Movie sequels: A thrilling return to form or a downbeat rehash?




Sequels! Love them or loath them they are an inevitable fact of life for us film fans. They can be a joyous reunion with much loved characters or a sad let down as they are not quite as great or charismatic this time around. The new story can be a thrilling return to form or a downbeat rehash of the original. They can delight or they can disappoint.

As a film critic I am often asked about sequels. Which ones are as good as, or even better, than the original? Just like everyone else I have my own personal favourites which made me more than happy to reunite with old friends and revisit familiar places. Among my own personal favourites, and feel free to disagree, I would have to list the following:

Star Trek Two: The Wrath of Khan, Superman Two, The Godfather Part Two, Empire Strikes Back and Toy Story Two, Three and well let’s include Four in their as well. 2022 saw two sequels arrive. One is currently dominating cinema screens while the other was so good that some cinemas are still showing it.

Top Gun: Maverick. We waited 36 years for a sequel to Tom Cruises hit Top Gun and boy was it worth it! The film just blew us all away and was a massive hit, proving, if proof be needed, that sequels can be as good as, or even better, than the original. It’s a superb film and well worthy of the first one. However …

Avatar: James Cameron’s recording breaking film (the highest grossing movie in history) came out in December 2009 and unlike Top Gun nobody was really screaming for the sequel. But the fact that one appeared, following a 13 year wait, surprised no one. Apparently, it’s the first of five that are planned. And just in case we had been really missing the planet Pandora James Cameron decided that the sequel should be long. Very long. Over three hours long! And I felt every one of those minutes.

Let’s be honest Avatar Two: The Way of Water is dull, boring, ponderous, pointless, and a waste of time and money. A lot of money! It’s not very good. Yes, it looks great, I saw it on a big, big screen in 3D and it looks wonderful. But as we all know looks aren’t everything. The reason why those sequels I mentioned above work is because the stories they tell are so good. Avatar Two has such a weak story line I gave up caring about an hour in. Actually, it may have been less than that. I know I was awake; just. Cameron is so in love with the world he has created that he has neglected a fundamental principle of storytelling. Which is: tell a story. It’s fine to immerse us in the environment of an alien planet but for that to become more important than the story is, frankly, unforgiveable. What is even worse is that when the semblance of a story does begin to surface above the waters of Pandora it is so cliched you can immediately guess what is coming. What is it with Cameron and sinking ships anyway?

So, sequels. Some are magnificent and even better than the original, but some are not and the film currently dominating cinema screenings definitely isn’t! It’s really bad. Then again, other opinions are available, Happy Christmas all.

Main photo credit: Felipe Bustillo via Unsplash

Andy Godfrey

Andy Godfrey is a speaker with Outreach UK and has been in full-time Christian work for many years. He is a founding member of the Mark Kermode Appreciation Society and has a collection of nearly 3,000 movies. He’s also an ardent Bristol City fan.

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