Once the 2010s pass and history reflects on its culture, it should perhaps be called the “Decade of Sequels.”An era where original ideas (are) were pushed to the back-burner in favor of more solidified franchises. Simply, some sequels have been greenlit that should never have had an original in the first place.
2016 has seen many sequels, some of which are good and others horrible. Look towards the shining beacon of Captain America: Civil War for an example of the former, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice for the latter. Regardless of how these movies performed critically, many succeeded commercially and were clearly popular with fans. However, that does not mean that all these sequels were necessary or that anyone truly wanted to see them.
Hollywood executives apparently have universally decided that even if a film makes a somewhat decent box office return, the movie requires a sequel. Let’s take a look at what producers had to offer in 2016 to appease moviegoers and what looks like what may be a truly terrible year in film.
The Huntsman: Winter’s War
I may be one of the few who sincerely enjoyed the first Snow White and the Huntsman, although it’s perhaps best known for breaking up Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart after she cheated on him with Huntsman director Rupert Sanders. Although Stewart and her co-star Chris Hemsworth gave sub-par performances unaided by terrible dialogue, stunning visuals, a great score and a perfect, overly dramatic Charlize Theron somewhat save the movie — or at least make it decently watchable.
Considering the okay reviews from critics and the decent box office return, the reasoning for a sequel was not out-of-the-blue. However, it was completely unnecessary. An already second-rate movie with heaps of problems should not merit a follow-up. Unlike comic book movies, there was no large fan base for Snow White and the Huntsman. Producers naïvely believed there were many strong fans of the original, instead of just casual moviegoers like myself that thought the film wasn’t half-bad.
In addition, sequels usually have a hard time meeting the high expectations of the original (e.g. Pitch Perfect 2). Therefore, the second Huntsman only exacerbated the problems of the first, and dragged more talented actors into its abyss of boredom and mediocrity (Emily Blunt and Jessica Chastain). Although the visuals did manage to stay just as beautiful, the plot was idiotic and confusing, and the characters were dull and flat. Unfortunately, Charlize Theron also only had a small role, but her cameo brought so much necessary life to the film that I wonder if The Huntsman: Winter’s War would have been slightly better if she remained the main villain.
London Has Fallen
Three years ago, Olympus Has Fallen premiered as a political action thriller with some high name actors including Aaron Eckhart, Gerard Butler and Morgan Freeman. The film followed the average action flick plot with the tried-and-true, if not overused, characters. I could not name one person I know that shelled out over 10 bucks to see this movie, but Olympus Has Fallen somehow made over $160 million more than its budget. Therefore, studio executives did what they do best and tried to squeeze more money out of another sub-par movie.
Now, easily entertained moviegoers could watch another clichéd action thriller set in London instead of Washington, D.C. Whereas the Transformers series has all the brain-dead action and thrills that passive viewers want, London Has Fallen still does not have that same fan base.
Alice Through the Looking Glass
When I happen to tell my friends or acquaintances that the original Alice in Wonderland grossed over $1 billion dollars worldwide, people usually respond with blank stares of surprise and disbelief. But Tim Burton’s overstuffed CGI epic was able to do just that — somehow make so much money. Therefore, studios obviously wanted to create a sequel and capitalize on its success, even though they failed to realize that like Snow White and the Huntsman, no one really liked the first one enough to go see the second.
Similar to The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Alice Through the Looking Glass took all the problems from the original and multiplied them until it was far too late to make any money at the box office. Many executives and producers might point towards Johnny Depp’s scandal with Amber Heard as the cause of the poor return, but only do so to distract moviegoers from a terrible sequel. Although the original is not much better, it did bring Hollywood the genius of Mia Wasikowska and a decently fun Johnny Depp performance. Alice Through the Looking Glass does not do either.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
As someone within the entertainment journalism industry, especially entrenched in film, it came as a complete shock that there was even a first TMNT movie. I had to think really hard about the first one, since part of me didn’t even know it existed and that it even made a lot of money. But when I take a look at the IMDB page, I see Michael Bay’s name as producer and then I realized that I probably buried it deep within my subconscious like his every other film.
The first, and even the second, TMNT movie only succeeded from its dedicated fan base of teenage boys and adults feeling nostalgic, as well as surprisingly large population of people who like to see Michael Bay blow things up. Again, this sequel suffers from the same problems: audiences did not feel strongly about the original for it to merit a follow-up.
Now You See Me 2
Perhaps the worst offender on this list, the first Now You See Me was faced with polarizing reception from audiences: some loved it, others didn’t. Critics were not as divided though, with Rotten Tomatoes stating that “Now You See Me‘s thinly sketched characters and scattered plot rely on sleight of hand from the director to distract audiences.”
I, unsurprisingly, am one of the many who thought it was a grossly overrated movie, with uninteresting characters, too few laughs and an ending that did not make sense or make me care. Trying too hard to trick viewers, Now You See Me focused more on the twists instead of the emotions, creating no connections between characters besides a thin and unbelievable romance between Melanie Laurent and Mark Ruffalo.
Although the sequel has not been released yet, it is already getting slaughtered by critics. According to Rotten Tomatoes, the second has even more twists and turns, which may be the resounding problem. While the addition of Daniel Radcliffe and Lizzy Caplan may make audiences a little more friendly to it, the weekend box office will determine whether there will be a Now You See Me 3.
Independence Day: Resurgence
20 years after the classic original, the aliens are returning to take out the world — again. Preparing for the defense of the humans is a cast of very bland actors and uninteresting plot that offer no incentive for audiences to watch the movie. Director Roland Emmerich is back, and his career has not picked up in a good way since 1996; his biggest movies have been The Day After Tomorrow and White House Down, which does not inspire confidence in Independence Day: Resurgence.
Although Independence Day was no critical masterpiece, it changed the way we define summer blockbusters and became one of the iconic 90s movies that is continually screened on television as Clueless. But what does the sequel offer us? How will or can it be influential? Rehashing up the same plot and characters will not set it apart from the original nor the dozens of other alien movies that played on the same tropes. If a bunch of explosions and aerial fight scenes thrill you enough to cough up the $10+ to go see the movie in theaters, go ahead.
The poor financial consequences resulting from these follow-ups may convince studios to put other unnecessary sequels on ice, and focus on ones that are clearly popular like Deadpool 2. On the other hand, perhaps we must take the bad sequels with the good, and accept that irrelevant sequels are now part of the zeitgeist. Either way, I will continue to see some including Finding Dory this weekend.