What makes great sequels/prequels

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NAZGÛL

Sr Member
One of my fav games is Deus Ex. Im playing the prequel and Im really impressed with the game.

I read someone saying it was like stepping into a place that youve been before, and I gotta agree; they really made a good evolution of the series. Looking at the second game in the DE series, Invisible War, they totally missed the soul from the original.

So I started to think of what follow up films and games I like, and which ones who didnt work.

A few good ones:
T2
Bat Man 2 and 3
ESB and ROTJ
Mad Max: The Road Warrior
Spiderman 2
Mass Effect 2
Fallout 3 and New Vegas
Morrowind


Some bad ones:
Mad Max 3
Pirates of the ... 2 and 3
Highlander 2
Terminator 3
Star Wars 1-3 (not necessary bad, but they dont share the soul of the original)
Burtons Planet of the Apes
Oblivion



So why does some work and other not? Whats the key? How can one guy make a master piece like The Road Warrior, and then make Beyond Thunderdome, a film I cant even finish watching? :confused
 

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Solo4114

Master Member
The best prequels/sequels, in my opinion, retain the overall feel of the original, but enrich the experience by expanding on it in terms of depth. Prequels/sequels usually suck when they focus merely on "embiggening" everything. More impressive f/x! Bigger explosions! More characters just to add more characters! New stars and co-stars! Bigger, more impressive stunts that last 10x as long as in the last film!

All that stuff is window dressing if the underlying feel doesn't translate from the first. Unfortunately, most of the time, purveyors of entertainment simply go for "bigger" rather than "deeper." What becomes "bigger" is also shallow, so you end up with a "been there, done that" feel. Plus, when they do the "bigger" stunt sequences, it usually ends up dragging and becoming boring. The second Matrix film and the kung-fu fight leading to the freeway chase leading to another kung-fu fight was like this. That was something like 30 solid minutes of BORING. That's not to say that you can't make a long action sequence cool, but it needs to be paced properly and NONE of the fight sequences in the second Matrix film (that I can recall) were well paced. Especially when they were bookended by 20 minutes of impenetrable (or at least clunky -- but apparently very important) dialogue.

The Oracle jabbers at Neo for a bit while he looks confused (as usual), and then we get the playground brawl, then some car chase, then a fight in some other place, and then the Architect jabbering at Neo for a bit while he looks confused again. Just bad pacing overall.
 

GotWookiee

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
You need to keep the qualities that made the first one great. Han Solo continues to be a smart-mouthed cowboy who shoots first and asks questions later. The verbal sparring between him and Leia is fun. So is the droid's comedy routine.
These elements ultimately give the film it's flavor or style. The asteroid fight in Empire is technically well executed but the way its cut and scored makes it exciting and fun. The escape from the space slug is good but the "We don't have time to discuss this in a committee!" "I am NOT a committee!" exchange really makes it sing.

So you need to keep the elements that gave the franchise it's style/flavor, but you also need to tell a new story that develops the characters and their relationships.

In Empire all of the main characters get more interesting. We learn more about who they are beyond simply what their role/archetype is. Han and Leia's relationship is developed. Luke matures and faces some real challenges, more than just blowing up the Death Star. Darth Vader also becomes a much more complex and interesting character.
Aliens is another good example. It's relentless and has some good action, but what really drives the film is the relationship between Newt and Ripley. The relationship between Bishop and Ripley is also an interesting sub-plot that is all about character instead of action.

You also need to take the franchise in new directions conceptually by expanding the established universe.
In Star Wars the Force was kind of a crackerjack box mysticism. In Empire they greatly expanded on that and turned it into something credible. In BTTF2 they explored all of the various time travel concepts involving paradoxes, temporal duplicates, alternate realities, and so on.
Aliens expanded the alien life-cycle by introducing the queen.

