se – quel
a published, broadcast, or recorded work that continues the story or develops the theme of an earlier one.
Okay, so technically, Return of the Jedi (1983), The Godfather: Part III (1990), and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), are all “sequels.”
Well, this blog post is going to cover the “Part 2s” of this world…
The follow-ups to the original…
The sequential “second ones” that are better than the first ones.
The original is not always the superior movie when compared to its successor. True, it introduced the characters arcs, motifs, and overall tone, but when given a second chance, a sequel is born out of better execution, unexpected risks, and a challenge to the viewer.
Take The Godfather: Part II (1974). Every ounce of Mafioso culture that is romanticized and glorified in the original Godfather (1972) is deconstructed into betrayal, corruption, and lost virtue in its sequel. While “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse” breathes air of humor and coolness, “I know it was you, Fredo – you broke my heart” gasps for air and leaves the viewer (and Fredo) cold.
Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando of the original) left his son a broken empire, and although we see its perils, we sympathize Vito’s lifetime intentions through his origin story, performed by Robert De Niro in one of his greatest roles. The De Niro sequences are the best part, I think. In a way, they justify the existence of “prequel” foundations in movies, but what makes The Godfather: Part II so special is its overlapping narratives between father and son. Overall, I always thought of Marlon Brando’s performance and the introductions of the Corleone family in the original as a grand spectacle. Part II is grand drama…grand cinema.
If you’re a fan of the “bigger, better, faster, stronger” potential in movie sequels, no movie tops them like Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). Director James Cameron took his state of the art “liquid” CGI effects from his previous The Abyss (1989) to a whole new level in his new antagonist, the T-1000.
On top of the that, there are pyrotechnics and human stunts abound – all cutting-edge at the time and still effective today. True, the plot gets a little heavy handed at times, but the sporadic human vs. machine humor, lengthy rollercoaster action sequences, and chilling apocalyptic visions make T2 the baddest sequel of all time.
I’m a child of the ‘80s, so I still consider The Empire Strikes Back (1980) to be the ultimate sequel as it not only deepened the character relationships and amplified the outer space adventures of its predecessor, Star Wars (1977), it took the entire world by surprise with four infamous words: “I am your father.”
“Empire” take us to the ice planet of Hoth, where tauntauns roam and make for good carcass cavity coats (“And I thought they smelled bad on the outside”); Luke and Yoda skyrocket to spiritual heights in the swamplands of Dagobah; and, on the gas planet of Bespin, Lando betrays his friends to Darth Vadar, and Han Solo is entombed (along with our hope) in a frozen block. It was devasting to me as a kid. But, when Luke gets a mechanical hand and gazes at the stars with Princess Leia at the very end, you get a glimmer of hope back. It’s as if this daunting sequel was the last blow from Goliath. The sting in the lower gut felt so real. (Luckily, “David” gets another shot with an Ewok by his side in the next one.)
Those are my top three Best Part 2s. A few other notables are listed below:
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981) is the antidote to the braincell-singing surplus of CGI in today’s action/adventure movie. Every stunt, explosion, and facial scar is real, and the bad guy’s name is The Humungus.
The Dark Night (2008) is a comic book movie, drama, action adventure, and film noir all splashed together on the Gotham City skyline. Heath Ledger’s menacing Joker steals the show and Oscar statue (posthumously), and the movie is so epic, it feels more like a standalone than a sequel.
Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) = Gratuitous violence and ultraviolence. Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004) = Witty dialogue and ingenious dialogue. I found the latter to be twice as captivating, cinematic, and one of Writer/Director Quentin Tarantino’s best.
To conclude, some of my students are telling me they liked Frozen 2 more than the original. I couldn’t agree to disagree more, but I admire their passion for the sequel, the Part 2, the follow-up, the second one.
This blog is meant to celebrate these second movie gems. I know I left out so many. I laugh because all of mine are rated-R action or drama flicks. I should have put in Wayne’s World 2 (1993)! Please feel free to share some of your favorite Part 2s!
And, Happy Thanksgiving!