Sequels and Prequels: A Balancing Act

part II

What do movies, books, television, and video games all have in common? They’re all platforms for storytelling. Next question: What is a sequel? Sequels provide an opportunity to expand upon the original story and tell a new one. The big question is, are sequels always necessary?

For the writers of these stories, sequels are a great balancing act. On one hand, a sequel is a great opportunity to revisit an established universe with history and potential for a great plot. On the flipside, a sequel can also just mean a quick buck for the people in charge. In order to determine if producing a sequel is beneficial, I’ve composed a list of questions studios should consider before making a sequel.

 

#1. Is there an opportunity to tell a great story?

For a sequel to be successful there needs to be the potential to tell a great story. Let’s face it, some movies just don’t need sequels. A perfect example is the movie Inception. As a blockbuster success Inception is often praised for it’s cleverness and thought-provoking themes. Now if you’ve seen Inception, (I won’t spoil it if you haven’t) you know that producing a sequel would not work. For the most part everything is resolved and there is nothing left to add to the story. A sequel would also ruin the mysterious end of the movie.

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#2. Will the sequel diminish the audiences love for the original?

Mass Effect 2 is one of my all-time favorite video games of last generation. To this day it is one of the only single player campaigns I have replayed religiously. You can only imagine how ecstatic I was when I finally got my hands on Mass Effect 3! My excitement was swiftly crushed when I actually played the game. Not only was Mass Effect 3 disappointing, it diminished my love for the Mass Effect franchise. A sequel that fails to deliver after one successful product can completely ruin a franchise. Video games fall prey to this all the time but it can happen to other mediums as well (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men: The Last Stand).

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#3. Is it unique enough to be justified?

One of gamers biggest complaints with Triple A franchises like Call of Duty, Battlefield, and Assassins Creed is the completely lack of creativity between titles. Every year it’s the same game, but with a different protagonist. Sequels should not be the same car with a shiny new paint job. A sequel should take into account what made the previous product successful while at the same time providing something different and new.

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#4. Will it respect the events of previous entries?

It really irks me when a sequel/prequel to a movie comes out and it has absolutely nothing to do with the first or previous movie. It immediately feels like a betrayal because it’s like the first movie didn’t happen at all. A sequel should be it’s own film, but at the same time it needs to respect the events of the previous creations. Audiences get this all the time with movies from Marvel Studios. Going in, the audience knows that the events of the movie carries weight and are relevant to future installments. This is also reason why audiences never leave a Marvel movie without waiting for the end credits scene.

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