Superior Sequels

Associate Editor, Features; Rotterdam, The Netherlands (@ardvark23)
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Seeing as how this is my second try at the ScreenAnarchy-O-Meter, I thought it fun to have a stab at sequels.

Sequels are generally maligned, and most of the time rightly so. If a movie has been financially succesful you can count on it someone wants to start a franchise, raking in more money out of the same concept. It seems like an easy win: you’ve already got the first movie to provide word-of-mouth for the second.
There are lots of pitfalls to avoid when making a sequel though:

-Sequels may lack the spark of inspiration and enthousiasm which made the original so good in the first place.
-Stories often suffer as they grow pretty convoluted, to allow the same leads having another adventure like the first one.
-Realism goes out of the window to get more spectacular visuals.

But the biggest problem remains that when you succeed in creating something exactly as before, the audience has already seen it! Sure, you can blow more things up (or blow things more up) but that only works sometimes.
So movie-sequel-history is peppered with bombed groanfests, artistically hollow successes, moderate failures and all-out embarrasments.

And, of course, there are exceptions. Here comes my list of sequels which, against age-old tradition, are actually considered to be BETTER than the movie which preceded it.

RUNNERS UP:

When I started to jot down names of good sequels two of my favorite movies of all time popped up immediately, and both happen to be made by the same director. The only reason why they are left out of the final list is that I cannot look in the mirror and tell myself that the original was inferior, even though I’d love to do so.

Seeing “ALIENS” in 1986 was like a baptism of fire for me. As a kid I was scared to death of horror movies. The very concept of these stories were enough to keep me awake at night, which was awkward because at the same time I was very interested in them. When “Aliens” arrived at our local cinema I had just turned sixteen, and my special effects addiction forced me to see it.
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I left the cinema two litres of sweat lighter, and nothing has quite done that to me since. All my fears had been burned out of me in a single afternoon. I haven’t had this experience in a cinema ever again, and can only hope to relive it one day.
The critics panned it of course, as it was of two inferior genres at the same time and written/directed by one of the people who wrote the critically vilified “Rambo”.
But time has been very kind to it. I’ve seen the very same critics turn round over the years and grudgingly call this a classic. Few movies have been as often imitated and copied as this one, not just in films but lots of videogames as well. It almost set a template on how to make action horror movies (which is ironic as it copies lots of thing from other movies itself). For a while it seemed like every trailer used the “Aliens” soundtrack and editing.
And if Ridley Scott’s “Alien” would have been even a tiny bit less good than it was, “Aliens” would have made my list.

Less soul-searching was needed to drop “TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY” out of my list. With the first “Terminator”, director James Cameron created a very nifty story with a timeline set in stone. And “Terminator” features (amongst other things) perfect editing. I’m not kidding here: I must have seen this countless times on television, and it doesn’t matter where I drop in, I tend to watch it till the very end. This picture has an unbelievable flow to it, and I can’t think of another movie which bests it in this regard.
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Not that “Terminator 2” is a slouch. It features more classic moments than most original movies, and where the first had some shaky (literally) special effects this one was loaded with total jawdroppers. Extrapolating the computer effects used in his “The Abyss”, any scene involving the morphing T-1000 was just… awesome beyond belief.
And the battlescenes in the prologue made repeat cinema viewings a necessity, even though these look now a bit dated as we have been spoiled with recent computer generated battles which are even MORE grand.
But “Terminator 2” misses the awesome flow of the original, and I couldn’t like James Cameron’s tampering with the timeline. Making it possible to actually change the past opens a can of worms which, in my opinion, unhinges the carefully laid out concept of both movies. Classic as it is, it will never surpass its little older brother as superior cinema.

