We do. Because we demand them.
Sequels are made for many reasons. Sometimes, they are a necessary continuation of the original. Other times, they are a cash grab that the market demands.
Some sequels try too hard to match their predecessor and ultimately forget why the original was even good in the first place. Others take the good elements, expand on them, and then add something new. When that happens, the sequel can often be better than the original.
This December, both "The Desolation of Smaug" and "Anchorman 2" are coming out in theaters. Well, at least one of them has big shoes to fill. In celebration of Hollywood's continued sequel mania, I have decided to compile a handy list of sequels that surpassed their predecessors. Feel free to leave your thoughts/yell at me for not including "The Empire Strikes Back" in the comments:
The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Here's my unpopular opinion: I don't really understand why people like the first "Frankenstein" so much. It turned its source material into a fairly standard monster movie. On the other hand, "The Bride of Frankenstein" restores Mary Shelley's enlightened philosophy and makes the monster more human than ever. But enough of that boring stuff. "The Bride of Frankenstein" is impossible to hate. Its special effects still look great today (see: little people in jars scene). The scene with the Monster and the hermit is funnier than you might ever be ("drink...good!"). "The Bride of Frankenstein" is classic Hollywood filmmaking at its finest.
Mario Puzo's novel of "The Godfather" was so long that it needed to be split in half. All for the better. Its hard to put the first two "Godfather" films up against each other as they are both masterpieces. However, the flashbacks of a young Vito Corleone as played by Robert De Niro are truly what set it apart. This set as a backdrop to Michael's descent into evil make "The Godfather: Part II" a masterful example of the dark beauty of 1970s American cinema.
"The Evil Dead" became a major cult classic over the years. Sam Raimi took everything that made the original so great and stepped it up a notch for the sequel. Normally, this can lead to disaster. However, "Evil Dead 2" doesn't fall into the trap of unoriginality. It's schlockier, more violent and even more hilarious than the original. It has the audacity to completely rewrite the history of the series in its first ten minutes. From there, it rewrites everything you thought you knew about horror.* By the way, Bruce Campbell gets the respect he deserves: when it comes to action stars, he is second only to that other Bruce.
|Some monster took the original clip off YouTube. This is the best I could do.|
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
Including this one might be cheating, as "The Last Crusade" is not a direct sequel to "Raiders of the Lost Ark." "The Temple of Doom" is not a bad movie, but it also doesn't include the revelation that Dr. Jones was named after the dog. "The Last Crusade" feels like an Indiana Jones movie that Spielberg made for the fans, which is why it turns out so good. Had he just given us the John Ford inspired opening that chronicles a young Indy, that would have been enough. If he had just put in an awesome chase scene in Venice, that would have been enough. But then he added Sean Connery as Indy's father, who might be the best character in this entire series who isn't named Indiana Jones. Good thing Spielberg ended the series on a positive note, and didn't make another movie after this where a man is killed by a colony of ants and an ancient pyramid turns into an alien space ship. That would have been terrible.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
Now this is how you make a sequel. "Terminator 2" is one of the best action movies ever made. It's bold to take a legendary villain and turn them into the good guy in the sequel, but "Terminator 2" took a huge creative gamble that paid off for the better. James Cameron shows that along with being the ultimate futurist, few directors know how to conduct a spectacle quite like him. Most importantly, Cameron figured out Schwarzenegger's strengths and therefore is one of the few directors who knew how to direct him. The less dialogue Schwarzenegger has, the more intimidating, mysterious, and awesome he is. Did I also mention that I wept tears of sadness at the film's final thumbs up? It's that good.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
When it comes to trilogies, the middle chapter is normally the best. While the third installment of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy won Best Picture, "The Two Towers" cannot be topped. "Two Towers" isn't bogged down with the exposition of "Fellowship" or the Multiple Ending Syndrome of "Return of the King." "The Two Towers" is fast-paced storytelling done in a three hour block. The Battle of Helms Deep is still one of the most visually arresting battle sequences ever put on film, and Treebeard might just be my favorite character in the series. "The Two Towers" is dark, filled with uncertainty, and the perfect centerpiece for a nearly perfect trilogy.
I've talked about "Kill Bill" maybe a little too much here, but I couldn't do this list without including it, even if it is more a second part than a sequel. Unlike most sequels which tend to raise the stakes, Volume 2 instead decided to tone it down a bit. While Volume 2 doesn't have the breathtaking fight scenes or amazing twist ending of Volume 1, it does have some of the best dialogue that Tarantino has ever written. The Superman monologue is just as good as anything recited by Samuel L. Jackson in "Pulp Fiction," and the fact that it didn't get David Carradine an Oscar nomination is something of a movie-related crime.
Like "Kill Bill: Volume 2," "Spider-Man 2" dialed it back a bit for one of the more thoughtful superhero movies. When is the last time you saw a superhero movie where the hero decided he wanted to give up his powers. It's pretty deep stuff that's wrapped up in an awesome blockbuster shell. Meanwhile a superhero is only as good as his villain, and Doctor Octopus is just a shade less cartoonish than the Green Goblin (no offense, Mr. Dafoe). Plus, this is Sam Raimi, so you know the action is going to be awesomely cheesy.
Because how could I make this list without it? Not that I felt forced to put this on here. "The Dark Knight" set a standard for the superhero genre that has yet to be matched. Many have tried to imitate its dark tone, but few have been able to replicate what Christopher Nolan achieved. It is a perfect continuation of the already great "Batman Begins." "The Dark Knight" might be the only superhero movie that had more than one villain and still managed to use it to its advantage (for counterpoints see: "The Dark Knight Rises").
*Sorry if this sentence too much like an Upworthy headline.