Making a sequel isn't hard. Of the ten top grossing movies of 2012, six are sequels. Seven if you count the Spider-Man reboot as a one. That's what Hollywood does, find something that works and finger bang it with two digits wrapped in a coke-dusted $100 bill until the movie-going public takes the walk of shame away from the Googleplex.
Making a good sequel, though? That's a bit bigger of a stretch. Studios try to hide their more dismal attempts to catch the same lightning in a bottle by framing things in terms of franchises and trilogies, but the fact is that a lot of follow-ups are hated by fans of the original. In many cases this is rightfully done.
Sometimes, though, fans simply refuse to see the inherent genius of a sequel because of a blind admiration for the original. If there is anything that geeks hate worse than a disappointing follow-up it's a follow-up that makes their love of the initial flick look lame. Today we salute three of those films, and explain why the butt hurt is so misplaced.
Why People Hate It: People tend to get frothy over Gremlins 2 for the same reason they look down their noses derisively at later Nightmare on Elm Street films. Freddy Krueger went from a terrifying bogeyman to being a wise-cracking pun machine. This was somehow seen as less scary, even though it's basically Pennywise's entire schtick and he regularly gets put up there with the most frightening movie villains of all time.
Gremlins 2 gets equal snobbery. Much of the darkness of the first film is absent, and the gremlins themselves get very gimmicky. If there is anyone that was ever actually frightened by Gremlins 2 then they must have been on extreme hallucinogens to generate the necessary atmosphere. More pop culture, less launching helpless old people out of rocket chairs. I get it.
Why They're Wrong: Gremlins 2 is actually frightening as balls, just not in a conventional way. The whole premise of the second movie is rampart corporate expansionism gone hideously awry. Insanely rich and powerful men blatantly muck about with the laws of science free of any oversight or sense of responsibility until they are all overcome by the fruits of their own hubris.
Take the Brain Gremlin, whose urbane elocution sums up the hammy nature of the film perfectly. On one hand, yes, he's just a comedic joke character drawing contrast to the other gremlins by dressing smart and talking smarter. On the other hand, he represents the same "civil" side of evil as the men that mutated him into his current form. His genial manners don't make him any less bloodthirsty. After all, he happily murders a fellow gremlin merely to prove a side point in a political debate.
The ridiculousness of the approach is what helps sell it the best. Director Joe Dante is literally screaming at an audience to wake up as they pawn their freedoms away in the name of conspicuous consumption of entertainment and gadgets. Why else would he stop the film itself in the middle and have Hulk Hogan, both a living corporate icon as well as the era's embodiment of honor and integrity, tell the audience that gremlins now backed by the full sponsorship of corporate America are ruining the movie-going experience.
Oh, and it had a killer NES game adaptation, by the way.
Why People Hate It: How could anyone follow up Grease? The film remains an iconic musical that is still popular today. Pretty much any attempt to outdo John Travolta belting out tunes about his "pussy wagon" or Olivia Newton-John in skintight black going full-on bad girl in the climax is doomed. Doooooooooomed. Some people call it the best musical ever.
Why They're Wrong: Some people are full of hoobastank. I hate to break it to you but Grease is not really a very good movie. First of all, absolutely nothing happens. Nothing. The film has less of a plot than a Poison music video. It makes Glee look like Twin Peaks. The whole thing is a couple of long, awkward dating scenarios broken up with dance numbers that launch at just the second someone watching realizes that everything about high school is boring as hell.
Grease 2, though? That is some compelling stuff. You've got a conflicted girl dreaming of a mythical perfect biker boyfriend who is eaten up inside by the possible hopelessness of her dream. Meanwhile, a mysterious mild-mannered foreign boy montages himself into her fantasy Cool Rider, all the while taking out street gangs and making sweet ramps jumps that no one else is capable of.
That's not even counting the amazing soundtrack that trumps anything from the original. "Cool Rider" alone is worth ten "Grease Lightnings." Then there are hilarious cast numbers like "Reproduction" that has an entire science class singing about boning in nature, or Peter Frechette absolutely owning every inch of the screen with his make-out anthem "Do It For Our Country."
The real reason Grease 2 is better than Grease is much more subtle. Danny and Sandy in the first film fulfill their destinies by basically changing most of their personalities in order to live up to the other person's ideals. Michael and Stephanie get together by learning to recognize the worth in themselves and each other after stripping away the layers of false high school bullshit. Seriously, if John Hughes name had been attached to this you'd still have the poster rolled up somewhere in your house.
Why They Hate it: The main thrust of the apathy toward Richard O'Brien's sequel/equal to The Rocky Horror Picture Show is the same thing that would make Indian food suck; No Curry. Tim Curry's Dr. Frank-n-Furter doesn't appear, and neither does the actor in any role. Nor does Susan Sarandon or Barry Bostwick or even Meat Loaf. Combine the feeling that the sequel was stuck with the only B-Team of the first film coming back with a much lower amount of sex and drag and you end up with something that people stayed away from in droves.
Why They're Wrong: Which is unfortunate because Shock Treatment may in fact be one of the most important films of all time. In it, the town of Denton has been completely swallowed by a television studio backed by a fast-food millionaire corporate sponsor. The citizens are defined as either audience members (Who never leave their chair, even sleeping there) or cast members living out their lives entirely within the confines of programs at the behest of shadowy producers.
You might recognize this as pretty much the entirety of television for the last decade. Had a few people maybe sat down and watched Shock Treatment we wouldn't be in this mess. Janet Majors basically gets picked out of a line-up by a cigar-chomping bigwig who raises her to complete superstardom without any noticeable talent or compelling traits, all in the dream of making her a mental cripple utterly incapable of getting her fame fix, and hence complete identity, without him.
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All this, by the by, turns out to be a bullshit twin sibling plot twist that reeks of Rock of Love backstabbing shenanigans. Sorry if that spoiled the movie for you, but either you've already seen it and are sadly nodding your head as you read this or you didn't see it and are the reason we are in this reality TV trap in the first place. The point is that the movie completely defines the world we live in, now.
It's a world where people actually ask "celebrities" like Donald Trump his opinion on national politics as if he was going to answer with anything other than a reason we should pay attention to him. It's a world where a video of Kim Kardashian crying over losing a pair of earrings can get ten times the YouTube views as literally the most brilliant direction modern music could take.
Rocky Horror taught us that it's a glorious thing to celebrate your own sexuality with exploration and pageantry... at least until some extremist takes offense and makes with the laser murder. So actually, no, maybe you should curb your excess a bit. Shock Treatment tried to tell us that one day we would all be living in a heartless, lunatic fame machine where everyone was consumed with the need to be recognized regardless of whether they had ever done anything worthy of being recognized for.
The heroes of the sequel ride off triumphantly into the darkness away from the madhouse singing a kickass group number in a stolen convertible. Brad Janet and Doctor Scott in Rocky? They go out to a dirge looking like they were the victims of a combination gang-rape/dirt bike crash. Man, we picked the wrong freakin' film to put on a pedestal.