Imagine taking the last known copy of a precious book, ripping it to pieces, spitting on it and throwing it on the floor, then reading the bits that you can see. That is what rehashed, “long-awaited” Hollywood sequels do to the artistic process.
Artistic ideas are fantastic because they are original. They can be chopped and shaped to the will of the imagination of the artist. In movies characters can be formed and situations developed, all to the specifications of one or a few creative individuals. So when, in the interest of nothing other than profit, companies vie to pump out sequel after sequel of half-baked hogswash just to vacuum up the pretty green it gets frustrating. It kills the unique idea that went before, and hurls any beauty of the original predecessor into the dank and murky mires of forgotten film.
Raging Bull 2 is fast approaching and with it heralds the end of one more long-running masterpiece legacy in cinema. Heaving and gagging its way to our screens a full thirty-three years after the multi-award winning original, the upcoming prequel/sequel promises to decimate all memory of the thrilling boxing story. It’s desperate times for MGM, owners of the company that originally produced Raging Bull, United Artists, and they seem unsure what to do about the impending, unlicenced sequel. The Irish Times paid tribute to the oncoming disaster, and suggested other possibilities in a recent article.
Raging Bull will not be the first successful American blockbuster to receive a sequel long after the original (or original series) has been catalogued and placed on high in cinema history. In recent years quite a few have suffered a dowdy return, often with the original lead actors shambling on in ignominious displays. Alan Smithee is working tirelessly these days. It seems trite to bother mentioning the full list of shame, but Wall Street, Indiana Jones or Basic Instinct spring to mind. There is no reason whatsoever why any of the cynical sequels to these films were made, bar the need for Michael Douglas to afford a gold-plated defibrillator for his bedside.
This all could possibly be dated back to The Godfather Part 3, a godawful movie that should never have seen the light of day. That cynical 1990 sequel (which at least continued to take influence from the Mario Puzo books) did little for the fans, and even now The Godfather is spoken of as if it was a trilogy. It never was. The creative process ended at number 2, don’t believe any different.
I personally have given up. I won’t even entertain the idea of losing two hours of my life to more tripe like Men In Black III or (shudder) Prometheus – why the hell would I? With so many incredible movies coming out every week, it seems stupid to waste my time on anything that I know won’t work. These re-hashed disasters are fan-bait of the most greedy and unsophisticated order, and the fans rush out and milk it up as if their lives depended on it. In the case of Prometheus, I watched as the film crashed to dismal reviews, followed by fans responses on Facebook and Twitter repeating the same words, “shallow, dull, not-as-good-as…,” etc. Why any of them even bothered I can’t understand.
Essentially (and we all know it) this is just all about regurgitating a known brand. If Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull had simply been called Whip-Man and the Unstructured Alien Disaster it would have simply been a poor movie that no-one would have bothered to watch. It would have been relegated to the bottom shelf in DVD shops and would have sold in car boot sales for €1.
Instead this hackneyed, incoherent ordure grossed over three quarters of a billion dollars world-wide. This is despite the fact that it was slammed by fans; yes, the same fans who rushed out to see it just so they could slam it. The phenomenon is unparalleled, and shows an uncomplimentary side to mass mentality when it comes to making choices, i.e. “Go with what’s known – it’s safe”.
There is still a host of great original titles coming out, but few of them come from the home of American cinema. Examples should surely be drawn from District 9 or Paranormal Activity that original ideas can still make movies that are both good and profitable. No-one ever raves about the knock-off blockbuster sequels, and most people feel cheated or disillusioned having watched them. That is not what artistic experience is about. It might mean taking a chance to see whether Moonrise Kingdom really is any good, but surely the chance of movie enjoyment is better than shuffling uncomfortably in your seat for two hours wondering what Hilary Swank is doing with Mr. Miyagi and what happened the real kid.
The Artist, despite disgusting some fans for not having any spoken dialogue was one of the best and most original films I have seen. I would argue as to whether any of the lines in Die Hard 5 could be considered “spoken dialogue”.
But then, I would also argue that Lethal Weapon 5 (below) was the best in the series. I guess the rule doesn’t always apply.