MY TOP 5:

So how did this happen? “The Godfather” is generally known and loved as one of the best movies ever made. Wanting to make a sequel, you take the leftovers you didn’t film, some flashbacks, you create a new storyline on top of this which is VERY convoluted and seemingly unrelated. And you assemble the same cast, well… except the most famous member of it who refuses to return, even for a cameo. Doesn’t really sound like a recipe for succes, does it?Godf2.jpg

But “THE GODFATHER PART 2” does the unthinkable and succeeds in every way possible. Knowledge of the first movie is an absolute necessity, you need to know, love, hate, dislike these characters before you start with part 2. But as the main storyline shows the moral downfall of Michael Corleone from bad to evil, the flashbacks show how the family got to be this way. The killer acting of all people involved is a thing to behold. Add that brilliant ending, with its final shattering flashback, and this movie just delivers an emotional hit with the force of a jackhammer.
It even pulls off the remarkable feat of making the first one even better, by explaining things which didn’t need to be explained but enrich it nevertheless. A stunning achievement.

Less loved was George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead”. It may now be considered to be a classic, but at the time it was just a low budget black&white little horror picture. People keep heaping praise on it these days but Romero’s finest hour would come when he made the somewhat bigger-budgeted sequel “DAWN OF THE DEAD”. Spending the money wisely he created a sequel which needs to be seen to be believed. And in color, especially red!dotd.jpg

Yes, this movie is gory. Notoriously so. But where it shines is in its concept and its satire. For start, humanity is portrayed as being too stupid and territorial to survive. The living are losing from the start on a worldwide basis, which makes for one of the bleakest universes ever shown in a horror movie. The very hopelessness nags at you from start to finish, and you can’t help but get angry as the few survivors waste resources on in-fighting, managing with all their brains to lose from an enemy which might be omnipresent but is also very slow and very stupid. Romero never overplays his hand though and the moronic behavior of the main characters is uncomfortably believable.
Add some puns at the expense of rampant consumerism and a classic soundtrack (whichever version you have) and this is an apocalyptic sequel which eclipses its original totally. 

Speaking of apocalyptic: here is another one. “Mad Max” was a small-ish action movie which became a bit of a cult success out of its home country Australia. Some nice chase scenes, some remarkable sadism, but generally slow.
The sequel changed gears. A lot of them.
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In fact, the change in quality is so big it was marketed in several countries as a standalone, in no way a sequel.
Now a man-with-no-name story taking place in a post-world war 3 outback, director George Miller boldly describes his wasteland setting with a short voice-over and a nice car chase. Followed by a bigger car chase. Followed by an awesome car chase. Followed by some of the best action scenes ever. Need I say it culminates in the car chase to end all car chases? And it made Mel Gibson into an instant God.
“MAD MAX 2: THE ROAD WARRIOR” is brilliant bloody fun from start to finish. The bus-gate rocks. The gyro rocks. Mohawk-ed maniac rocks. Every single home-made armored vehicle rocks.  In fact, whoever did the designs on this movie rocks!
This movie started a genre in itself which petered out fast with a string of cheap imitations, none of which became particularly well known. People see those and think back to the one that was actually GOOD. More of an original than its original, it would be a crime to keep it off this list.

Next is “STAR TREK 2: THE WRATH OF KHAN”. Now most people will consider this cheating, as it’s the number two in a long series instead of a sequel. Well, in 1982 it wasn’t yet!
When the first Trek finally made it into cinemas in 1980, the butchered end result was disappointing. Occasionally beautiful but with a glacial pace, it got nicknamed “Star Trek: The Motionless Picture”. Star Trek almost died but the sequel turned out to be so good it revived the franchise completely, resulting in not just more movies but the most successful Trek series of all with “The Next Generation”.star_trekkhan.jpg

I do not consider myself to be a Trekkie, in fact these people often scare me a bit. But “StarTrek 2: The Wrath of Khan” conjures only happy memories in me. Still considered to be the best of the movies, it provided the franchise with many of its best moments. It has a great villain in Khan, brilliant fights between capital ships and a big twist at the end with emotional impact. Seeing it now and knowing who returns in part 3 spoils it somewhat, but at the time that end was nothing short of stunning, even for part-time admirers of the original tv-series like me.
What also helped was that it looked gorgeous. Every series has nabulae in the background these days, but when this was used in Khan it was still novel and took my breath away.

