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What? No Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo?
June 11, 2006 11:57 AM   Subscribe

"See that pile of money on the floor? There's a hundred million there. All you have to do is pick it up. That's right, bend over, pick it up, and it's yours." Novelist and film critic Stephen Hunter on sequels, including his "Sequel Showdown." (via)
posted by bardic (50 comments total)

 
Made by the Aussie George Miller (an actual doctor who eventually, despite his great talent and success, gave up filmmaking and went back to medicine)...

Coulda fooled me. If he did, he came back.

Road Warrior is much better, though. I'd say the same thing for Evil Dead II.
posted by brundlefly at 12:04 PM on June 11, 2006


In your second link it sounds like he's saying Empire Strikes Back is good and Star Wars and Return of the Jedi are great. I'd have to say he throws his credibility out the window with that.

On preview, brundlefly found an even bigger flaw.
posted by dobbs at 12:06 PM on June 11, 2006


Which gets to another weird movie category: sequels that should happen but don't. "Miami Blues" did become a movie, quite a good one, starring Fred Ward, who'd just broken through as Gus Grissom in "The Right Stuff," as Hoke; it was all set for sequelization. It never happened. Who knows why?

Okay, I don't know Stephen Hunter from Adam but he's clearly talking out of his ass. There were seven years between The Right Stuff and Miami Blues and Ward was in 15 movies in those years.

Regarding the sequel, I asked Ward about it in 1992 and at that time he said that he (and if I remember correctly, Armitage) were keen on it but it was a financial issue: MB was a flop. Didn't even break the $10M mark. It is, however, an very good flick and an terrific novel.
posted by dobbs at 12:18 PM on June 11, 2006


The box office success rate of a sequel is directly proportional to how well its tagline rhymes with the number "two".
posted by furtive at 12:26 PM on June 11, 2006


Even the most basic of research would have shown that Superman has had 4 movies (not including the "sequel" Superman Returns), not 3. Though, to be honest, I'd like to forget Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, too.
posted by MegoSteve at 12:46 PM on June 11, 2006


Yeah, Steven Hunter should stick to writing the Earl & Bob Lee Swagger novels, those things are like literary crack cocaine. His movie reviewing... not so much.
posted by jonson at 1:44 PM on June 11, 2006


I was hoping the author would feature Star Trek and James Bond sequels. Both are very long running series. That probably would have given me more things to complain about. I'm with dobbs on the Star Wars thing.

When he went on about the Sanjuo/Yojimbo character I was surprised he didn't mention the remakes from Leone and then another remake with Bruce Willis. Technically they aren't sequels but I think it would have proven his point of "continuing the brand".
posted by infowar at 1:50 PM on June 11, 2006


His movie reviewing and, evidently, his research. I've done some Googling, and I can't find any references to Miller's dropping out of filmmaking in favor of medicine. His career in medicine seems to have ended in 1972, well before Mad Max. I wonder where he's getting that from.
posted by brundlefly at 1:55 PM on June 11, 2006


I got to hear David Goyer talk a few years ago when he visited UM (he's an Ann Arborite). He spoke for awhile on how any action movie and specifically any comic movie is envisioned as a franchise from the get-go and so Blade was written with an eye toward Blade II, which was written with Blade III in mind. He talked further about how he studied various trilogies to consider how the stakes could be raised for each movie. Since this was 2001 and Blade II had not come out yet, he was talking about how in his quest to make the stakes as high as possible for Blade in the final movie, Blade would live in a world where everyone was a vampire save him. I think he actually ended up taking some of those ideas and putting them in Blade II... Anyway, I think the Blade trilogy should be considered for these discussions, especially over something like the Matrix, which everyone ends up panning.

So, I think Blade II is at least equal to Blade, while Blade III lets up a bit, despite Goyer's planning. Part of my problem was that Blade III borrowed too liberally from Dark Knight Returns (so much that I noticed on the first viewing).
posted by Slothrop at 1:56 PM on June 11, 2006


If everyone was a vampire save him, what would all the vampires eat?
posted by Spacelegoman at 2:03 PM on June 11, 2006


Spaceleoman > They'd farm the humans. Grow them as meat puppets. At least, that's what I'd do.

I like Stephen Hunter, but the article is a bit bleah. Sequels suck unless they don't and they're made because people want to see them isn't what I'd call controversial.
posted by Swandive at 2:09 PM on June 11, 2006


Furthermore, the logistics involved in creating a hundred million dollar sequel are a little bit more involved than picking up a pile of money...

cf this etc
posted by Spacelegoman at 2:24 PM on June 11, 2006


I have to say to anyone with doubts: Yeah. You think you wouldn't bend over and pick it up. You know what: I don't think you're ever going to be in that position. Just a hunch.

