Studios Making Better SequelsWhy is it that movies like Hangover 2 and 3 are so terrible?  It would be nice to think that these movies would be as good, or better than, the original. Usually this isn’t the case and sequels rarely measure up.

Understand the following:

  1. Generally movies aren’t that great.  The story ideas and scripts can be awful.
  2. Most big commercially made movies take many years to make.  During those years much time is spent on refining the script before the movie is given permission to produce.
  3. It’s difficult and time consuming to write a good, much less, great story.  Some scripts take years to develop.

When thinking about sequels, unlike originals, the motivation behind the film is different.  Studios are in business to make money. Often times a commitment is made to make a sequel very quickly after the original is released. The studio most come up with a script and the actors much faster than was required for the original.

In the making of an original film the creative process rules. In contrast, the making of sequels is ruled strictly from a business process. Unlike the original movie, sequels are stuck with a very tight time schedule. Inherently, there is less creativity taking place.

Consider this:

  1. Very few original, large budget commercial movies actually get made each year.  Not many Hangover-like movies get to theaters.  The film industry is ruled by sequels and licensed properties. Any original movies are truly the best of concepts that come to the studios.
  2. It’s also important to note that more than half the time, if an original movie is a hit a sequel is going to be made. The sequels most likely will make money regardless of how “good” they are. Bottom line: sequels are financially appealing.

It’s interesting to note that the Hangover 2 is a representation of a studio that had nothing story-wise. They didn’t come up with a good script before shooting and they didn’t spend valuable time to refine the script. Audiences were demanding a follow up movie, and not willing to wait five years for the next installment. Hangover 2 is truly just the best that they could do on short demand.

A movie like The Hangover is great because it’s new, different, and unpredictable.  What makes it unpredictable are the characters and how they work together, given their personalities. The audience gets to know these characters and becomes familiar with the way they interact in the original movie. It’s difficult for studios to put together a sequel that represents what is familiar but also offers something new and exciting for the audience.

There are two consistent patterns to sequels that have been successful:

  1. Think about The Matrix, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. They all tell a story over several movies. Each of the movies have characters and stories that develop during each movie and overall through many films.
  2. The sequels focus on continuing an adventure or story line of one or two main characters and everything that surrounds the character is very different. The Die Hard movies are a great example of this. Each of the movies has a different time and place, with different supporting characters, but they all follow the adventures of McClane. The audience is familiar with, and appreciates McClane eccentricities. Each movie offers something different with the same beloved character.

It’s easy to see now that if the returning cast is too similar and the story line is much the same then it’s likely that the sequel(s) won’t be as “good” as the original.

The point of making a movie is to make money. Sequels don’t necessarily have to be good, they just need to bring in the audiences. If there is enough consumer base from the original, it’s a good bet that the sequel will be successful.