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Hollywood's Love of Sequels and Prequels: 10 Movies to See to Help Kick That Recycled Habit
What makes for a good movie sequel? Shock value and bigger explosions? How about more of the same madness that moviegoers saw before several other times? When it comes to movie sequels, Hollywood tends to wear out a good movie franchise before it truly has a chance to make a genuine script full of surprising new ideas. Look at the Saw and Halloween franchises. They both continued long after they've run out of steam and contained even more outlandish plots each time. It's sad to say that movie executives don't know how to retire a franchise before it goes stale, even the Lethal Weapon movies went on for one too long. Some stars have the right idea by bowing out sooner rather than later (Matt Damon left the Bourne films before the plots strayed too far and Tobey Maguire learned to retire his Spiderman gear.) It's ultimately a matter of timing and whether a good story still exists.
In terms of movies, many of them have been seemingly designed for a sequel and are often greenlit before the first film opened. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was already destined for two sequels based on its popular book series and was designed as a trilogy before the movie's Holiday release. Have you had your fill of movie sequels and their distant cousin (movie prequels used to reboot a weakened movie franchise)? Remember Hannibal Rising? Not many moviegoers do either. Enough said. Here are a list of ten films that broke the movie sequel/prequel mold and offered a very big surprise: a definitive conclusion. Read on to see if your favorite films are on the list and which ones should be added.
Casablanca (1942)- Could you imagine someone trying to pick up where the Humphrey Bogart classic left off? No one could and should never have to thankfully. The sad but hopeful ending was what the movie needed to make a lasting impression. Unfortunately, the same can't be said with Gone With the Wind and its dreadful TV miniseries sequel Scarlett that should've never happened from the beginning.
The Graduate (1967)- Okay, this movie doesn't have a conventional love story. Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) loved Elaine (Katharine Ross), but that didn't stop from taking a physical detour with Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft). A sequel was unlikely was the start, but that didn't stop the long shot possibility being used as a punchline in Robert Altman's The Player. That movie definitely made note that lightning doesn't always strike twice and that's how it should be. The sound of silence indeed.
Never Let Me Go (2010)- Many people would assume that Pretty Woman would've made the cut because it was the love story that launched Julia Roberts' career and created a modern day fairy tale for the masses. It launched a series of carbon copy romantic comedies that aren't even worth mentioning and the unofficial sequel of 1999's Runaway Bride. The dark and tragic Never Let Me Go is a different type of love story with an ending that wasn't entirely happy. The movie followed Kathy (Carey Mulligan), Tommy (Andrew Garfield) and Ruth (Keira Knightley) who are young people groomed to be organ donors for a specific type of patient that was never determined. They were taught to never truly think of their futures, because they weren't meant to be long ones. There were rumors of tragic circumstances and hopes of fighting their fate only temporary. Kathy and Tommy were destined to be together, but Ruth ended up getting between them. Can time heal all wounds even if it's for a short time? The haunting story and the chemistry between Mulligan and Garfield made it worth the depressing ending. The biggest revelation was Knightley's against type performance as the unlikable Ruth who did everything she could not to die alone and ended up getting her comeuppance in a cruel twist of fate that was barely touched upon. A love story that should never be repeated under any circumstances, which is how it should be.
Bridesmaids (2011)- Star and Writer Kristen Wiig recently made a statement that she didn't want to do a sequel to her hit movie. Let's hope that she sticks to her word and doesn't submit to the Hollywood almight dollar. Bridesmaids was a love story about friendship and finding your Mr. Right without giving up your friends. The story wrapped up nicely and left no room for a follow-up. If one was to generate, it would just be a redundant story, such as The Hangover Part II and both Austin Powers sequels. Fingers crossed that won't happen to Wiig and company.