Staying in space, the other movie franchise in this respect… oh hell. Do I need to explain this one? Just look at this screenshot, it gives me chills to this day.empiresb.jpg

Truth to be told, lots of people consider Star Wars to be superior to “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK”, but even more think otherwise. “Star Wars” ("A New Hope” for all you revisionists) was pure fun and an awesome movie. I mention awesome a lot because that’s what happens when you’re twelve years old. You get awed.  But I got awed to an amazing extent by StarWars’s evil brother “The Empire Strikes Back”. This movie lifted “Star Wars” from being a story to being a universe. It made sure you got the point that all this fighting between rebels and imperials was just one of an endless amount of stories happening in it. The unfinished end made our young little minds feverishly making up the next movie, to the extent that it could never hope to live up to what we had created ourselves. And it didn’t. To this day, “The Empire Strikes Back” still is Star Wars’s finest moment.


And that’s my list!
I fully hope to start a debate about these choices in the comments section. Do you know any other examples, please tell of them. If the response is high enough I’ll even start a topic for it in our forum.
If anything, I think my samples may be too well known, so if you know of an unseen treasure, unjustly forgotten because of its sequelness, please tell about it here!

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Rude-EMarch 27, 2007 11:22 AM

Although ‘A Better Tomorrow’ is an absolutely great movie I think ‘A Better Tomorrow II’ manages to top it simply because of the final gun battle, which is arguably the best gun battle ever. So I would like to suggest that one.On a side note: ‘A Better Tomorrow III” should have never been made in my opinion.

BoFuMarch 27, 2007 11:53 AM

Chungking Express being better than Fallen Angels - only by a slim margin in my mind. Granted it’s not a fully fledged sequel but the whole business of what came to be Chungking being left out of Fallen Angels in the first place.

Also prefer Blue In the Face to Smoke, if once again we can treat it as something of a sequel..which if pushed I’m sure we can.

Drunken Master 2.

Fight Back To School 2.

BealMarch 27, 2007 11:57 AM

Shit, I just watched Gremlins 2 the other night, for the first time in a very long time (possibly ever).  That movie’s just insane.  Hulk Hogan telling the gremlins to start to movie back up?  Fuckin’ nuts.  At least in terms of audacity, it’s better than the first.

My better sequel would be Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.  Also more insane than the original, but also more inventive and just plain funnier.

Rhythm-XMarch 27, 2007 12:05 PM

ALIENS would have made my list, but T2 was rightfully dropped - though it was innovative in its effects work, the original remains more impressive given the tiny budget Cameron was working with there, and is to me a much better film.

No spoilers for WRATH OF KHAN was a nice touch.  Though it’s hard to believe for a geek like myself, there’s people who haven’t seen it and don’t know what happens therein.

Not in the same league as your list which seems to be more along the lines of “Greatest Sequels of All Time”, but I have to mention the following…

TRANSPORTER 2 - words can’t do it justice.  If you were pissed that Jason Statham deflecting the missile with a tea tray got cut from the theatrical release of THE TRANSPORTER, this is the movie for you.  People who felt the original was a bit too implausible can skip it, as this movie has no use for silly things like plausibility, when it’s a lot more fun to have Jason Statham casually do the utterly impossible every couple of minutes.  You’d think it was written by Wong Jing and not Luc Besson, and directors Louis Letterier and Cory Yuen (Kwai) stay true to that 1990s Wong Jing action vibe.  There’s no need for supension of disbelief here - disbelief is the entire point… how far into total madness will they take it?  They take it pretty damn far.  Absolutely a blast if it doesn’t infuriate you with its shameless contempt for reality, a common reaction among the unimaginative.  The French edition is uncensored, and is the preferred TRANSPORTER 2 experience.  The US version is considerably toned down with digital nipple and blood erasure and various violent moments toned down.