Bad or mediocre sequels typically fail on all three elements. In Jedi the verbal sparring between Han and Leia is gone and their relationship is stale and not really developed. Yoda and Boba Fett are killed off and Lando is not developed as a character. The cliff-hangers at the end of Empire are resolved in fastest, least interesting way and there is little for any of the characters to do dramatically. Much of the humor is gone, replaced by slapstick.
Typically a bad sequels focuses on re-doing the best scenes from the earlier film(s) but making them "bigger, louder, and longer." Return of the Jedi is built around another Death Star battle that dwarfs all previous space battles, and another duel between Luke and Vader with an even bigger, more elaborate set. Both of those scenes outdo their predecessors in terms of special effects and production design, but are ultimately less interesting because they lack the drama that made those earlier installments work.

So I think it comes down to:
1) Keep the flavor/style of that makes the franchise unique.
2) Develop the characters, their relationships, and the story by doing something new.
3) Expand the universe.

Of course, that's easier said than done, and simply doing something new doesn't guarantee it will be good. But for the most part, good sequels have these qualities.
 
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jcoffman99

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
1. You need to have a reason to continue. There needs to be a story to tell not just, "Hey that made a crapton of money. Let's make another one."

2. See #1
 

NAZGÛL

Sr Member
I agree to all the points, especially the need for a story and focus on character/relations.

There are good sequels that totally leave all original characters and still work. 28 weeks later takes a new group of people, and brings new themes. The characters and story telling is very different, and still (IMO) it works. Deus Ex HR manages to stay close to the original but with a new set of characters and atoryline, and it raises more questions about todays society compaired to the original.

ESB vs ROTJ: there is a lot going on and a big story to tell in short time, so there were less time to focus on characters and relations. ESB has a more interesting characterization, but the story leaves more room for it. A problem ROTJ shares with the SW prequels. To much to tell.
 

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dualedge

Sr Member
Personally, I don't think ANYTHING or ANYONE can make a good prequel. I've come to hate the very concept of a prequel. If you're gonna tell a story start at the beginning.

As for sequels, I think something that would benefit ALL sequels is if they were planned for IN ADVANCE. Plan out the story arc IN DETAIL and if the first movie is successful then STICK TO THE STORY ARC. Have a freaking beginning, middle and end.

I hate sequels that just tag another one for no good reason other than to make a buck which is pretty much MOST sequels.

Every once in a while a tagged on sequel winds up being decent or even good but most of them aren't just because the story was literally an afterthought.

That's my opinion anyway :)
 

Solo4114

Master Member
I agree to all the points, especially the need for a story and focus on character/relations.

There are good sequels that totally leave all original characters and still work. 28 weeks later takes a new group of people, and brings new themes. The characters and story telling is very different, and still (IMO) it works. Deus Ex HR manages to stay close to the original but with a new set of characters and atoryline, and it raises more questions about todays society compaired to the original.

ESB vs ROTJ: there is a lot going on and a big story to tell in short time, so there were less time to focus on characters and relations. ESB has a more interesting characterization, but the story leaves more room for it. A problem ROTJ shares with the SW prequels. To much to tell.

I haven't played any of the Deus Ex games, so I can't comment there, but I can say that I was not impressed with 28 Weeks Later. I thought that the first film didn't need a sequel, really. It was a neat concept, executed competently, and that was that. I don't disagree with your underlying concept, though -- I do think that the themes/setting can be retained sometimes while a whole new group of characters is introduced....but I think it's VERY hard to do it well.

Re: the "Too much to tell" issue, I don't think that's ever an acceptable explanation as to why character development is ignored or given short shrift. There's always time to develop the characters...if you have their development be integral to the plot. I don't really think, either, that there's "too much to do" in ROTJ. I do think, however, that they tried to do too much. I'll explain.

At the end of ESB, you basically have three to four main things that need to happen: (1) Han has to be "resolved" (rescued or killed); (2) Luke needs to become a Jedi and complete his training; (3) Luke needs to "resolve" the issue with Vader (either killing him or getting him to give up); and (4) the Empire and Emperor need to fall.