Well, fuck you too.
posted by StopMakingSense at 3:22 PM on June 11, 2006


"that's why there'll always be sequels"

There's nothing wrong with sequels. I think our collective complaint about sequels is that they always suck.

There is something wrong with always sucking.
posted by scarabic at 3:39 PM on June 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


Not sure if the Bond films are the first sequels, but it wouldn't make sense creatively for Hollywood to not make sequels when so much more can be done with a character. The problem is bad scripts or Hollywood's inability to separate the literary shit from the shinola.
posted by disgruntled at 3:41 PM on June 11, 2006


Not sure if the Bond films are the first sequels

Not by a long shot. See the many Sherlock Holmes and Tarzan movies. As well, Revenge of the Creature.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:56 PM on June 11, 2006


Or Bride of Frankenstein (masterfully evoked in Gods and Monsters).

I guess I'll have to recalibrate my general admiration of Hunter a bit. He did make a few slip-ups (but I'll still go see anything he recommends).

I'm just happy someone was willing to take the piss out of LotR, even just a little.
posted by bardic at 4:14 PM on June 11, 2006


Whoa. He rates the Rocky series a 5 and the Godfather series a 3!? Based on Rocky III being "quite a good movie" and it being "crash and burn the whole way from there"?

I think the artistic success of a sequel depends on if there's any story left to tell. I see The Godfather and Godfather II: Electric Boogaloo as telling the story of the transformation of Michael Corleone from an innocent war hero who's not involved in the family business into the ruthless, soulless crime boss who destroys his family in the name of saving it. The story's done at the end of Godfather II, so there wasn't an artistic need for Godfather III.

Also, the James Bond movies are serials, which is a different type of movie than a sequel.

And I don't consider the upcoming Miami Vice movie to be a sequel to the TV series in any way. It looks like a considerably different handling of the same idea, like how Tim Burton's 1989 Batman is radically different from the 1960s series.

When he went on about the Sanjuo/Yojimbo character I was surprised he didn't mention the remakes from Leone and then another remake with Bruce Willis.

Or Red Harvest.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:21 PM on June 11, 2006


These thoughts are prompted by the sequels about to thunder down upon us -- a "Superman" and a "Pirates of the Caribbean" (and there's "Miami Vice," a big-screen sequel to the small-screen series)...

Are we conflating sequels and remakes?
posted by pax digita at 4:31 PM on June 11, 2006


He rates the Rocky series a 5 and the Godfather series a 3!?

Look again. Those are the numbers of movies in the franchise, not a rating.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:36 PM on June 11, 2006



Look again. Those are the numbers of movies in the franchise, not a rating.


That can't be right. There were only two Godfather films.

*covers ears*

(LALALALALALALA.... I am not listening to you ..... LALALALALALALALA)

...and greedo shot first and there was no Hellblazer film...
posted by eyeballkid at 4:50 PM on June 11, 2006


scarabic's right. Just because a movie is a sequel doesn't mean it has to suck. How hard is it to take the characters from the original and make another good movie?
posted by graventy at 5:00 PM on June 11, 2006


Who could overlook Birth of a Nation II: Whiter Whites or the prequel An Andalusian Puppy?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:08 PM on June 11, 2006


Snakes On Another Plane!
posted by joe lisboa at 5:09 PM on June 11, 2006


It's been all downhill since Henry IV part 2.

Fuck you, William Shakespeare.
posted by bardic at 5:11 PM on June 11, 2006


it sounds like he's saying Empire Strikes Back is good and Star Wars and Return of the Jedi are great. I'd have to say he throws his credibility out the window with that.

With what? There are two clauses with which your "that" could apply. If it's the second, I agree. If it's the first, I'm afraid you are mistaken. Empire is, by a long shot, the best of the three movies.

And like eyeballkid, I said three and I meant three. Not another, larger number that is less than seven and greater than five.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:04 PM on June 11, 2006


Oh, and I suppose the New Testament coulda stood on its own without leveraging the audience captivated by all the blood and gore in the original? Although I suppose the sequel had better action heroes and now benefits from much better branding...Take that, Book of Numbers...
posted by mosk at 7:05 PM on June 11, 2006


I cringe when I look at the movie listings nowadays.

What IS with all of the remakes lately? And, even worse, updated remakes that totally bugger up the premise the original was based on?

