Sequels Still Contain Originality Whenever a sequel is announced, there is a collective groan around the world as audiences decree that there are no original ideas. Which is a fair statement taken at simply face value. However, even this semi-brilliant blog post isn’t a special snowflake in the expanse of literary works, but it was uniquely created as a form of art so it should stand on its own merits as a creative project. Its success should not be hindered for existing as the 160th entry within a series. Not reliant upon original movie. But for entertainment vehicles, audiences aren’t as generous or forgiving. A theory exists that because the characters, setting and story created in the first release are built upon in subsequent entries that they lack creativity. This is not a universal truth despite what cinema-snobs might want you to believe. Don’t get me wrong, there are clearly examples where the sequel is a hackneyed cash-grab (looking at you Hangover 2) and I would never defend all entries because such generalizations and sweeping opinions is what this post is trying to combat. Instead of supporting or condemning any entry for its place in the narrative within a series, they should be reviewed and discussed based upon their own credentials. Take for example the Captain America movies released by Disney/Marvel (no one should ever consider the 1990 release for any serious discussion). Winter Soldier is tonally different from its predecessor The First Avenger in every meaningful way. The only similarity between these movies is Captain America, and even then Steve Roger’s place in the world remains in flux as he searches for what his identity means to society. During the first, he was a war hero with a clearly defined objective but in the second he is a man out of time searching for a purpose. On its own, the spy-thriller sequel would be considered a distinct experience but because it is in the Marvel Cinematic Universe it is labeled as just another superhero movie. These labels make it easy to group and discuss films, but they don’t define the contents inside. The sequel is sometimes just the wrapping to draw fans in, as sales prove over and over again that people prefer to try a known commodity than take a risk, but there is still a large range of storytelling options available to creators. That fear of the unknown causes creators to make some interesting licensing choices with their stories The same groan heard for sequels is shared whenever licensed properties are announced, but again these entries are not defined by their source material, only influenced by them. I’m not saying it’s a good movie, but Battleship at least had an unexpected premise when you consider the story within the board game. It might not be inspired, but at least it attempted to think outside the box (unintentional pun) and provide a unique story for the audience. This movie could have been called anything, but they decided to go with a paper-thin connection to the Hasbro property to entice audiences with the comfort of the familiar. Familiar story, new twist. Great movie. The true problem with analyzing and condemning storytelling is that if you want to you can quickly boil down all stories into two piles: stranger comes to town or protagonist goes on a journey. If the entire body of created works can be simply defined in rudimentary terms than it will be easy for a critic to structure an argument on how the sequel is derivative of the original. Audiences say that Hollywood is spitting out the same stories constantly but that is because that is what they want to see. There is actually a large expanse of tales being told, and yes sometimes with a recurring cast, but that doesn’t take away the unique experience offered. If we take the time to look for what makes each movie unique instead of focusing on how they are the same, we can quickly discover that there are far more narratives offered. It’s ridiculous to just think of movies in the binary terms provided earlier, and it is just as ludicrous to dismiss a sequel just because it shares some of the same building blocks as the first. Sequels have the capacity to be great works that stand alongside their premier’s not simply lean on the first release for support to hold up a rushed to release adventure. In some cases, creating a sequel can be more daunting than the first because you have to take the characters in a new direction and don’t have the limitless possibilities offered as you do with a blank canvas. The next time a sequel is announced, and trust me it will happen soon, instead of rolling your eyes about how its going to be similar to what came before realize that it has the potential to tell a brand new adventure, perhaps greater than the first because it won’t be burdened with introducing the backstory and justifying the rules of its universe. Level Up, Friends!