Sequels are everywhere nowadays; if you glance at the highest grossing films in recent years, the vast bulk are following on from some predecessor or another. Look no further than this summer for proof – we have already had Avengers: Infinity War and Deadpool 2, and on the horizon the new Mission Impossible and Incredibles await. It’s not just billion dollar franchises that have earnt sequels either, with smaller scale projects such as 2015’s Sicario making a surprise addition to the sequel pantheon, as well as touted sequels for 2017’s Baby Driver and Call Me By Your Name. These three aforementioned films in particular continue a trend of needless sequels, which has arisen in recent years.
However, it isn’t necessarily a lack of creativity that is the issue here – a plethora of sequels can be compared in a superior light to the original film, such as the Godfather Part II, The Empire Strikes Back, The Dark Knight and Aliens. But for every innovative sequel, there are those that don’t merit existing. I ask you, did the world need four Ice Age sequels, or the number of Fast and Furious films that have arisen? Even a franchise as beloved as Star Wars is starting to show signs of fatigue and a split fan base, indicating that perhaps a galaxy far, far away should have stayed at six films.
A rather specific trend seems to be sequels to cult classics; 2017 alone featured a handful. These included the well-received Trainspotting 2, which whilst enjoyable, critics found to be lacking the raw energy of the original, and the critically adored Blade Runner 2049, which split the fan-base somewhat, arguably taking away some of the mysteries that made Ridley Scott’s original a classic. For every Mad Max: Fury Road there is an Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, a needless cash-grab (did anyone really need to see sixty-something Harrison Ford back in the fedora?). We also have Mary Poppins Returns to look forward to in December of this year, which whilst looking fun, again raises the question why it is necessary and why it has taken fifty years to make.
‘What seems to justify a sequel is box office returns’
It all appears to come down to money: the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has spawned all sorts of imitations from the likes of DC and Universal essentially started the modern wave of superhero sequels and spin offs. With the success of Black Panther and Infinity War, it shows no signs of abating either. However, three films a year is without doubt too many; whilst the quality of the pictures rarely lags, there is a somewhat formulaic nature to the films. What seems to justify a sequel is box office returns – with a sixth Jurassic film being announced prior to the release of Fallen Kingdom, the studio seems certain the film will make big money. On the other hand smaller scale films which perhaps do deserve sequels, such as 2016’s The Nice Guys or 2012’s Dredd, are neglected.
Sequels do not necessarily all result in middling returns quality-wise however. If you take a look at some of the most acclaimed films of all time, be it The Lord of the Rings’ latter films, or Toy Story 2 and 3, they fall under the category of excellent follow-ups. But despite this, there are still many times a sequel is just not necessary, and Sicario 2 will most likely not be the last time we question the trend. What should be encouraged is perhaps unique voices tackling sequels, such as Taika Waititi’s role in making Ragnarok the best Thor film. With Danny Boyle’s appointment to direct the next Bond film however, maybe there is a future for promising sequels.