Now the comic based movies I don't so much mind being designed with sequels in mind, because that's how comic books work, being episodic, with plot arcs, crossovers and all.
posted by Samizdata at 7:11 PM on June 11, 2006


*still waiting for the third matrix movie*
posted by effugas at 7:16 PM on June 11, 2006


You know, along with all of the other criticisms of this piece, I have to add that it's rather rambly and never actually gets to his point. The form seemed to me:

1. Sequels are a fact of movie life, and why.
As preamble to a thesis of:
2. Can you love a sequel more than the original?
After which he proceeded to say:
2a. The Road Warrior is awesome
2b. (?) Sequels work when the original writer still has something to say about/with the character(s)
(anecdote, anecdote)
3. While not answering the question posed in the thesis, a tangent about sequels that should happen but don't, and
4. Another tangent about sequels becoming something else illustrated by a convoluted tale about Japanese samurai movies, ending up at
5. A lame sort of "I'm done now" last sentence.

I'm guessing he had no idea what he wanted to say when he wrote this, or he was up against a deadline with nothing really to say. Either way, I really hope he just failed to proofread this nonsense.

Also, he most definitely did say that Jedi is better than Empire:
"Star Wars" IV-VI (the oldies) break down this way: Great (the first), good (the second) and great (the third).
I wish I'd read that first...I wouldn't have wasted my time with the column.
posted by LooseFilter at 7:21 PM on June 11, 2006


Damn, I just realized I misread your statement "he's saying Empire Strikes Back is good and Star Wars and Return of the Jedi are great". Clearly the man is an idiot.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:58 PM on June 11, 2006


'you betta hurry up an choose whicha those bills you want before they all disappear'
posted by Satapher at 8:15 PM on June 11, 2006


Meh ... I've honestly seen more informed writing in high school newspapers, where would-be critics were merely parroting safe and trendy opinions ... which was essentially what he was doing. They may give you Pulitzers for that, but it's still vapid.
posted by RavinDave at 8:26 PM on June 11, 2006


No mention of the Thin Man series at all! No reference to Ghostbusters 2, and let's face it the only reason that happened was cuz Ramis picked up the pile of cash that was on the floor. Did this guy actually get paid to write that horrendous and feeble attempt at a ..what was that anyway? It certainly wasn't factual, or researched, or valid. Where can I go and what must I do to get paid to write crap like that? Cuz if you don't have to actually investigate your topic and just talk out of your ass - hell I been doing that at my online journal for almost a decade. And I don't get paid.

Serenity cost 40 million to make. It grossed 25. That's the only determinant for making a sequel. If the first film makes more than it cost to produce, there'll be a sequel. If it doesn't, there probably won't. But then again, people were saying there'd never be a movie because the television series failed, and there was. So the only real thing to admit about sequels is that it's impossible to know. Anyone who says otherwise is making more money than me.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:34 PM on June 11, 2006


Rocky gets lumbago when he tries to move the lawn chaise out of the sunlight. Yo, Adrian

:)
posted by caddis at 9:16 PM on June 11, 2006


I think "Terminator 2" was better than the original.
posted by caddis at 9:19 PM on June 11, 2006


The Matrix, which everyone ends up panning

Oh, so sad. I was fortunate enough to have read the actual Matrix sequel scripts about a year before Reloaded was released. Remember, at the time, the Matrix was the coolest thing in the world, and I thought the scripts were just incredible. Just absolutely amazing on paper, with how the universe was expanded. I mean, if you had walked out of the theater after having seen the original in 1999, and I told you that in the sequel, you'd find out that there are sentient AI exiled within the Matrix working at cross-purposes with the Agents and the Rebels, you'd have jumped out of your skin.

That was on paper, of course. We all know what happened on film. ;-)
posted by frogan at 9:52 PM on June 11, 2006


I thought that both Spiderman 2 and X-Men 2 were stronger than the originals. But only by small degrees.

Also, isn't the biggest reason the second and third Matrix movies sucked is because the Wachowski Bros. didn't write the original in the first place? ;)

(Yes, I know already.)
posted by LooseFilter at 10:45 PM on June 11, 2006


Badly written article, but I've got to defend him on a few points.

He both claims that The Godfather Part II isn't as good and that The Empire Strikes Back is the weakest, though still good, of the real Star Wars Trilogy. Anybody who watches movies knows that Godfather Part II is even better than the first one, for much the same reason that Empire was the best Star Wars. Namely, they expanded the universe much further than was previously imagined, while at the same time adding unexpected depth and complexity to the emoptions and actions of the characters.