INFERNAL AFFAIRS II - The GODFATHER PART 2 of the INFERNAL AFFAIRS trilogy, a genuinely great film that makes the very good first installment even better after watching it.  When Edison Chen’s good in a movie, you know it’s something truly special.

DRUNKEN MASTER II - Comparing the landmark Yuen Woo-Ping kung-fu comedy to Jackie Chan and Lau Kar-Leung’s belated sequel might strike some as comparing apples and oranges - they’re two very different films, from two very different times. But I like oranges a lot better than apples.  Doesn’t mean apples aren’t enjoyable, but I’ll reach for that orange almost every time given a choice.  Likewise, I’ll reach for DRUNKEN MASTER II, and that’s in no way a slight to the original classic.  The sequel is just mind-blowing in ways the original doesn’t even attempt.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN TRIAD SOCIETY 2 - The ONCE UPON A TIME IN TRIAD SOCIETY films have largely fallen by the wayside, remaining unreleased on DVD in their native tongue of Cantonese, and are in danger of being totally forgotten.  But in a sea of YOUNG AND DANGEROUS clones and spin-offs, they were in a class all their own.  While part 1 plays neat tricks with narrative perception and time not unlike the later TOO MANY WAYS TO BE NO. 1, part 2 inverts the whole Triad genre and infuses its inversion with a great deal of heart that the rather cold original lacks.  Both are must-sees for largely different reasons (part 2 is really a sequel in name only, with Francis Ng playing a different leading role in each film), but part 2 is just a tiny bit better.

TAXI 2 - This is where Luc Besson’s martial arts action-comedy formula started to come into focus.  Part 1 was an enjoyable comedy with car chases, and it sets up the characters nicely.  But it doesn’t have ninjas.  TAXI 2 has ninjas running rampant.  And car chases, top notch car chases.  All the major character development was taken care of the first time around, so not a lot of time is wasted in that department.  This time we know who these people are, we meet one or two significant new characters, quickly and painlessly, and the rest is all action and jokes.  I consider this series to take place in the same cinematic universe as Besson’s TRANSPORTER films - in DC Comics terms this would be Pre-Crisis Earth-B(esson).  Part 3 is sillier, a little TOO silly.  Part 1 is not quite silly enough.  Part 2 absolutely nails it.  Bernard Farcy steals the whole TAXI series with his performance as a racist, alcoholic cop, likely inspired by the Spanish TORRENTE films.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA 2 - it’s like ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA, only a hell of a lot better.  And ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA was really good.  But 2 is tighter, the story is in my opinion stronger, and it has an ace in the hole in the form of Yuen Woo-Ping taking over the action direction.  This film’s Jet Li vs Donnie Yen match remains one of the all-time most mind-boggling fights ever filmed.  The only thing missing here that the original had going for it is Yuen Biao.

BATTLE ROYALE II - Just kidding, that was an enormous turd.

PapigiulioMarch 27, 2007 3:33 PM

Drunkenmaster 2 indeed, couldn’t agree more some of my list:

Marrying the mafia 2

Wet dreams 2

beavisMarch 27, 2007 5:21 PM

I’m a minority in this maybe but: Matrix Reloaded

the Matrix series altogether is one of the best big budget scifi series ever created and I like this second part the best of the three. It goes thematically further than the relativly simple first part and doesn’t seem like one endless battle (which is very impressive but also a little bit tiresome :-) like Revolutions

JasperMarch 27, 2007 5:30 PM

Waynes World 2

JoshMarch 27, 2007 6:06 PM

I’m glad to see that my Gremlins 2 advocacy has gained traction.  Its time to start a petition to officially name The New Batch as the Godfather II of Gremlins movies!

