I’m on record as being relatively ambivalent when it comes to an opinion on the virtues of remakes, sequels and reboots. Simply put, any story, whether it’s a retelling or continuation of an old story, or one that’s entirely “new” (if there is such a thing), is dependent on the people telling it more than where it’s drawn from. For every person who can claim that the second movie in a series is always the best (like The Empire Strikes Back), another can claim that movies should usually be left as standalone successes (like Jaws or Psycho).
This past movie year offered plenty of examples of franchises (to use the term relatively loosely) that saw their story strengthened, broadened and sometimes explored more deeply through their continuation. Others were perhaps failed attempts to make lightning strike twice, but I find it weird to begrudge their undertaking. From a business angle, it seems to make sense. Even from a storytelling angle, most beloved stories from recent years have consisted of fairly old storytelling templates and tropes, as the mind seems to have an affinity for a mixture of old and new ideas. Call it a sense of the familiar to accompany what could otherwise be too newfangled to grasp.
To illustrate this point, here are 5 sequels from the past year that succeeded marvelously, and 5 that fell a little flat. I don’t want to create the impression that the field was entirely even, but if this were baseball, 2013’s sequels would have a perfectly respectable average.
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