Fatal Attraction (1987)- Could you imagine a sequel to this blockbuster film that made married men terrified of the idea of adultery? Not in a million years would be final answer, because a sequel wouldn't be possible unless Alex (Glenn Close) could come back from the dead. The satisfying conclusion of Dan's wife (Anne Archer) shooting her dead was the best way to conclude that story once and for all. A follow-up without Close's Alex would be a pale imitation to the original and would be completely unnecessary. Director Adrien Lyne has attempted to recapture Attraction's success with films like Unfaithful (a female version of Attraction) and Indecent Proposal, but his career hasn't been entirely the same since his 1987 hit movie which was a blessing and a curse in the end.
L.A. Confidential (1997)- This Curtis Hanson directed classic successfully adapted the James Ellroy novel's gritty story about murder and corruption in 1950s Los Angeles that had more twists and turns than a Sam Spade mystery. This was the movie that garnered Kim Basinger an Oscar and allowed viewers their first major glimpse of Russell Crowe as a hotheaded cop with a heart of gold. Could a sequel have worked? Not really, because each character seemed to move on in their own way. Basinger and Crowe walked off into the sunset and Guy Pearce's earnest cop who moved up in the ranks. Attempts to bring Ellroy's other book L.A. Noir to the big screen have failed and there are rumors of a television show version is in the works. Ultimately, it's best to leave well enough alone and try not to copy success too much. Look at The Black Dahlia. Enough said.
Drive (2011)- This unique thriller followed a nameless driver (Ryan Gosling) who drove his car to commit robberies and to feel some sort of normal human emotions. He met a single mother (Carey Mulligan) who showed him the possibility of love, but it was the complications that got in the way. Her ex-con husband and a demented mobster (Albert Brooks) threatened to destroy everything. That's why the driver had to use himself and his car as the ultimate weapon. The only possible ending was going to be a bloody one that left few survivors. The unclear ending left room for possibilities, but let's hope that Hollywood is smart to leave well enough alone.
Gladiator (2000)- Director Ridley Scott and movie star Russell Crowe have made plenty of movies since this 2000 movie that garnered Crowe his only Oscar, but not his first nomination. Crowe played the ultimate hero turned gladiator after being betrayed by those closest to him. He gave Maximus a sense of masculine bravado that he had tried to repeat in his latter films, but it sadly hasn't worked. Scott and Crowe might have a genuine friendship, but their moviemaking partnership as actor and director truly peaked with Gladiator. Unfortunately, a sequel wouldn't be possible unless Crowe's character was turned into a supernatural hero, which would end up defeating the purpose of the original to begin with.
The King's Speech (2010)- This movie garnered Colin Firth a well deserved Best Actor Oscar to name a few, but the movie had the distinct honor of portraying a true story about a genuine buddy relationship between two very different men with Firth and Geoffrey Rush making light of their characters' different backgrounds. Unlike most movie friendships, Speech ended up with both men continuing to work together and not having to show it in every detail, which was a good thing and left audiences wanting to know more and not less. A well earned victor indeed.
The Help (2011)- Clearly, this popular and critically acclaimed film can never be made into a sequel, because it would ruin the charm of the original's classic characters and 1960s settings. The ending left Minny (Octavia Spencer), Aibileen (Viola Davis) and Skeeter (Emma Stone) going off into different directions. The movie's conclusion changed the main characters and everyone around them for the better. If they went back to the South and the discrimination they fought against, their good work would be erased completely. Thankfully, that won't ever be the case, unless author Kathryn Stockett decided to write a follow-up book. Don't hold your breathe though for that possibility. The results wouldn't be good for anybody.
In the end, the element of surprise can still be found at your local cineplex or via Netflix. Look at Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It's the ultimate buddy film that actually came without a sequel, unless you count The Sting as an unofficial companion piece that cemented co-stars Robert Redford and Paul Newman as friends. Luckily, those movies can be judged for their different merits and not their common ground. In an iffy economy, movie studios are looking to stretch their extra large back accounts in the right direction. What they should be doing instead is looking to challenge audiences between the explosions and the tired comedy gags. Let's hope they get the memo before it's too late.