OnderhondMarch 27, 2007 7:02 PM

Oshii has always been good at sequels. Patlabor 2 greatly improved upon the first film. Made a decent anime into something magnificent. But his best work is with Innocence, which is my favorite sequel bar none. In every sense a sequel, but also in every sense different. It’s also the first sequel of a landmark title that achieves in becoming a new landmark.

Another title worth mentioning is 2046, although many people won’t probably agree. Still, it’s a great improvement, visually, is different from the first film and still greatly connects to that film.

Dead Or Alive 2 is a great improvement over Miike’s first effort with the DOA series. Much richer in presentation and a lot more fun.

Other, more questionabel entries include the latest Gojira effort by Kitamura. Now I appreciate the goofy rubber madness of the first films, but I can’t call them better. Also, Kitamura’s film explores further on the sillyness that drives the series. It’s actionpacked and extremely stupid. Which is good.

Other titles include Election 2 (To), Ju-on The Grudge 2, Saw III and a bunch of mediocre horror flicks (Children of the Corn 3 was actually better than the first one, yay!).

sharkbaitMarch 27, 2007 7:28 PM

I’d like to nominate Kaneko’s Gamera trilogy. Each installment is better than the previous one. With the exception of Honda’s original Gojira, Gamera 3 may be the best kaiju movie ever.

swarezMarch 27, 2007 7:52 PM

Have to agree with Sharkbait and then to jeer Onderhond for suggesting that Kitamura’s celluloid shit fest was somehow better than the older films. Kaneko’s Godzilla was the best one in termes of taking the material seriously and haneling it with respect.

As for the list as a whole. I tend to think that Day of the dead is wastly superior to Dawn of the dead which hasn’t aged gracefully and as such loses it’s power.

Also. I think, after seeing the new and improved directors cut of Star Trek the motion picture it is much better than any of the sequels. Such a beautiful film.

Bride of Frankenstein is also much better than the original Frankenstein.

Kurt HalfyardMarch 27, 2007 8:11 PM

Umm....Evil Dead II.

Anyway, add my vote for Gremlins 2. 

And Return of the Killer Tomatoes.  With Mr. Clooney.

quartet4March 27, 2007 8:59 PM

Like the Gamera trilogy, I think you can’t leave out the Dollars trilogy or more recently, the LotR trilogy.  Both of these series provide sequels that don’t disappoint, and the final movies of both trilogies are towering achievements in cinema.

ardvarkMarch 27, 2007 9:18 PM

Yes Quartet4, that’s an idea for next week’s Twitch-O-Meter:

Towering Thirds!

Steven DumontMarch 27, 2007 10:32 PM

PUSHER 2.....The first was really good but the second is Topnotch!!!

collin aMarch 27, 2007 11:09 PM

I’m going with GINGER SNAPS 2, despite Kurt’s reservations :)

Also offering a second for Miike’s DEAD OR ALIVE 2; a really wonderful movie.

And hey, how about some love for THE BOURNE SUPREMACY?

Tyler FosterMarch 27, 2007 11:22 PM

As much as I like James Cameron, I too find both of his sequels slightly overrated. However, I think the Alien series still holds a gem, at least on DVD: The Extended Workprint of AlienĀ³ is, in my book, an amazing, amazing sequel. People can bitch and moan about the fact that it kills off Newt and Hicks, but I thought it was a ballsy move and a brilliant attempt to take the franchise (successfully) into an entirely new direction. Additionally, the romance between Charles Dance and Sigourney Weaver adds a side to her character that hasn’t been seen before, and Fincher’s direction and the production design, above all, are huge standouts.

Also, yes, Evil Dead II, Drunken Master II, Spider-Man 2, and—not mentioned here by anyone yet but a sequel nonetheless and one of the greatest films of all time—The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

WillMarch 28, 2007 1:07 AM

It may not be as well known as the ones cited above, but MANIAC COP 2 blows away the first film.  Bill Lustig just amped up the first film with some amazing stuntwork by Spiro Razatos.  A superior sequel.

