Aftertaste: Sequels in Cinema

Mild Spoilers for: Spider-Man, Spider-Man 3, Thor, Thor 2, Avengers and Indiana Jones: Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

There is a sentiment around the Internet that George Lucas ruined our generation’s childhood by releasing the prequel trilogy. Because Star Wars Episode I, II and III reduce the terrifying Vader to a sniveling child, turn the Jedi into politicians and introduce a seemingly magical bacterium, the enjoyment fans once experienced with the original trilogy is tainted. Others quickly dismiss this opinion, writing off the individuals who feel this way as being overdramatic fanboys who should consider leaving their parents’ basement. I can see the merit in suggesting that a person’s childhood shouldn’t hinge upon one series (Diversify, people! Life should be about videogames, comics AND movies). Is it possible that fans are correct in feeling that one bad movie can ruin the whole bunch?

The Season Theory

In sports, players compete in a physical competition to earn points (a hobby or profession that is often as exhausting as it sounds). The team with the most points wins; the teams with the most wins compete in a playoff series to determine who the champion is for the season. If one team has an amazing game and completely outscores the best in the league, but still finishes with the most losses they aren’t considered a good team. They are a bad team. Why are movies treated any different?

While reviewing the X-Men franchise, the first entry was a critical success that set off the megaton explosion of comic book movies. The sequel attempted to go for style and flash, but told a weaker story. The third entry was an abomination that is best left X-Men 3forgotten. The attempted prequel Wolverine movie managed more cringe worthy scenes than X-Men 3. First Class and The Wolverine were an upswing in quality but still a mixed bag with most fans. The final score is, erring on the side of optimism, 1 great movie, 1 good, 2 okay and 2 awful. If your local sports team turned in a performance of the same caliber they wouldn’t be praised.

The first entry might is the best of the bunch and holds up on its own, but ends up being weighed down by mediocre plot lines and over the top sequences of the sequels. After seeing characters progress through six films and returning to the first, the failures and problems with the series are attached to the first as well.

A series must continue to be good or the entire franchise fails. Sony was planning on doing a Spider-Man 4 with Tobey Maquire and Sam Raimi until they turned in Spider-Man 3. The previous two successes were not enough when compared to a poor third entry. The entire trilogy was damaged goods and a reboot required.

The Continuity Error

When a prequel is released, or a sequel which delves into a deep dark secret from the past, it treads on established lore. There are instances when the studio is so focused on telling the story they want in the sequel that they ignore what came before. This is because they are trying (with limited success) to tell the best possible story for this installment and not always looking at the entire collection. These errors can cause problems for fans as they try and reconcile the original tale with new facts.

Spider-Man 3 claims that Flint Marko, the Sandman, killed Uncle Ben, not the random criminal that Peter didn’t stop. This fact SPIDER-MAN 3change was established to make the battle between Spidery and Sandman more emotional but what it did was ruin the origin story. Peter became Spider-man because of his guilt in not doing the right thing. If Flint killed Ben than it had nothing to do with Peter and he should have no problem being a selfish pro-wrestler still. When rewatching the original movie, the tragedy of Ben’s loss is weakened because we know that it was destined to happen regardless of Peter’s actions.

At the end of Thor, viewers see a heartbroken hero who cannot return home to be with the woman he loves. Until he is needed to help out The Avengers, then he can travels to Earth quickly. Oh and also in, Thor 2. That’s another time he can zip around the cosmos without problems. The ending for Thor is bittersweet and filled with hope, by introducing the fact that Thor can easily return to Midgard it kind of makes him look like a jerk at the first film’s conclusion. The entire tone of the ending is shifted, negatively, with these new factoids.

By introducing new plot threads into the cinematic universe the creators can undermine the work that came before it. Viewers are left choosing which version of facts to believe and which to ignore. Either choice leaves the entire series weaker for introducing an unnecessary conflict.

The Bad Dismount

Indiana Jones successfully completed three unique adventures. The character traversed exotic Crystal Skulllocations, thwarted Nazis and discovered mysticism in the world. At the end of each entry the viewer was left wondering what excitement waited next, which damsel he would end up with and how the non-stop tour of escapades would continue.

Then came The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and all mystery was revealed. Doctor Jones ends up a very old, tired man who needs a college dropout to save him. The dropout is his son…turns out this entire time Indiana was a deadbeat dad (see “The Continuity Error” for how this undermines the character). Jones is no longer a charming professor who understands the greater mysteries of the world; instead he is a bumbling geriatric who constantly needs assistance from those around him.

By showing how everything ends, the mystery of the character is lost. Viewers want their own theories for characters fates. The story does not need to fully wrap up with a bow on top. Now whenever Indie rides off into the sunset we know he is riding to a future where he is riding sidecar to Mutt, and that’s a fate worse than staring into the arc.


Each movie should be judged for its own merits, but when studios start to create a cinematic universe that intertwines all of the stories, their fates are connected. “One bad apple ruins the whole batch” and so it goes that one bad movie can run the entire series. Of course, the opposite is also true. A stellar episode can redeem the entire franchise, so the answer is simple Hollywood— just make awesome movies and stop ruining people’s childhoods.

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