TGIF, party people! Ready to continue with some Blogiversary Bash goodness? Oh, I know you are. 🙂 I’ve got another superb guest for you today: the soon-to-be uni grad, Adam of Consumed by Film! That’s right, Adam is graduating, so be sure to pop on over to his excellent movie review site and say congrats! Anyway, Adam’s got something really fun for this series, but…well, he totally stole it directly from my brain. I blame his Jedi mind tricks. This was a top 10 list I’d thought to do some time ago yet never got around to. And now here’s Adam with this awesome list with so many choices that I would’ve included on my own. Ugh. Whatever, Darth Adam. 😉 Let’s see what he brought to the table, shall we?
Ten Super Sequels
Happy blogiversary Cara! A blogiversary is essentially a sequel in the online writing world, right? It’s an anniversary, the start of another blogging year. Fresh ideas. New reviews. Maybe even an updated aesthetic. But still the same blog and blogger. A sequel. I’m clutching at straws with this one. Probably best to just get on with the actual content.
We’ve established, sort of, that when it comes to blogging, the next twelve months could be construed as a collective follow-up to the previous twelve months. Just like franchise bosses, we hope the future will be even more productive than the past. Cinema has an odd relationship with sequels. The word always evokes a reaction, positive or negative. Naturally, we tend to prejudge sequels more than any other movie type, holding them to higher (or lower) standards based on what came before. If the original was great, the sequel better be just as good. If the original was rubbish, the sequel will probably be rubbish too.
It’s not always this despairing though. Here are ten sequels (all second instalments) that are arguably – some definitively – better than their predecessors.
The Godfather: Part II (1974)
Having already helmed a cinematic masterpiece, Francis Ford Coppola decided the best subsequent course of action would be to emulate it. And he did. The Godfather: Part II serves as both a sequel and a prequel to its elder, and as such is a more impressively constructed piece. Al Pacino sizzles with oscillating anger while Robert De Niro adds further verve to an already legendary movie character. It’s probably not quite as tensely enjoyable as The Godfather but we’re talking in horse whiskers.
Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Empire Strikes Back is a wondrous outing buoyed on by imaginative space-scapes and thickly rich characters. With Vader in full revenge-plotting mode and our three heroes separated by Luke’s need to refine his skills, this mid-franchise film unfolds in the midst of constant threat. Astonishingly, Empire Strikes Back was released to a fairly mixed critical reception in 1980, though the general consensus has since evolved and Irvin Kershner’s movie is now considered one of the greatest sequels ever made. Sounds like Jedi mind tricks.
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)
What The Road Warrior benefits from that Mad Max never really had going for it, is the ability to explore the consequences of its central character’s fully realised arc. This time Max is rougher and meaner, able to better blend into the desolate and unforgiving surroundings created by director George Miller. It’s even more bonkers too, with a plethora of crazy desert-loungers such the bumbling Gyro Captain and the aptly named baddie Lord Humungus wheeling around on screen.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
If the upcoming franchise reboot Terminator Genisys manages to capture as little as half of the blistering essence on display throughout Judgment Day, Arnie’s latest return will be worthwhile. T2 is pulpy and adrenaline-fueled, attributes aided by Gary Rydstrom and Gloria S. Borders’ brilliant sound editing. The piece sits somewhere between Heat and Blade Runner both tonally and thematically. Debates on machine influence are still relevant today, and the film hasn’t lost its appeal either.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
This one is a bit of a cheat. Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, though made up of three individually admirable parts, really ought to be considered in its whole form. The Two Towers is a stunning sequel, but the valiant escapades of Frodo and his fellowship blend into one enormous eleven hour marathon. This might be the most consistent cinema franchise of all time, a notion that takes on even greater verve given the soaring qualities on show across each film.
The Dark Knight (2008)
To reduce The Dark Knight down to one character and one performance would be to seriously undersell Christopher Nolan’s exquisitely cold direction, and the director and his brother Jonathan’s deliberative writing. But that performance arrives via Heath Ledger in the form of the Joker, a modern silver screen icon. The actor’s conjured eccentricities fund his character’s offbeat mania, an insanity that allures to absolutely no end. Christian Bale is also excellent as the morally imperfect Batman.
Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
Before his defection to the dark side, director J.J. Abrams drove the Enterprise with lots of enthusiasm. In much the same vein as Mad Max 2, Star Trek Into Darkness has the presence of more rounded, engaging characters going in its favour. The new recruits – Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana and company – settle with significant distinction into their classic sci-fi roles, and as a result the various relationships between the crew members are more believable than before.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)
The stakes are even greater in Catching Fire, Francis Lawrence’s sequel that builds upon the solid thematic groundwork laid out by Gary Ross in The Hunger Games. There is more purpose this time around, in characters’ actions and in the movie’s brooding tone. Based on Suzanne Collins similarly titled second novel, it wouldn’t be much of stretch to cite Catching Fire as the most effective young adult book-to-screen adaptation of recent years.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Deviating from the high-energy superhero norm, The Winter Soldier cements its place alongside Iron Man atop the Marvel standalone league table. Chris Evans is really in his groove as Cap, steering well clear of sappy clichés. When you think about it, a red, white and blue spandex-laden, morally upright saviour sounds like a pretty off-putting concoction of oozy goodness. But Evans makes it work in a film that favours Cold War thrills over popcorn-crunching fireworks (though there is a bit of that too).
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)
While its predecessor got a lot right – introducing Andy Serkis as Caesar for starters – it did have that restrained introductory aura going on. Matt Reeves’ direction is close to flawless, sublimely capturing the edgy turmoil between human and apekind. Serkis is once again the high-point in a film bursting with high-points, and this time he’s joined by Toby Kebbell as the unkempt Koba. A word too should go to writers Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver for penning a thematically weighty screenplay, incorporating societal divide and family bonding.
Thanks for the invite Cara! Party time.