HallickMarch 28, 2007 3:54 AM

Here comes blasphemy - Clerks 2.

I loved Clerks, so saying Clerks 2 is the best of the duo doesn’t mean the original becomes bad or a lesser film to my memory. But there’s something better with age and wisdom about number 2. It has some jabbingly funny scenes but it’s also winsome and sad in places that I didn’t expect from what looked like toss-off opportunism. 

As far as classics go, For a Few Dollars More is .5 times better than A Fistful of Dollars.

ijafferyMarch 28, 2007 5:58 AM

Hey Bofu, you got the movies reversed. Fallen Angels followed Chunking Express and was comprised of CE leftovers. That’s probably why it’s the better film.

Infernal Affairs II being the Godfather II if the trilogy. First off Infernal Affairs is no Godfather, not even in HK cinema (maybe the Election series). Secondly IF2 is probably the weakest of the 3.

Here’s an interesting one...Desperado over El Mariachi for obvious reasons (beyond the appeal of one Salma Hayek). How about Kurosawa’s Sanjuro over his Yojimbo. Though not officially a sequel Mifune plays the same character in both. I prefer Sanjuro by and large due to it’s final scene which is just utterly perfect. Staying with spiritual sequels one can certaintly make the case for In The Mood For Love being the best of the trilogy including Days of Being Wild/2046...though I personally prefer 2046. Also, Ghost in the Shell: Innocence for me is better than the original. How about Oldboy in the Vengeance Trilogy?

I never realised how many quality sequels there have been.

robixMarch 28, 2007 7:14 AM

I’d say Return of the King, Back to the Future III and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade are all better than their respective seed movies. BTTF3 is only slightly better than BTTF for me, but the others are miles ahead.

If you count Park Chan-wook’s revenge trilogy as “sequels”, for me Lady Vengeance was the best by far of the three.

I’m sure there are a few people who would argue that 2046 is better than In The Mood For Love, I just don’t happen to be one of them. 

I would also strongly agree about Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey being better. It’s a film nerd comedy, the whole thing is a giant spoof of Bill & Ted and The Seventh Seal.

Adam P.March 28, 2007 11:53 AM

As for the discussion of Wong Kar-Wai, it seems unfair to call those films sequels, as they more or less are works of his filmography that just intersect. Having said that I’m actually one who prefers Fallen Angels to Chungking Express, but In the Mood for Love has yet to be topped, even by the stellar 2046.

My other mention, and choice for perhaps one of the best sequels of all time would be Before Sunset. I think it’s easily one of the best modern examples at least. Not only does it compliment the first film, it also enhances and complicates it, all the while creating something even more emotional in

Ard VijnMarch 28, 2007 6:39 PM

OK people,

Now that we’re over 25 comments I’ve created a forum topic for this. To get to it you can click on the link at the end of the article. Feel free to add your comments there (or here if you insist, but remember there’s lots of other fun topics to be had at our forum as well!).

docmahMarch 29, 2007 7:48 AM

Wayne’s World 2 for sure - granted the first one was great, but nothing in the first one made me laugh as hard as I did during the scene in part 2 where Wayne meets Cassandra’s dad.  I might also say IA 2 - just as good as the first, if not better.  And not that either film was cinematic genius, but Blade 2 was wayyyyyy better than Blade 1..:)

ZenAmakoMarch 29, 2007 12:05 PM

How about:

Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 (the first one is good, but the second and third are even better)

Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer (Oshii again)

X-Men 2

ErwinMarch 30, 2007 5:09 PM

well, BABE: PIG IN THE CITY of course!

so much more imaginative, cinematic and grandiose than the sugary original

(I also agree on GREMLINS 2, PUSHER 2 & 3 and EVIL DEAD 2. and there must a FRIDAY THE 13TH EPISODE that’s better than the 1st one)
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