However, both of these movies have to be seen in relation to the others in the series for that to work. I loved Star Wars as a kid, especially Empire, but haven't seen them since I was about 12. Recently, I rewatched Empire because I didn't have time to rewatch the entire trilogy, and wanted to relive the highest points.

I realized with a sadness that Empire doesn't stand on it's own at all. I was desperately trying dig up memories from half a lifetime ago so that I could care as much as I wanted to, and even know what was going on half the time. The characters aren't so much introduced as simply seen again, and the plot (Battle on Hoth, meet Yoda on Degobah, get trapped and fight Vader in the Cloud City) is hopelessly random without reference to A New Hope, and the grand "I am your father" moment suffers even more so. A New Hope and Jedi both stand on their own as singular movies. They both give classic, telling introductions to their main characters, follow an internal story-line, and end in a way that feels final.

The Godfather Part II, on the other hand, is as if A New Hope and Jedi were spliced together with no elements of Empire at all. You need the middle chapter (timeline-wise) in order to make sense of what you're watching.

Hunter's crime here is to confuse series with franchises. Star Wars was a series. The Godfather was a series (even if it wasn't planned that way.) The Matrix was a series. Indiana Jones, however, is a franchise. The movies can jump back and forth in timeline because they don't inter-relate. They are simply meant to stand alone. James Bond is a franchise for the same reason. Q never gives him a word of advice in, say, Dr. No, which then makes itself clear in Diamonds Are Forever. On the divide is the Harry Potter franchise. The books are a series, where any book past the first one loses hlaf it's meaning without reference to the ones before it, but the movies are treated as a franchise. C'est la vie.

Hunter views all of these sequels as part of a franchise, which is fallacious, but from that mistaken viewpoint, I have to agree with his conclusions. As part of a series, with a continuing arc, The Godfather Part II and Empire are indisputably the best in their groups. Viewed as stand-alones, they can't hold a candle to their brethren.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:55 PM on June 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


Having read all of Willeford's Hoke Mosely novels, I really want to know what happens in Grimhaven
posted by Guy Smiley at 11:18 PM on June 11, 2006


And yet, Navelgazer, look at what Empire has going for it: the best performances in the trilogy. The best, most evocative cinematography (by the great Peter Suchitzky, who works these days with Cronenberg). The sharpest, funniest dialogue. The first (only?) hint of a real human relationship (the romance between Leia and Han) in the series. Flat-out great art direction. Sure I have lots of affection for what Lucas accomplished in the original Star Wars and (parts of) Jedi. But to my eyes Empire is the only one of the three original movies that looks and feels like a real movie. Sure, story is important — but that's not what makes me come back to a movie again and again.

Then again, I've read that Lucas was unsatisfied with what Kershner did on this movie, which led to his control-freak approach to the next four movies in the series -- I think that was to the great detriment of the whole saga.

Back to the subject of the FPP, I prefer both Alien and Alien3 to Aliens and think Stephen Hunter is a tool -- his take on Starship Troopers (he doesn't understand that there's a satirical component to Paul Verhoeven's work) is perhaps the most unremittingly stupid take on a film to be committed to newsprint since Bosley Crowther was writing for The New York Times. And he gets a Pulitzer for this junk! I guess we get the critics we deserve.

Also, Tarzan and His Mate is the best Tarzan movie in a walk, Bride of Frankenstein is better than Frankenstein, Dawn of the Dead is better than Night of the Living Dead (but not as significant in film history), and Toy Story 2 is at least as great as the first one. See also Star Trek 2 and Addams Family Values.
posted by Joey Bagels at 11:42 PM on June 11, 2006


I'm a huge Stephen Hunter fan - his pans are among the most hilarious around - but this article was a bizarre mess.

And *everyone* knows Empire and Godfather II are the great examples of a sequel having the potential to be better than the original.
posted by helcat at 5:08 AM on June 12, 2006


I'm entirely surprised no one has noted that Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey is far better than Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.

(beat)

Re: Stephen Hunter: It's worth noting that he's only one of two film critics with a Pulitzer (the other being Ebert). Personally I think he's a fun reviewer to read (I think the same of Ebert), so even when he's completely out to lunch, at least he's still entertaining. Having said that, this piece does appear ro have been written under the influence of too much dramamine.

Re: Empire: I've always maintained that the reason that it's the best movie in the series is that it was the one which had the least active involvement from Lucas; he wrote the original story but then farmed it out to more competent people to get done (Leigh Brackett & Lawrence Kasdan for the script, Irwin Kirshner for the directing, etc). Lucas is the ultimate big idea guy; he should always, always, always let other people handles the little details, like writing and directing and such.

