Sequels are a fickle thing when it comes to whether or not they will succeed. It seems that there are limitless factors to what makes a great sequel, and therefore, it should be an easy feat for the seasoned executives in Hollywood to churn out acclaimed continuations of their stories. But, alas, sequels come off as a 50/50 chance of resonating with audiences.
“Franchise-building” is incredibly hot right now, and therefore, sequels are a must. Traditional sequels to modern franchises, such as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, are expected and welcomed. Looking at the MCU is actually a great example of failed sequels (Thor: The Dark World) and innovative ones (the two Captain America sequels.)
The most glaring, yet somehow most inconsequential, element for the creation of a sequel is the simple question of “Is there a reason for this to exist?” Of course, Hollywood completely ignores this and just looks at the numbers, but the necessity of the project can really be indicative of whether or not the sequel has a chance to wow audiences.
However, we live in a time of unnecessary sequels, simply trying to cash in on popular and/or nostalgic properties. These films rarely turn out to be great films, yet people still flock to them based on the familiarity of them alone.
The main reason for a sequel to be made is to further explore the world or characters presented in one installment in an attempt to enrich the property, rather than milk it for as much money as it can get. Films that focus on this (such as “Blade Runner 2049,” which is more elaborated on in the review below) tend to add to the experience rather than give audiences the same tired clichés, rendering all appeal of the film to be based on its recognizability rather than the content itself.
With that said, some films can succeed in giving audiences more of what they want while innovating very little. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is a great example of this, as it echoes many of the plotlines and characters of “A New Hope” yet still gives fans new and exciting elements to latch on to. Director J.J. Abrams knew that this was necessary, as the George Lucas prequels drifted too far from what made Star Wars so incredible, and we all know how those turned out.
With a sequel, it’s all about the intent. There needs to be a set goal for its existence other than a mere cash grab. The main difference between these types of sequels is that the sequels that turn out much better than expected almost always have very passionate, caring individuals behind them, such as Abrams. Whether these goals are to continue the story or bring a whole new twist, popularity cannot be the dominant factor when sequels are pitched if the executives want any type of critical acclaim attached to their projects post-release.