Exposition can sometimes drag a movie down. Explanation of characters, settings and issues can sometimes drive movies into the ground. However, sequels don’t necessarily suffer from this, since most of the exposition has been completed in the first film. There’s the same locale, same characters, and slightly different challenges. For many movies, the sequel is heralded as a cry for more money, trying to cash in on an already successful film. More often than not, these sequels pale in comparison to their original partners, and never fully hold up to the scrutiny. And yet, there are some exceptions of films that were better than the original movie they were based off of. Occasionally, those who make the sequels figure out what worked in the first installment and what didn’t, and they use this knowledge to make a movie that surpasses its source material. This week’s two films show that you can learn from past experiences in order to create a better product.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Length: 137 minutes / 2.28 hours
First films can sometimes be a gamble for production companies. Although hindsight will show us that James Cameron knew what he was doing, there was still some doubt that his first film, The Terminator (1984), would do well. As such, they weren’t really ready to take much of a risk, which brought limitations on this iconic time-travel film. However, when audiences adored this gritty science fiction thriller, it was only a matter of time before a sequel would be made. Since the first film proved that Cameron had the talent, the second was given a lot more money and computer graphics had advanced enough to make the futuristic androids that much more believable. Due to the increased trust in the filmmaker, Terminator 2 stands as a much better film than its shoestring predecessor.
Terminator 2 is perhaps the only movie to make an protagonist out of the antagonist of its previous movie. In the first Terminator film, Arnold Schwarzenegger portrays a time traveling cyborg who has come back from the future to kill the mother of John Connor, the leader of the future rebellion against the machines. However, in the sequel, Schwarzenegger’s character is back to protect John from the next model of Terminator. With the switch of antagonist to protagonist, Terminator 2 gives a more level playing field for the battle to protect humanity’s only hope. As with the comic book hero movie formula (explained below), the first movie removed a lot of the exposition from the sequel, so that the action could play out without as much back story. Also, the improved special effects make both Terminators far more realistic, thereby pushing this sequel past its original.
Length: 127 minutes / 2.12 hours
Since the turn of the millennium, the comic book hero movie has become a more serious art form, and is starting to draw attention in the form of awards. There are many reasons for this, including plots that have depth and intrigue, along with the special effects needed to bring the comic book action to the screen. The recent formula for the superhero movie series is simple, but tends to produce sequels that are better than the original. In the original movie, Spider-Man (2002), the audience watches Peter Parker gain his powers along with the exposition that goes with becoming a superhero. However, in the sequel Peter already has a feel for his powers and has settled into his superhero routine. Perhaps the best reason why the sequel was better than the original is due to the choice of villain. In the original, Spider-man faces off against the Green Goblin, whom (in my opinion) pales in comparison to the depth of Doctor Octopus. With a better villain and a settled superhero, a great movie ensues. This formula also applies to the Batman franchise with the 2008 release of The Dark Knight.
Having already dealt with the death of his Uncle, and his accidental killing of Norman Osbourne, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) finds himself well within his rut as the superhero known as “Spider-Man”. Of course, since he knows that his power brings those he loves closer to danger, he distances himself from his crush, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst). And yet, when his scientific mentor, Doctor Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) goes on a rampage after being fused with four mechanical arms, Peter finds that he doesn’t quite understand his powers as well as he should. Finding that his life as Spider-Man causes more trouble than it’s worth, he decides to give up the superhero gig for a while, which lets him enjoy life a little more. Unfortunately, Dr. Octopus (as Octavius is now known) kidnaps Mary Jane while holding New York city hostage under his unstable new energy source.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 improvements on their originals