Sequels are often maligned for their inability to live up to the promise of their predecessors. Cinema buffs have spent decades bemoaning the lack of originality and cheapening of original films that sequels are notorious for. While many sequels fit the stereotype of the ‘sloppy sequel’, this week’s review will instead focus upon the films that have managed to overcome the sequel stigma and become classics in their own right. Please fill us in on your own favorite sequels in the comments section!
|And you thought your family had issues|
1. THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK: While the first entry in the Star Wars saga, A New Hope, certainly earned its classic status, its innovation and drama was still outdone by that of its sequel The Empire Strikes Back. Although Empire is best known for a certain revelation about the franchise’s villain, the film has much more to recommend a viewing. First, Empire delves into the backstories and personalities of its characters in far more depth than A New Hope could. As a result, Empire’s central revelation and bittersweet finale have far more resonance for audiences because they have become more connected to invested in the fates of the central characters. Empire also successfully juggles several different narratives by separating Luke, Han and Leia, and Darth Vader from each other in order to place each of these characters into their own individual quests. While this separation had the potential to backfire as confusing and jumbled, it instead forces each character to grow and develop as they each face their own forms of adversity to be overcome. Similarly, while A New Hope focused upon Luke’s heroic journey, Empire encompasses multiple genres in its exploration of Luke’s coming of age in jedi training and Han and Leia’s tempestuous romance against the backdrop of the overarching tale of the Rebel’s efforts to overthrow the Galactic Empire. The film also successfully balances its efforts to transport viewers to another universe without resorting to the camp of Return of the Jedi or the franchise’s much maligned prequels. For its adult take on science fiction, The Empire Strikes Back stands out as a stellar sequel.
2. HOME ALONE II: Today, Home Alone has become an alternative go-to film during the holiday season. While the original film’s seasonal shenanigans remain quality entertainment, the sequel creates an emotionally deeper tale that adds poignancy without sacrificing the fun of the original. The sequel picks up one year after the events of the original with Kevin lamenting his family’s teasing and nagging as Christmas draws near once again. In a bit of cinematic déjà vu, Kevin is left behind on family vacation again after an airport mishap. When he initially arrives in New York and realizes that his family has arrived at their scheduled Florida destination, Kevin resumes his comical attempts at playing at adulthood that proliferated the first film. Midway through the film, however, Kevin is reunited with his former foes, thieves Harry and Marv. This tie in to the original easily could have become tiresome, but the film’s writers instead use this familiar territory to reveal the ways in which Kevin has grown since the first film. In the original, Kevin learns to appreciate his family after spending the holidays without them. While the first film’s lesson is indeed valid, it only comes about after Kevin realizes how the absence of his family directly impacts him. In the sequel, Kevin is forced to look beyond himself through his interactions with a kind, but lonely, homeless woman and a charitable toy-store owner. In the sequel, he not only remembers the importance of his family, but also learns the importance of self-sacrifice and compassion and does the original one better by actually putting his lessons into action. Through its more active use of Kevin’s lessons the film serves as a morality tale at its heart despite its promotion as light children’s fare. For character growth befitting maturing audiences, Home Alone II is a holiday film that truly is for the whole family.
3. THE GODFATHER PART II: The Godfather Part II is unique in its ability to be viewed as a stand-alone film despite its status as a sequel. The film begins not where its predecessor left off, but instead several decades earlier in a flashback to the events that led a young Vito Corleone to arrive in the United States. The film continues to flash-back to Vito’s rise to power between scenes chronicling his son, Michael’s impending fall from grace. Through its juxtaposition of its two storylines the film provides insight into the backstories of its central characters while simultaneously telling the story of what became of the Corleone empire following the events of The Godfather. The film’s unconventional structure lends it an epic scope and offers commentary on the state of traditions, values, and the American Dream in an ever changing society. The dual stories also lends a sense of tragedy to the film’s proceedings as the audience bears witness to Don Corleone’s efforts to build a better life for both his family and neighborhood only to see that better life destroyed under Michael’s reign. Beyond its innovative structure, the film also manages to tell two very different stories that each serve to inform and entertain audiences without overshadowing each other. The film also succeeds in its inclusion of memorable lines and scenes that rival those of its predecessor. Through its ability to relate a cohesive epic through two distinct stories, The Godfather Part II possesses the originality and gravity to make it more than just another mob film and elevate it to a level of classic that makes it synonymous with excellent film making.