The last three can all conveniently be stuck together, and are in this case. Luke must confront Vader, who is with the Emperor, who is the head of the Empire. Decapitate the Empire, and it will fall (so it's implied). So, the confrontation with Vader is also the confrontation with the Emperor, and thus is the keystone to knocking out the Empire.

The Han thing, I think, was never effectively dealt with, though, because it was so...minor. Why invest all these resources into getting Han instead of declaring him a casualty of war? They never, for example, effectively tied Jabba to the greater concern of the Empire...but they COULD have. The rescue mission could, by making Jabba involved with the Empire somehow, for example, have uncovered that the Emperor would be going to some location, which would force the final confrontation, etc., etc. This would mean that the story at the start of the movie neatly feeds into the overall story of the film instead of feeling like a totally separate issue.

The other problem is that they simply "embiggen" the rest of the elements. Not only must Luke confront Vader and the Emperor, but they have to blow up the NEW Death Star! And they have to launch a commando raid to do it!!! And they have to launch a space attack to do it, too!!! And they have to get the Ewoks to help them!!! So, already this goal of taking out the Empire is getting way more complicated. The pieces end up fitting together reasonably well, but they really just feel like set pieces instead of an organic whole. And they're recycled. Commando raid = rescue Leia from Death Star 1. Space attack = space attack on Death Star 1. Luke's duel with Vader = Luke's duel with Vader in the LAST film. All of that, I think, contributes to a very "busy but kind of not that thrilling" feeling with ROTJ. Plus, the Ewoks are lame. :)

Personally, I don't think ANYTHING or ANYONE can make a good prequel. I've come to hate the very concept of a prequel. If you're gonna tell a story start at the beginning.

I think it can be done if you only have a vague sense of "how we got here" or "what came before," but I think it's a LOT harder to make the audience care. It's like history, really. Even though you can know how it ends up, history can still be made interesting and exciting, especially if you only know the major points, and not the nuances of it.

For example, take the HBO series Rome. We know that Julius Caesar is going to die and, eventually, so will Brutus and Marc Antony, and Octavian will become Emperor. We don't, however, know how the story will be told or characterized, and we certainly don't know Titus Pullo or Lucious Vorenus and their roles in the larger story.

All that said, a BAD prequel is REALLY easy to make, when it's just a hodgepodge of the visuals and beats you liked from the original, without any real reason to give a damn. That's when, like history, it just devolves into "This happened, then that happend, and then this happened. The end." It's like when your history teacher just made you memorize dates, instead of giving you any sense of why this stuff matters and how it informs on today. Or why the human stories in history are moving and exciting, even if you know that, eventually, blah blah blah happened.


As for sequels, I think something that would benefit ALL sequels is if they were planned for IN ADVANCE. Plan out the story arc IN DETAIL and if the first movie is successful then STICK TO THE STORY ARC. Have a freaking beginning, middle and end.

I hate sequels that just tag another one for no good reason other than to make a buck which is pretty much MOST sequels.

Every once in a while a tagged on sequel winds up being decent or even good but most of them aren't just because the story was literally an afterthought.

That's my opinion anyway :)

I tend to agree. The sequel may be fun sometimes, but many times, if you don't build your original with a sequel in mind, and at least make it so that the original can easily dovetail into the sequel, it'll just feel like "BIGGER!! LOUDER!!! MORE!!!!!!" for no real purpose. And I'm talking where the stories themselves are conceived of as a whole broken into multiple parts, rather than "We have [actor] signed to a 3-picture deal."
 

blip

Sr Member
So why does some work and other not? Whats the key? How can one guy make a master piece like The Road Warrior, and then make Beyond Thunderdome, a film I cant even finish watching? :confused

If you could figure out the secret to that, you'd be rich.
My guess is being able to trigger the same feelings in the viewers that you did in the first one. Then you have to add novelty. So you're in the nasty position of having a brief that looks like this: "Change it - but keep it the same.:confused
 

NAZGÛL

Sr Member
Yeah, its the million dollar question. Strangely enough the Road Warrior is very unlike the first Mad Max, still brilliant. The story is well thought out and executed. The third installment is neither.

