Insipid Sequels

This blog post is born out of my frustration of watching so many film sequels which are, frankly, not worth the discs they’re coded onto.  The latest example was my attempt to watch the entire Jurassic Park trilogy.  Although the original film isn’t the best film I’ve ever seen it did manage some awe-inspiring effects and was genuinely frightening in places.  It’s only big problem was the thinly constructed storyline.  It was abundantly clear that the film-makers wanted to make a thriller using their newly developed CGI; every element of plot in the film brings the characters to this point where they’re hunted by dinosaurs through the Park.  There’s nothing wrong with this, it just leaves the plot seeming rather stale, but the film mostly manages to hold its own in spite of this.

The problem arises when, as with many highly successful films, it’s decided to make sequels in order to capitalise on the popularity to gain greater profits.  This is an assumption on my part but the desire to make a profit seems to be the primary reason for making the sequel, rather than the film-makers have a burning desire to make another film.  Hence the complete lack of vision which Jurassic Park: The Lost World seemed to possess.  I’ll confess I gave up on it after half an hour of watching* – I was bored to death by the total lack of a storyline and none of the reviews I found suggested it improved, nor that the third film was any better.  Circumstances force the characters back to an island covered with dinosaurs, where they proceed to engage in banter regarding the lead’s girlfriend and his daughter, getting into danger solely through the characters’ own stupidity (“I’m going to go look at this dinosaur!” “No!” “Your girlfriend is crazy, lol.” “Ahhh, I’m being attacked, help me!”).  These seem to be common attributes of these insipid, profit-driven sequels: poorly written character-focused drama in which the characters create the film’s drama through their own unconvincing stupidity.  This does nothing to endear the audience to the film or its characters.  I’m aware The Lost World is based off a book, as is the first film, though I believe it’s quite a loose adaptation (and looking at the synopsis for the novel on Wikipedia, it doesn’t look particularly inspiring either).

The Lost World is [probably] a poor film; I could have left it at that, except this is a pattern I’ve seen so often before.  The worst offenders are often Disney films.  A couple of examples of sequels which absolutely ruined the legacy of the original which come to mind are Mulan II and Brother Bear 2.  The latter particularly annoyed me when I watched it – Mulan was a fantastic film with one of the best female leads Disney has produced, which the sequel reduced to an unbelievable romance film.  I’d also include sequels to The Matrix, my hatred of which I’ve already written about extensively.  There’s plenty of other examples, you just need to Google “worst film sequels” to find lists upon lists of terrible films, most of which I’ve mercifully never been exposed to.

Although universally popular, I’m not including sequels in franchises such as the Star Wars prequels or Pirates of the Caribbean.  The quality of these films may be up for debate – I personally quite like them – but I think most people would agree they’re different from the films I described above.  They do at least have plotlines which run throughout the entire film series and feature real character development across the films, rather than being 90 minutes spent emulating a sitcom (although the latest PotC film has begun to head down this direction…).  Other successful examples are The Lion King and Toy Story sequels. The difference is that, although these films were made because they were guaranteed successes at the Box Office, the filmmakers had a vision for the films they wanted to make.  So I’d say to screenwriters, producers, directors, and everyone else involved in sequels, by all means make a follow-up to the latest Box Office success but, please, have a vision which can justify it.  Perhaps if profits were determined by the quality of reviews rather than the number of sales we’d see more sequels with a justifiable existence.

Also, the reason I’ve focused on films rather than books is that although many terrible sequels to books exist, most do tend to have a certain minimal degree of plot and character development.  Perhaps this is because novels are usually the creation of one mind, who can easily stamp their vision into them, whereas film sequels seem to be the product of money-hungry film executives.

Have you got any examples of film sequels you feel fall into this category of ‘insipid sequels’, or ones you feel worked successfully?  Please let me know in the comments box!

*I know, this makes me sound such a lazy critic!  I’ll redeem myself when I review Ulysses

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Does Sport Count As News?

I’m sure I can’t be the only person who groans whenever watching the news and the presenter says, “Now for some sport!”  A definition of news I’ve found goes:  “Newly received or noteworthy information, esp. about recent or important events.”  Can stories about a man kicking a ball into a net or a woman jumping over a high pole, as impressive as these actions are, really be considered news under that definition?  Is it noteworthy or important?  Sure, there’s room to discuss the economic and social impact of sports (overpaid footballers, cash-cow for advertisers, cause of unrest in Brazil, etc) but to actually report on the activities? It’s particularly strange when international news stations report news, like Al Jazeera.  At least when the BBC reports it you can guarantee there may be at least some people who have a vested interest.

Alright, this rant is stemming from the fact I find sport incredibly dull.  I don’t have a problem with news about recent literary events or films, so I recognise this is a partisan view I’m expressing.  Perhaps neither of them can be defined as news either but they do at least, it can be argued, actually have an influence on the world through the expression of ideas and concepts.  I’m not saying sport is a bad thing – encouraging people to strive for improvement and be healthy is great – but, ignoring the shady economics angle, does it really affect anyone besides the players themselves?

I don’t have definite answers and this is hardly a pressing issue – just something I’ve been pondering on recently.  Let me know if you disagree!

The New Pope

Cardinals locked away in the Vatican today successfully voted on the 266th Pope.  Jorge Bergoglio, 76, a relatively unknown Argentinian cardinal, has become the first man from the Americas to be elected to become the Pope.

As someone with no religious beliefs, I was surprised to realise I was actually experiencing some anticipation once the white smoke began to billow out from the Sistine Chapel’s chimney.  It wasn’t because I particularly cared about the Pope – although I was hoping for someone with more progressive views than his predecessors – but more down to watching history in action.  Rather boring history, maybe, but history nonetheless.

Unfortunately, despite the unusual circumstances regarding his election (the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, him being a non-European, creating his own Papal name, etc.), his beliefs appear to be nothing revolutionary.  He recently described homosexuality as a “destructive attack on God’s plan”, and a quick bit of Googling shows his views on traditional issues such as abortion and euthanasia remain just as conservative.  Couldn’t find much about his thoughts on contraception, but I don’t hold out much hope in having a Pope who’d actually contribute towards progress in fighting diseases like AIDS.

I expect this brief surge of interest in the Catholic Church is only temporary; unless Francis somehow manages to bring it into the 21st century, my normal criticisms should resume shortly.