Top Ten Sequels That Are Better Than the Originals
In honor of Summer Blockbuster season, which just began with Iron Man 3 and continues until we’re suffering from movie candy diabetes, I thought I’d take a moment to look back at that venerable Hollywood creation – the Sequel. I’ve provoked controversy before, so why not court it again. Here’s my Top Ten Sequels That Are Better Than the Originals. We already debated over remakes that were better than the originals, so why not dig deeper with anthologies that begat stronger second chapters. Note: I’m only listing second part-ers, even when there’s a long line of sequels in a series (i.e.; James Bond, Star Wars, etc.). Speaking of Star Wars, I chose not to track that series because I’m sure my comments/thoughts would end with a ComicCon Wookie stalking and leaving me for dead in the Tattooine desert.
Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Frankenstein’s director, James Whale, was not keen at first to make the sequel, but after the success of The Invisible Man, Universal pleaded and he acquiesced. He put the writers through hell rejecting many versions, until they went back to the original novel to expand on the monster’s desire for a mate. Whale never thought the sequel would outdo the original, so he purposely injected satire, which was what the film needed, to send it over the top to critical and box office success. And Elsa Lanchester, serving as both Mary Shelley and the monster’s bride was an inspired bit of casting by Whale’s himself.
From Russia With Love (1963)
I recently wrote a short review of the second entry into the world of Bond, and it is definitely not the best in the entire series, but as sequels go, it outdoes Dr. No nicely. There’s actually some continuing story elements from the first to second Bond which you rarely saw in the series (until Quantum of Solace’s immediate following of Casino Royale), not the least of which is SPECTRE’s Number One Villain, Blofeld, mentioning the failure of Dr. No to vanquish James Bond, and the first Bond girl from Dr. No, Sylvia Trench, showing up at the top of the sequel as Bond’s on and off again girlfriend.
A Shot in the Dark (1964)
People still hold the original Pink Panther up as an untouchable classic, but for my money, the best of the series and the most continuously funny, is Sellers second outing as Inspector Clouseau. I personally believe they should’ve put the series to rest after this one. Sellers’s Clouseau is much more fully realized (almost a different character than the Clouseau he played in the Pink Panther) and introduced us to the two most important supporting characters, Herbert Lom’s Chief Dreyfuss, and Clouseau’s faithful manservant/combatant Kato.
The Godfather Part 2 (1974)
I know there will be many naysayers (including our fearless editor, Brandy Dean herself) believing the first Godfather is the best. But there is always a sound argument to be made that this is the better film. While there’s no question that the first part is one of the greatest films of the 20th century, Part 2 is really what a sequel should be. It’s not a retread of the original, but a continuing story that focuses and details Michael Corleone’s ascension to power and descent into loneliness. Plus, it masterfully draws parallels between Michael and his father Vito in his younger years. Coppola and Puzo are able to keep several storylines afloat, spanning 60 years and have it all make sense. Godfather 1 may have created a genre, but Godfather 2 refined it.
The Road Warrior (1981)
The best in the series picks up several years after the original Mad Max leaves off. Now a bitter cop turned lone gunman, living off the post-apocalyptic land, Gibson’s portrayal is one of the best of his career, and one of the archetypal antiheroes of the 80s. Oft imitated but never equaled (can you count how many sci-fi actioners have since used punk scavengers?) , the direction and story are leaps and bounds leaner, meaner and funnier than the original. And at least Gibson’s own voice was used in this version.
Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
The first Star Trek was a masturbatory meditation on the Starship Enterprise, with too much time taken re-introducing each iconic character. The sequel is arguably the best of the series, and the most quoted. (“Khannnnn!”) Star Trek 2 works because it feels like an episode of the original series. Ricardo Montalban’s “over the top” scene chewing is only matched by William Shatner’s perpetual self love, with an ending that brought many a trekkie, trekker, and non-Star trek fanatics to tears.
Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (1987)
This is, again, a remake of an original student film. The Evil Dead, Sam Raimi’s ultra low budget gorefest put characters in a shack in the woods with the famous book you shouldn’t open or read, “The Necromancer.” However, instead of going for pure shock and horror, as the first does admirably well, the sequel takes the story and turns it into an insanely hysterical slapstick comedy on crack. A handless man retro-fitting a chainsaw as a limb extension may be passé today, but it was hipper than hip in 1982. Groovy.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Before Jonathan Demme’s Academy Award winner, we were introduced to Hannibal Lecter (Brian Cox) in 1986’s Manhunter, a good film in its own right, based on the book Red Dragon from the disturbed mind of Thomas Harris. Fresh off “Miami Vice,” director Michael Mann was still heavily influenced by the neon 80s with this slick and coke-fueled thriller starring William Petersen as FBI Profiler Will Graham, decades before he assumed the role of CSI’s Grissom. Remade with it original title by Brett Ratner in 2002, starring Edward Norton , Red Dragon still doesn’t carry the heft and skill that Demme injected into the Lambs. Only six years after Manhunter’s lukewarm reception, Investigator Clarice Starling would step in front of that infamous glass holding room and stare face to face with Anthony Hopkins’s first go-round as the most notorious fictional cannibal. As good and fun as Manhunter is, it doesn’t hold a candle to this mold breaking horror show.
Robert Rodriguez’s sequel to El Mariachi is more of a do-over of his freshman outing that was made, legend has it, for $7,000. Now with some Hollywood muscle behind him, he put together a first rate cast, Antonio Banderas taking over the original role played by Carlos Gallardo (who still provided a cameo) as well as adding the stunning Salma Hayek and character actors Steve Buscemi and Cheech Marin, plus a cameo from one of his financial benefactors, Quentin Tarantino. (Rodriguez directed one of Tarantino’s early scripts From Dusk Til Dawn). The action is comic book hilarious, and the story almost a scene for scene remake of the original, but done with the clearer eye lacking from the original’s student film trappings.
The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
There’s no question that the Bourne series is a modern retelling of James Bond, and it shows no signs of losing steam. What makes the Bournes so compelling are how well they are made. The Bourne Identity was a solid origin story, but the second found ways to continue the peril and raise the stakes by delving deeper into Jason Bourne’s mysterious past and creating the best motivation to bring him out of early retirement, the murder of his love (whoops! Spoiler!). Doug Liman’s direction was surpassed by the sequel’s Paul Greengrass – his staging should be used as a master class in perfectly executed action sequences.