I suppose its harder to see the final product then one would guess. And you have to go with instinct. Sometiimes it works, sometimes it dont. I heard Lucas say he cant say what will be a hit or not.

Take the sequal to Pitch Black. The director wanted to turn it into fantasy rather than thriller sci-fi. He did, but it didnt work.
 

Zykotec

Active Member
The main factor why Thunderdome was not as good as the previous two was probably the death of Byron Kennedy, who made the first two alongside George Miller. The second was the poor soundtrack/music for the film. Those two things ruined a film that otherwise could have been kinda neat. Another big factor when it comes to some of these movies (three of my favourite films are nr. 2s -RW, T2 and Aliens) if the previous film is over the top awesome. Imagine trying to do a sequel to The Abyss, or Blade Runner. I think if you're going to do a sequel to a really awesome, really good movie, you need to let James Cameron do it, and he better do it in the late 80's early 90's....Either that or the original director/writer whatever has to do it, preferably again in the 80's.
 

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NAZGÛL

Sr Member
Re: the "Too much to tell" issue, I don't think that's ever an acceptable explanation as to why character development is ignored or given short shrift. There's always time to develop the characters...if you have their development be integral to the plot. I don't really think, either, that there's "too much to do" in ROTJ. I do think, however, that they tried to do too much.

ESB is the middle part. It has the slow pace of building up tension to the big bang in the third part.

There werent many "have to's" in ESB. Lucas was pretty free to do what he wanted and we didnt know what to expect. In ROTJ we knew what Star Wars is, and tbh allready know what wouldhappen before seeing it. If Lucas would have decided to go slow and focus on 3-4 people like in ESB, then it would risk to go anti climax. Instead he focused on Luke growing and facing his destiny. The rest is only background stories in a roller coaster fashion.

If I dont missremember, fans didnt hold ESB in todays high regard initially. Maybe the storytelling was ahead of its time?

And the ewoks may be silly, but its much like 4 people beating all troopers on the DS in ANH. Its very Star Wars and Lucas, and its adventures for kids, both young and grown up ones.
 

NAZGÛL

Sr Member
The main factor why Thunderdome was not as good as the previous two was probably the death of Byron Kennedy, who made the first two alongside George Miller. The second was the poor soundtrack/music for the film. Those two things ruined a film that otherwise could have been kinda neat. Another big factor when it comes to some of these movies (three of my favourite films are nr. 2s -RW, T2 and Aliens) if the previous film is over the top awesome. Imagine trying to do a sequel to The Abyss, or Blade Runner. I think if you're going to do a sequel to a really awesome, really good movie, you need to let James Cameron do it, and he better do it in the late 80's early 90's....Either that or the original director/writer whatever has to do it, preferably again in the 80's.

Very true.

I have to admit I think Alien 3 has a better story then Aliens. Instead of Vietnam in space it has more depht in its themes, and the best ending I HAVE EVER SEEN in a film. But i know Im pretty alone in thinking that.:lol
 

CB2001

Master Member
Things that makes good prequels or sequels are solid stories that don't conflict with the previously established storyline. For example, many people hated Hannibal because it "wasn't like Silence of the Lambs." And that's why I like it. Because it's not meant to be the same kind of monster. If you compare the novel of Red Dragon to Silence of the Lambs, you'd see they're different types of stories. The same are true with the films. Thomas Harris designed Hannibal to be a different type of story, not a rehashing of Silence of the Lambs. The same is true for the film. Honestly, I like the film more because, let's face it, people change. Hannibal Lector, though still a psychopathic killer, wouldn't be the same kind of person as he was in Silence of the Lambs. The same is true with Hannibal Rising. Many people complained that Hannibal in Hannibal Rising was nothing like his older counterpart. Of course he's not! He hasn't gained the experience of being a killer. He hasn't grown into become the man we know in Red Dragon, Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal. So, by watching the films in the chronological order (Hannibal Rising, Red Dragon, Silence of the Lambs and then Hannibal), they have solid stories that tie into one another, and don't retread over the same thing.