Finally, I'm not kidding about Bogus Journey. It's totally better.
posted by jscalzi at 6:17 AM on June 12, 2006


Just as a matter of semantics I think it should be pointed out that the "The Lord of the Rings" was conceived as a trilogy just like the books. The second and third movies were not sequels. " The Matrix" was also planned in advance to be a trilogy and all three movies were filmed simultaneously. I think a sequel has to be defined as a movie that is created from scratch to capitalize on the success of the original.
posted by waltb555 at 9:24 AM on June 12, 2006


" The Matrix" was also planned in advance to be a trilogy and all three movies were filmed simultaneously.

If by "simultaneously" you mean "with a four year gap in production between the the first (good) movie and the second and third (sucky) movies.
posted by Lokheed at 9:41 AM on June 12, 2006


Blade II is better than Blade. The previous Harry Potter film, before the most recent, was the best of the series. And On Her Majesty's Secret Service is the best Bond film, despite the fact that George Lazenby was not the best Bond.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:25 AM on June 12, 2006


I think the argument, Astro Zombie, is that those are all serials, which aren't precisely the same as sequals.

Anyway, Godfather 2 was better than Godfather 1, and it wasn't a serial, and it can stand on its own, and you sure as hell don't need to watch Godfather 3 to "get it." If anything, you should just avoid G3 altogether lest it spoil your faith in humanity.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:18 PM on June 12, 2006


I agree, but what I was saying was that you really do need G1 in order to make sense of G2. In that sense, the Godfather movies are serial, it's just that the third one was unnecessary and tacked on. And that Harper's reviews are all viewing them as sequels.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:10 PM on June 12, 2006


Back to the Future 2 and 3 were filmed simultaneously. The first movie was filmed by itself. They didn't really know there'd be a two and three until the first one was a hit and they're like, "ooh! There's a pile of money on the ground. Let's go pick it up."

All three of those films simultaneously stand alone and are good to view back to back. I wouldn't recommend someone sees two or three without watching one first, but you could do it and still know what's going on in the moment.

I think what a lot of episodic television tries to achieve is that nowadays. Writers and producers want to simultaneously set up a system where each episode stands alone and can be viewed out of sequence, while simultaneously an overall season plot arc is sculpted that would encourage repeat viewing in the order of either broadcast or production. This is a tall order. THEN the show is supposed to have an overall character arc for the principals that encompasses the entire series. The characters are supposed to change slightly over time, but not so much that the audience no longer recognizes them. Some shows have more success at this than others.

Movies try this too, but they have less 'episodes' to accomodate in a much longer span of time. Lucas patterned his episodic Star Wars franchise after the b-movie serials of his youth. If you go back and view the original inspirations for Star Wars, you'll see that Star Wars is actually a very good example of it's type of storytelling. It's not supposed to withstand scrutiny. It's supposed to be fun. Early serials of Captain Marvel, Flash Gordon, the Masked Marvel, Buck Rogers, Batman and Robin, Superman, etc., used to blow the minds of people in the 1930s just as the premiere of The Matrix blew people away in the 1990s. However sixty years before they were produced more cheaply, more readily, and the audiences had not been conditioned into a laconic state by sixty years of filmmaking. Back in the 30s, if you showed film of an oncoming train on a twenty foot wide screen, there'd be people passing out in the aisles. It was a different world back then.

Back to the original topic. This Stephen Hunter guy is a hack. I still wanna know how a man who can write that piss poor can get a steady paycheck, cuz I can write just as bad as he can. I wanna be a hack. I have no pride. Where do I sign up to be the next Stephen Hunter?
posted by ZachsMind at 7:17 PM on June 12, 2006


The first Star Wars film is a better movie than The Empire Strikes Back. The plot is just about perfect for a popcorn movie, and the pacing is tight. Empire has better production values but the plot is really just a series of stuff that happens rather than a cohesive whole (plus the timeline is all messed up).
I'm am not sure where he gets the idea that Return of the Jedi is better than Empire though. Sure, the last hour is great, but the first half is a confusing mess (what exactly was the good guys plan at Jabba's palace?), and worse; tedious. Plus the acting sucks.
The Aliens series is an odd example. All the films are deliberately quite different from each other in just about every way. I quite like them all.
I am forced to agree with jscalzi about Bill and Ted's Bogus journey. ROCK ON!
posted by AndrewStephens at 11:17 PM on June 12, 2006


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