Friday 25 April 2014

Film School Friday Lesson #27 - How To Make The Ultimate Sequel

Last time, Film School Friday taught loyal readers how to change their gender. Body swapping is probably the best way to go here, but just make sure you don't accidentally swap with a child or you'll have to go through puberty all over again, knowing exactly what to expect this time...
There is something to be said for seeing the world through the eyes of a child though. Even the lamest blockbusters had a certain magic to them which enchanted my tiny 9 year old mind. How else can I explain my obsession with Joel Schumacher's Batman & Robin? It sure as hell wasn't anything to do with the acting, writing or directing! Let's help kids of the future escape these banal sequels here in today's lesson so grab your laptop, smash open that piggy bank and pull up your director's chair.

Batman and RobinLesson #27 - How To Make The Ultimate Sequel
Sequels are a tricky thing. After a film makes it big, money hungry producers obviously want to capitalize on their movies success, but many a studio has fallen foul of this trick, rushing out turkeys like it's goddamn Thanksgiving. Sure, I have zero experience in the film making business, but I've seen a film or two so I'm pretty sure that I'm more than qualified to tell these Hollywood bigwigs how to get things right. Blockbuster season is coming up and I'm fed up of watching The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise continue to melt the brains of every cinema loving person on the planet, so let's teach movie makers a thing or two with today's lesson.
Cast Shuffle
First up, don't recast unless you absolutely have to. It's inevitable that some franchises may lose principal actors due to conflicting schedules or financial issues, but audiences invest a lot in these characters and recasting can be a jarring experience for many. The Hulk has had more face changes than Joan Rivers and despite being in love with Julianne Moore, even the biggest fan boys would be hard pressed to convincingly argue that she was better than Jodie Foster in the role of Clarice Starling in Hannibal. The only exception to this recasting rule that comes instantly to mind is Transformers: Age of Extinction. No one has even seen the movie yet, but I can already guarantee that replacing Shia 'where are my meds?' Labeouf is definitely going to improve things, upping the film's quality from mindless CGI trash to... well... mindless CGI trash with Mark Wahlberg. That's something right?
BABE: PIG IN THE CITYBlack is the New Black
How many times have press agents described an upcoming sequel as 'darker' than before? It's become a running gag among film fans yet it still keeps happening! The Harry Potter films became darker and darker to the point where I could no longer see what was happening on screen and the latest Star Trek movie had to call itself Star Trek: Into Darkness just in case anyone misunderstood and thought it was going to be an outright comedy. However, not all sequels take this well trodden route. The Evil Dead films became progressively lighter in tone and Aliens became the light-hearted melodrama it always wanted to be with those cuddly little xenomorphs. Word of warning for fans of family films; Just don't watch Babe: Pig In The City with the lights off. That s**t is messed up!
Too Many Cooks...
There's always a temptation to throw more characters into the mix, but some of us movie lovers are just simple folk who don't have time to figure out the back stories and motivations for 10 or more characters in one go. Best stick to the original cast and just throw one or two newbies into the mix to keep things fresh. Spider-Man 3 is the obvious example of how to mess this up; Peter Parker, Green Goblin, Sandman, Venom, Mary-Jane, Gwen Stacy, J. Jonah Jameson, the kitchen sink... there's just far too much going on and you can almost hear the producers rubbing their clawed hands together as they whisper satanic mumblings into Sam Raimi's ear. Trust me. That's a thing now.
Hangover Part 2 MovieThe Memory Game
I could keep going for days here, but you all have lives and I have more movies to watch in a darkened room with only a bowl of popcorn for company and ...errrr where was I? Ah yes. The final and perhaps most key point of all when making a sequel is to resist temptation and not just rehash the first movie all over again. It's lazy and I will not stand for it. Many cash grabbing producers think that they need to rush out sequels in order to capitalize on interest from the first film, but what they need to remember is that cinema-goers actually have something called a memory. It's useful because it allows us to remember what happened in the first movie and it also helps us realize when lazy screen-writers duplicate the plot of the first movie a la The Hangover franchise. Memory also helps us to remember if a sequel has tried to dupe us with its inferior quality so that we swear off a franchise forever. Memory guys... Look it up. It will make you more money in the long run!
Unfortunately, producers will never read this lesson and so once again, this summer we will be subjected to an almost limitless amount of crappy movie sequels that never do the first film justice. Call me a pessimist if you will, but that's just the name of the game. Pray to your movie gods now and maybe, just maybe, Avengers 2 will end up being fricking awesome. Saying that though, the new Captain America movie is actually a million times better than the original, so I guess there's still some hope. I would apologize for the numerous comic book movie references but... I don't want to. They're great and you need to get on board.
Thanks again loyal readers! Remember to come back in two weeks time for another edition of Film School Friday, where we will be learning more pointless, but hopefully entertaining lessons from the world of cinema. Until next time peeps!

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