published Sunday, February 17th, 2013

Harpe: Fed up with being force-fed film sequels

By Corin Harpe
  • photo
    Corin Harpe writes a "My Life" column for the Life section of the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
    Photo by John Rawlston.
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There are few things in this world that I truly hate, but one is sequels. I can't stand seeing a good movie or reading a good book, then having it ruined by a sequel.

In the past 10 years or so, sequels have become so common you can almost expect any movie or book that makes a few dollars to be followed by a sequel.

Some movies, of course, are designed as a series, such as Harry Potter, Batman and Spider-Man, but others, such as the "Ocean's 12" sequel to "Ocean's 11," just seem to be the death of a clever idea.

People soon forget the novelty of the first movie and associate it with the sequel's tired, overdone plots. Ironically, the sequel problem seems to happen most often with comedies. Don't producers and writers realize that the secret to humor is timing, and worn-out jokes in the form of another movie are just not funny?

There are certain predictable elements to a sequel. The first is that the characters travel to a new place, which is supposed to take them out of their element and somehow make the situation so much funnier or more interesting. In reality, if all else fails, then at least the change of scenery is a last-ditch effort to keep us entertained.

The second element is a cameo appearance by either a minor character from the first movie or someone famous related to the movie and thrown in to distract audiences from a crumbling plot.

For example, in "Ocean's 12," Julia Roberts' character is mistaken for the actress Julia Roberts, which is bizarre but a cameo nonetheless. Was that supposed to make us laugh?

In a more recent comedy, "The Hangover," Mike Tyson's role as himself is very funny and surprising as the group of groomsmen embark in a series of misadventures, including Tyson's actual home as a setting. But in "The Hangover Part II," Tyson is just thrown in to remind us that he was in the first movie, and we should laugh because he was funny in the first movie. Instead, Tyson's role in the sequel as the wedding singer is awkward.

Tyson can barely act much less sing, and it was painfully obvious that writers and producers were not trying to re-create comic originality, but were using every means possible to make money by just recycling the first movie with a more exaggerated plot and overdone reminders as to why we loved the storyline.

I find it more interesting when original characters refuse to come back for the sequels, such as Megan Fox in "The Transformers" series. The actress claimed to have problems with the director Michael Bay, but I am sure she also was thinking that some movies just need to stop, if anything, to stop the typecasting and give hope to her future career.

My sequel dislike has gotten so strong that I even have a hard time accepting movies and books designed to have multiple elements. When "The Hunger Games" was first released, I had a very difficult time knowing that it was a series. Perhaps I am the only one who thought the first book should have been the only book, leaving the rest of it up to our imagination.

The saddest evolution of the trend in our culture is the lack of original ideas. Authors and filmmakers find it a safe and sure means of revenue to continue the plot of a successful film, but I see it as a form of manipulation.

Many films released this year give me hope since they contain original themes and ideas. I want this trend to continue. As audiences, we need to support films that are original and decide not to participate in the cycle of sequels.

Contact Corin Harpe at corinharpe@gmail.com.

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