Sequels, Prequels, Spin-Offs, Remakes! Why some films need them and why some don’t.
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Movies are a great source of entertainment. They transform and transport you to a different world – even if that world is a make-believe with little resemblance to reality. The immersive make-believe makes it possible to lose yourself in their world completely.
Some movies are so good that a sequel helps expand their world-building and storytelling. The well-entertained sequels, at times, do not disappoint.
The barrage of entertainment continues with the sequel. When the prequel does well, fans demand a sequel. The fans generate sufficient buzzwords, creating the hype the movie deserves. The makers ride on the waves of such buzzwords, gossip, fan theories and discussions online that contribute to the sequels’ push.
However, this may not hold every time. Sometimes, the makers pre-decide on the idea of sequels. Beforehand, the makers make up their minds for large world-building and storytelling that may stretch to 2-3 films.
Are sequels overdone? That depends on how well or dud the prequel film was in the first place. Sometimes, they don’t do well. Likewise, numerous other things could push films towards a dead end.
Nowadays, films are no longer called trilogy but franchises. Merchandise is closely associated with the release of the film. Merchandising follows if the released films build a strong cult following, for example, Star Wars and Disney’s children’s films.
Let’s look at the ones that deserved a sequel and were best at it.
The best sequel or threequel I can think of is the Back to the Future series.
Back to the Future 1 (1985), Back to the Future 2 (1989) & Back to the Future 3 (1990) were all directed by legendary special effects wizard director Robert Zemeckis.
He has made iconic adventure films like Romancing the Stone (1984), Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), and Forrest Gump (1994) to his credit.
When I saw the first part – it seemed the purpose was to continue the story to the second and third. The first part is made that it leaves ample room for the story’s continuation to the proceeding parts. Films nowadays keep the idea of the sequel open towards the end.
The first part introduces us to the Doc (Christopher Lloyd) – the eccentric scientist hell-bent on proving time – travel exists. The protagonist – Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) ‘accidentally’ travels to the future.
A series of events causes the timeline to change that demands correction. It prompts the series to continue into the second and third parts. It was a well-deserving threequel introducing us to a possible future – the hidden underlying premise of all sci-fi films and the dangers of fictional time travel.
Who can forget the iconic hoverboard scene and the DeLorean? Speaking of the car – the most iconic one with gull-wing doors became popular due to the screen time it got in the film. It is still known as the ‘Back to the Future Car’. But I guess not everyone prefers it that way.
The special effects have aged well and still look fresh – way out in 2024. It is a must-watch, considering how good it is by today’s standards.
The acting is top-notch and convincingly played by the cast – Lorraine Baines (Lea Thompson) and George McFly (Crispin Glover) play the perfect parents. Biff (Tom Wilson) is the memorable antagonist who hates manure!
All of this combined makes the film a must-watch. This film doesn’t need a remake, but a continuation and spin-offs are welcome. Not making a remake is similar to respecting the original. Has anyone thought of remaking Steven Spielberg’s iconic – Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) or Jurassic Park (1993)? I don’t think anyone would ‘insult’ the film because the original is good enough and still watchable. Not to mention, the special effects are amazing.
He was the first director who changed our perception of fictional aliens not being hell-bent on humanity’s destruction. The aliens in the film were as intelligent and curious as us – making first contact in good faith.
Prequels may occur either constructively before a sequel or may be developed later depending on the story and fandom.
MCU’s Black Widow’s origin story came out when the fans demanded it. The studios heard and made it. The Star Wars prequel trilogy is another example of fans requesting Anakin’s fall to the dark side since the first ones came in the series.
Spin-offs occur when a part of the film needs story-telling. It is sort of an expansion of the storyline towards the already expanding universe. Ballerina is a fine example that explores the organised “rule-oriented” crime lords of the John Wick universe.
Spin-offs are welcome when they need to delve into the character or branch out to reveal several storylines. When the X-Men series came out in 2000, the character of Wolverine so deserving popularised by Hugh Jackman – spun off into various movies.
The idea of a remake is to re-introduce the story to cater to the new generation of movie-goers.
Let’s take another example of a pathetic remake that will forever traumatise the audience. Sholay (1975) is the magnum opus of Hindi Cinema. No action movie has managed to captivate the audience in the way this movie has. Everything about the movie was perfect: the cast, costumes, iconic dialogues, the music and the lot.
I am not a fan of picturised dance sequences in films. IMO, the songs in that film aren’t that impressive. Yes, I do cherish old film songs. Some of the picturised song sequences do justice, but some are unnecessary! I digress.
That movie may not appeal to the current generation, but it deserves a watch. It is an all-time classic. The action sequences were ahead of their time. The execution was so perfect that audiences would watch with unblinking eyes!
In 2007, came the pathetic remake – Aag – which means Fire in English and an insult to the original. Amitabh Bachchan the original one of the protagonists to later cast as an antagonist – drew enormous flak! Later, he admitted that the movie was a mistake! Happy Realisation!
It not only drew criticism from all sides but also attracted copyright issues from the original creators. The name changed to Aag for that very reason.
The portrayal of veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan as Gabbar Singh didn’t go down well with the audience. He is beautifully portrayed as an antagonist in films like Aankhen (2002). Ultimately, some films are heavily reliant on the cast and story. Fortunately, for Aag, it didn’t work!
What surprised me the most was what convinced Amitabh Bachchan to portray a villain for which he was a supporting actor in the original film!
The pattern may continue as long as there are stories to be told and no hurdles for creativity. Films may succeed and some may not. It all boils down to the audience’s tastes and what the fans demand. Although not listening to the fans due to financial reasons is aplenty.
The Game of Thrones seasons 7-8 divulged heavily away from the logical conclusion because they were unwritten or, perhaps, a work in progress. Fans demanded a remake of the last two seasons as the story didn’t bode well with the viewers. The studios didn’t heed the fan’s request in this instance. The probable reason could be the budget allocated to the making of each episode. The rising cost of making each epic episode could draw some re-considerations from the studio heads. Who knows!
Prequels, Spin-Offs, Remake – is it a fan thing? Yes and no. So, be it a sequel, prequel, spin-off or remake – the show must go on because there is no business like show business!
IMO, not all films are supposed to end up as a fan-service. The art of film making should continue. Sequels, prequels, spin-offs, and remakes should respect the essence of the story line and not overdo it. There are differences in film-making and cinema. Let’s acknowledge and respect that.