The natural evolution of a narrative may seem simple to write. But the truth is that it is not. The next step in the story has to hold onto the characters and narrative while ensuring that it is not forced or outlandish. It becomes more complicated when the original work is respected and appreciated by both fans and critics.
Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde (2003) is the sequel to Legally Blonde (2001). Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) has a new passion: animal rights. It is so important to her, that she prioritizes the issue over her wedding to Emmett Richmond (Luke Wilson). Arriving in Washington D.C., she turns to Congresswoman Rudd (Sally Field) to help her bring attention to the issue. She also gets help from Sid Post (Bob Newhart), her building’s doorman who provides guidance in how to navigate the figurative power corridors of the city. As in the previous film, Elle is an outsider who is initially judged a pretty blonde with nothing between the ears.
As sequels go, it’s pretty good. The screenplay does not feel like it was being stretched to fit within the world that was created in its predecessor. The film is funny, charming, and Witherspoon again makes us root for an unlikely heroine. The message of not judging a book by its cover is potent, but does not hit the audience over the head. It is a lesson that is forever universal and important.
The truth about life is that it is complicated. We are often juggling multiple things at the same time, making decisions as to what is important and what can be put aside for the moment.
Spider-Man 2 (2004) is the sequel to the 2002 film, Spider-man. Since we last saw Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire) has dealt with a series of personal disasters. While continuously saving the world, his grades are falling fast, he cannot keep a job and he is being attacked in the press as a criminal. On top of all that, Peter’s relationship with Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) is no more.
All signals are pointing to the end of his career as a superhero. Then an accident turns Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) into the villainous Doc Ock. Instead of putting his mask away for good, Peter has no choice but to do his thing and stop Doc Ock before he destroys the city.
This one is not bad. The narrative flows nicely from the previous movie, creating more trouble for our leading man. Moving from adolescence to early adulthood, Peter is learning how to keep several figurative plates spinning in the air at the same. The problem with this is that one or more of these plates will eventually fall to the ground and crack into pieces.
My problem with his movie is the usual issue. The women in this film are constrained to the love interest/damsel in distress/spouse and maternal figures, not giving them room to stand on their own two feet.
The Indiana Jones film series is one that keeps on giving. Forty-plus years old, the story of historian/adventurer Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) has kept audiences enraptured for generations.
The 4th movie in the narrative, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) takes place in 1938. Indy’s father, Professor Henry Jones Sr. (Sean Connery) disappears while looking for the Holy Grail. On top of searching for his father, Indy, with the help of Elsa (Alison Doody), has to stop the Nazis from getting their hands on the grail and its power.
This movie is so much fun. It is a heart-pounding, blood-pumping, roller coaster of a ride. Ford and Connery have incredible chemistry as on-screen father and son.
My only complaint (which, as I spoke of in my last post), is that Doody as Elsa (who does not have a last name) is a film version of the “girl of the week”. Just like Connery’s other well-known series, James Bond, there is a new female love interest/co-adventurer in every story while the male lead remains as is.
When the sequel to a highly successful film is released, the expectation is that this second narrative will hold up on its own while giving proper respect to its predecessor.
Independence Day: Resurgence (2016) is the follow-up to the blockbuster 90’s movie Independence Day. It takes place a generation after Earth was nearly obliterated by an invading alien army. Humanity has taken thorough advantage of the advancement in technology. When the aliens return with revenge on the mind and a military force that has doubled in size, our heroes must once again save the day.
Two generations combine forces. the newbies Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth), Patricia Whitworth (Maika Monroe), and Dylan Hiller (Jessie T. Usher) eagerly join the fight. Backing them up are veterans David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum), Julius Levinson (Judd Hirsch), former President Whitmore (Bill Pullman), and Jasmine Hiller (Vivica A. Fox). It will take all of them working together to repel the attackers and keep our world going.
I love the first movie. It is everything a film of this nature should be. I wish I could say the same about Independence Day: Resurgence. While the visuals are fantastic, they cannot make up for the meh storyline and unimpressive character arcs. The emotions that I felt while watching Independence Day are missing. It was as if the screenwriters and creative team lost the spark. Unfortunately, it comes off a soulless easy cash grab based on nostalgia, which doesn’t always work.
While living under another name, Obi-Wan is keeping an eye on Anakin’s son, Luke Skywalker (Grant Feely). But Luke’s Uncle and guardian, Owen Lars (Joel Edgerton) would prefer that his nephew remains in the dark. Meanwhile, on Alderaan, Princess Leia Organa (Vivien Lyra Blair) is kidnapped. Her parents turn to Obi-Wan to rescue their daughter.
Obi-Wan Kenobi is amazing. After watching both The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett, I thought nothing would top them. I was wrong. My eyes were glued to the screen the entire time. There were multiple easter eggs (if you know where to look), many mouth drops, and quite a few expletives. I am already hooked and ready for the rest of the series.