Actually, I think the fact that Ghostbusters II didn't do well at the box office/hated by some fans is because the plot was too similar to the first one (look at it: the story starts with the leads down on their luck, then a turn around event occurs, then they have a sudden boom in their business, gets labeled as loonies/conmen by some Local government A-hole and get locked up against their wills, New York City then begins to go to hell and then have to fight a big baddie and have a big celebrated heroic walk to their car after the big fight). As a normal film goer, that kind of thing can cause problems, while for die-hard fans, they'd show up and fill the seats because they were fans of the first film (Friday the 13th is a good example of this, which over time had barely any story and was more about the outrageous kills of teenage characters).

When it comes to some of the sequels that are listed above, they do retain some of the elements of the first film but take the stories in different directions. Terminator 2 is a good example. Despite being a similar concept, it was more about protecting the actual savior of mankind, and a machine learning the meaning of human life. Aliens is another example, where it took that dark atmosphere and turned it from a horror movie into a Vietnam war story. Road Warrior also does this. We see Max go off the deep in in Mad Max, then we see what happens AFTER he finally gets all the justice for his wife and child. We see he has no direction, no one to care for, nothing to lose, and no side to take. Basically, Mad Max was the viligante film and Road Warrior was the film that shows what happens to a character like Max after it's all done and has gotten all his targets. Batman 2 and 3 (I'm assuming the OP meant Batman Returns and Batman Forever), Number 2 continued on what was established with Batman and decided to look into the aspect of Batman and Catwoman and the possibility of their relationship (and the conflicts of such a relationship) as well as the origins of the Penguin. For Batman Forever, though it was primarily the style change, storywise it was Bruce inadvertently being responsible for the death of Dick Grayson (twice inadvertently responsible because he wasn't able to stop Harvey Dent from getting the face full of acid and trying to take responsibility of being Batman when Two-Face calls him out at the circus) and steer Dick into becoming a vigilante like Bruce. When it came to Batman & Robin... That was WAY too out there to be a good movie.

Basically, if a story, be it a prequel or sequel, ties into the other and not step on what was completely established, then it would make it good. The problem with the Star Wars prequels is that it completely trampled over what Lucas had established before (Obiwan told Luke that when he met his father, that he was an excellent pilot. Don't you think he would have mentioned that he was only 5 years old" if Lucas had actually bothered to write out the story like he claimed). That, of course, is one of the many reasons why the prequels aren't good.
 

joker-scar

Well-Known Member
I agree with all stated comments above.
what I hate the most is when the main character(s) start to become caricutures of themselves...lots of examples out there but Indy in Temple comes to mind. Rambo....etc...
 

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Zykotec

Active Member
Very true.

I have to admit I think Alien 3 has a better story then Aliens. Instead of Vietnam in space it has more depht in its themes, and the best ending I HAVE EVER SEEN in a film. But i know Im pretty alone in thinking that.:lol

You're not alone, but Aliens (not the boring short theatrical version) is still 'more awesomer' and does have the sentry guns that run out of ammo. Can't beat that :p
 

NAZGÛL

Sr Member
I agree about the sentry guns. It makes the aliens alot dumber compaired to the smart stalkers in Alien and Alien 3 though.
 

Zykotec

Active Member
I agree about the sentry guns. It makes the aliens alot dumber compaired to the smart stalkers in Alien and Alien 3 though.

I think they actually did it on purpose, to prove they are cynical enough to sacrifice their own just to wear down the enemy, for the greater good of their species. It's they same as when one alien uses the blood of it's 'brother' to escape in the 4th film.
In 1 & 3 it's own survival was more important, and it was outnumbered by it's prey, so it had to stalk.
 

NAZGÛL

Sr Member
Yeah, the Queen is the brain of the hive, the Aliens are just dumb workers. The one in ALIEN was spooky as it couldnt be recogniced to anything we have. It was... well... alien. Cameron turned the Aliens into ants. It works well for the themes in the film though.
 

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