swill they are being fed and would like some more please.

  6. Actually, while the concurrent pregnancy of Keaton’s character was a surprise, Father of the Bride 2 was not a huge surprise. The first film was a remake of a Spencer Tracy film of the same name with Joan Bennet as the wife, Elizabeth Taylor as the daughter, and Vincent Minnelli directing. The original sequel was called Father’s Little Dividend and had an in-law rivalry instead of a double-baby scenario. Perhaps the semi-remake sequel would have done better if they had stuck closer to plot, but who wants to see Steve Martin try to talk a police squadron into letting him take his grandson home?

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