2021, another year with Covid, yet another exciting year for us franchise lovers with the release of numerous blockbuster movies sequels such as Black Widow and A Quiet Place Part II. This trend of producing sequels has been around for quite a while and it won’t diminish anytime soon. This may sound thrilling to hear about, one must realize the fact that no sequel is guaranteed to be as good as the original, hence this begs the question of what makes a sequel a positive addition—rather than a disgraceful blemish—to a franchise?
- Plan ahead
This point may seem very obvious, and not only is it considered to be the basics of sequel making, but it’s also the basics for everything anyone can do. However, some producers just seem to not understand the point. Often, movies were only made as a standalone film with no intention of becoming a franchise. Only when the audience’s responses and box office exceed expectations will the producers consider making a sequel. I won’t say that their intention of wanting to maximize profits or extend their legacy is wrong, but just make sure it is done properly. Take Pirates of the Caribbean as an example. The first movie, The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), is widely considered to be a ‘good’ film, given the rather impressive scores it has received (e.g., 8/10 from IMDB and 79% from Rotten Tomatoes). However, its sequels just get worse and worse, as seen in the franchise’s progressively declining Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb scores. I say that this due to the lack of preparation for making a franchise. As you can see from the movies, random villains just pop-out of no-where because the protagonists have already defeated the pre-existing one in the previous movie. This problem is most prominent in the franchise’s latest addition, Salazar’s Revenge (2017), where Salazar, who was never mentioned before and barely has connections to the prequels, became the antagonist. On the contrary, success is easily found in well-planned franchises such as the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Harry Potter. I believe it is unnecessary for me to explain how successful these two franchises are. Therefore, just plan ahead, then you’ll make good sequels.
- Don’t make it just for the sake of it and not knowing why the audience loved the movie
When a sequel is announced, fans look forward to seeing it in cinemas and have expectations for a continuation of content they’ve enjoyed. Usually, movies just have that one thing that makes it unforgettable, such as the thrilling speed chase from Fast and Furious or the lively dinosaurs from Jurassic Park. For whatever reason, some creators just seem to neglect the elements that made their content so special to the audience and eventually cause them to produce inadequate sequels. Regarding the Men in Black franchise, the most interesting part of it is definitely the craziness and the extravagantness of the story where the protagonist could be an alien all along or there is a pen that could wipe anyone’s memory. However, in the latest edition of the franchise, Men in Black: International (2019), things were just too ‘sanitized’. Everything was too predictable and the jokes aren’t that funny. Also, what the audience loves about Man in Black is certainly Agent J and Agent K’s partnership played by Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, but this time, the producers introduced a new duo which their performance just didn’t live up to expectations. I don’t disagree that Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson are good actors, but they just aren’t Men in Black, at least not what Men in Black are supposed to be. Therefore, it is crucial to know and make sure that you don’t overlook what the audience loves about the movie in order to make a decent sequel.
- Don’t sell it to Disney
You will know exactly what I am talking about if you’re a Star Wars fan like me. The release of Star Wars (later renamed as Star Wars: A New Hope in 1981) in 1977 astounded audiences with its fresh and unique theme of space-fantasy. The rest of the trilogy was soon released in 1981 and 1983 where director George Lucas started to make plans for a prequel trilogy which was released in the early 2000s. Although the prequel trilogy did not receive responses as positive as the original trilogy, its connection to the original trilogy made it popular among fans too. However, the sequel trilogy, which was released in 2015 by Disney and directed by J. J. Abrams, is just disastrous. You might ask, ‘Why didn’t Lucas direct it?’ Long story short, Lucas wanted to retire so he sold Lucasfilm to Disney together with his plans for the sequel trilogy. To nobody’s surprise, Disney discarded all of them, rewrote everything and even discontinued the popular tv-series Star Wars: The Clone Wars (later re-continued) due to ‘ethical reasons’, replacing it with the ‘all positive and child-friendly’ themed series Star Wars: Rebels despite dissatisfaction among the fans. The sequel trilogy simply lost all that made Star Wars ‘Star Wars’ by randomly inserting and deleting characters, no-brainer expectable plots and literally ‘copy-pasted’ the story of the original trilogy. Therefore, if you would like to ruin your own creation and turn it into an everlasting joke, sell it to Disney.
I am no film student nor screenwriter nor a critic so I wouldn’t (and couldn’t) tell if a sequel is a good sequel from a professional perspective. However, as a viewer, I am capable of seeing whether a sequel is enjoyable or not. After quite some consideration and brainstorming, I have identified the above points which I believe are crucial to making a pleasant sequel.