It would be easy to make another soulless sequel. But it is not. It is full of so much love and respect for the material that it radiates from the screen. McGregor is back in perfect form, with the obligatory changes since the last time we saw the character. He is starting to become the grizzled old man who has come to terms with what was and will never be again. But there is still a little bit of hope, just enough to inspire him to pick up the lightsaber one last time.
Do I recommend it? 100% yes. Don’t be surprised if the program makes the cut for “best of” lists in December.
Obi-Wan Kenobi is available for streaming on DisneyPlus. New episodes premiere on Friday.
There seems to be a rule that in every generation, Hollywood looks to the past and uses nostalgia as a reason to reinvigorate old IPs.
Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is one of the newest releases from DisneyPlus.Thirty years after the original series has ended, they are living far from the limelight. Chip (John Mulaney) has a desk job. Dale (Andy Samberg) is still trying to cling to his past. When their old teammate Monterey Jack (Eric Bana) is kidnapped, they have to put their animosity aside to work together. Assisting them is Ellie (KiKi Layne), a cop who is determined to solve the case.
First of all, shoutout to the homage to Who Framed Roger Rabbit. It is a subtle touch, but if you know, you know. I loved that Chip, who is the straight man is still in traditional 2D animation while out there Dale is in the form of modern animation.
The best thing about the film is that it appeals to both adults and kids. For those of us who remember the cartoon back in the day, there is humor that the grownups will get but might go over the heads of younger audiences. There are also easter eggs and cameos that may require repeat viewing to catch. It has the flavor of its predecessor while also standing on its own as a sequel.
Do I recommend it? Absolutely.
Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is available for streaming on DisneyPlus.
P.S. The show’s theme song is a total earworm. Just an FYI in case it gets into your head as it is now in mine.
Shrek 2 takes place just after the ending of Shrek (2001). Shrek (Mike Myers) and Fiona (Cameron Diaz) are in the midst of newlywed bliss when an invitation from her parents arrives at their doorstep. Traveling to the kingdom of Far Far away with Donkey (Eddie Murphy), they are initially given a warm welcome. That welcome is quickly rescinded by the King (John Cleese) and Queen (Julie Andrews), who are shocked and well, unhappy about their daughter’s choice of a spouse.
Among movie sequels, this one is near the top of my list. The film takes what made its predecessor successful and builds on it. It expands the world and the characters while using the same humor and heart of the first movie. What I personally love is that it represents a reality that is something not seen on screen and not seen in fairy tales. It shows that even in the happiest of families and the seemingly most perfect of marriages, there are still problems and conflicts.
I liked this movie. It has the charm of the original with enough buildup to keep the overall narrative going. What makes it stand out from the first film is the subtle history lesson that the audience may or may not be aware of.
Subversive comedy is in my mind, the best kind of comedy. While we are laughing, the gears in our brains are turning, bringing up questions that we might not otherwise ask.
Addams Family Values (1993) is the sequel to the 1991 film, The Addams Family. Gomez and Morticia Addams (the late Raul Julia and Angelica Houston) have just added a third bundle of joy to the family. Their elder children, Wednesday (Christina Ricci) and Pugsley (Jimmy Workman) are not exactly pleased to have a new baby brother. In the usual Addams Family style, they do everything they can do to get rid of him.
As many parents have done before them and will do after them, Gomez and Morticia hire a nanny to help with their little one. Debbie Jellinsky (Joan Cusack) is supposed to take care of the baby. But while she is doing this, she is pretending to fall for Fester (Christopher Lloyd). The rest of his family knows that her feelings for her new fiance are merely an act. Can they stop her and reveal her true intentions before it is too late?
I was a preteen when this film was initially released, so some of the humor was above my head at the time. But looking at it with adult eyes, I find myself laughing. My favorite scenes are the ones in which the kids are at camp. When they dramatize the first Thanksgiving and delightfully shock the audience of white upper-class parents.
The purpose of a sequel is to take the narrative of one IP and then build on it by adding additional characters and stories. While this task may seem simple, the reality is that it is complicated. Especially when its predecessor is well regarded.
The Mummy Returns (2001) takes place after The Mummy (1999) and before The Scorpion King (2002) and. Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser) and Evelyn Carnahan (Rachel Weisz) are now happily married and living in London with their son. They are still in the archeology game and believe that Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) will never enter their lives again. But when an artifact emerges and Imhotep’s remains arrive in the city, they will again have to send him back to the world of the dead.
I appreciate the addition of a precocious, troublemaking child, Evelyn’s growth as more than a damsel in distress, and the backstory set in ancient Egypt. It adds depth, allowing the audience to see Imhotep as more than just a generic villain. But my main problem is that Evelyn still needs Rick to rescue her, even when she claims to have learned some form of self-defense.