Why are so many movie sequels complete flops? You know what we're talking about. Thor: The Dark World, Guardian of the Galaxy 2, S.Darko, Matrix Reloaded and so many more.
This has been referred to as Sequelitis. TV Tropes gives us a colourful definition:
As the number of films in a series grows, the probability that the latest entry will be terrible increases geometrically. While the first sequel of a movie is something of a coin toss between "totally awesome" and "mediocre", the more they milk the Cash Cow, the less cream you see.
There are many reasons why sequels are more likely to flop. Here are seven.
Let's face it. Movies are made to make money. If they stumble into artistic expression and hit a note which resonates with audiences, they got lucky. But the fact is, hundreds of people work on a single movie and those diva-demanded cinnamon bagels won't pay for themselves.
However, sequels created just for the cash grab have a certain soulless quality about them. The actors are phoning it in, the director is there for the paycheck and they've skimped on the graphics. And unfortunately, we see this the most in squeals.
New Creative Vision
The crew and creators of the sequels are rarely the same as the original movie. If the original crew has decided to move on, they often bring with them what made a movie great.
The director moves on, the writers move on and new people come on. They're not necessarily better or worse, but they don't have the same style or vision as their predecessors. And that could have been what the audience came for in the first place.
There are many reasons why an actor can refuse to do a sequel. But, yes, it's usually to do with money. Some didn't enjoy working on the first and some have cottoned on to Sequelitis and won't return for the next movie if they can help it. That was almost always the case until the rise of the Marvel era. Now companies regularly sign actors up for multi-movie deals, ensuring they were tied to the ship no matter what happens.
But before the Marvel juggernaut (does it make me old to say that?) squeals would usually see the smaller actors taking centre stage as the big names moved on. It meant that if you loved the first movie because of that big-name star, you were going to be disappointed. Marlone Barno turned down Superman II,
Will Smith turned down Independence Day 2 (the true embodiment of sequelitis) and Jim Carry turned down the squeal of Bruce Almighty.
This can also lead to a mysterious departure of a major character which is either left unaddressed in the movie, which has audiences scratching their heads. Or is brushed away with a casual, "oh, they immigrated to Canada to be closer to their parents/spouse/chicken farm." No explanation is never satisfying. Unless of course, between the first and second movie, the character suffered narrativity convenient heart attack and died.
No Longer New
Beloved movies are often adored because they're new and fresh. They burst onto the scene with a concept we'd never seen before. But by the second movie, you discover if a story has substance and not just flash. Here, I would point to Thor: The Dark World. By the second movie, Thor got old fast. That's why the directors made a massive change for the third movie and found it's way again.
Fighting out of a dead-end
Depending on how the first movie ended, the new movie may be fighting it's way out of a dead-end to start with. You thought the whole crew aboard the starship Delta were doomed, flying into a burning hot sun in a glorious moment of sell sacrifice to save the planet about to bit hit by a solar flare? Turns out, all they had to do fire up the shields and they were fine, ready for new adventures!
Not only is it a cop-out, but you've now done something worse. You've desecrated the memory of the first movie, a movie people presumably loved, because you did a squeal.
Is there a lack of romance or sexually fused dialogue because your hero has been with their love interest for several movies now and you've already plumbed the depths of their relationship? Well, just kill them off! Come the sequel, you can explore a whole new relationship with the mysterious genetic scientist with a dark secret.
Unfortunately, it's a trick we can all see coming. And if your audience particularly ships two characters, then the newcomer is designed to be loathed.
Quick tip: if you're a secondary character in an action film, never say anything as stupid as "I'll always be here", "What can go wrong?" or, "I think we're safe now". Please, for your own health.
People don't want what they think they want
Look at the latest reboot of Star Wars. When Star Wars movie came out, people were complaining it was a carbon copy of Star Wars: A New Hope. There were complains, not more of the same! When the second movie flips a lot of what we thought about Star Wars on its head. Importantly, that Rey is not from a noble space family. Now people are screaming. What's this? It's different! This isn't Star Wars!
Finding a balance between what people want and what they expect is a tricky needle to thread. The same with sequels. People want more of the same, but they what it to be new.
This is why Pirates of the Caribean 5 was such a flop. It attempted to recreate the first film, pulling on our emotional strings. But in the end, the differences didn't add anything to the move and the stuff we already knew, made it boring.
If you're considering a sequel, do it because you love your movie.
Make sure there is still more to tell. Beg good actors to stay and shun the bad ones. Figure out what your audience whats, then treat that with a pinch of salt. And if any of this advice one day pays dividends, remember who told you and send me movie tickets.