Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

A last word on sequels.

There’s nothing more tedious than newspaper articles whinging about the ubiquity of sequels. Yeah, yeah, yeah. We get it. Back in the old days, sequels were outlawed by the witchfinders and every film sprung fresh and new from Mrs Hollywood’s …

Sun, Jan 30, 2011, 22:01

   

There’s nothing more tedious than newspaper articles whinging about the ubiquity of sequels. Yeah, yeah, yeah. We get it. Back in the old days, sequels were outlawed by the witchfinders and every film sprung fresh and new from Mrs Hollywood’s blameless loins. It’s like complaining about the weather or moaning about public transport. Nothing ever changes. “Lo! Yonder Shakespeare hath sold us a spoilt-fotheringay with this most latest of his plays,” they used to say. “Henry IV Part 2 indeed! Curse me for a harlet’s draining pot if he hath not run to false, weary coxcombs. You wouldn’t have seen that in Marlowe’s day.” And so on.

I know how you feel, Cap’n.

It is, however, hard to avoid the suspicion that sequel addiction really has got totally out of hand. A recent piece in Box-Office Mojo comes up with the staggering statistic that a full fifth of next year’s nationwide (US that is) releases are set to be sequels. The site goes on to point out that a record number of part fours — five, as it happens — will be unleashed on the lucky public. The latter category includes such unpromising ventures as Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World. This does not even take into account the low-rent sequels emerging in limited release and on DVD.

I have nothing much new to say on the issue. The success of Inception and Avatar would, you’d think, have persuaded Hollywood that original scripts can deliver serious returns. Recessions do, however, tend to make executives nervy and the apparent return to the poisoned well was, thus, greatly to be expected. Also, the business moves slowly and the Avatar effect may take a year to properly kick in. At any rate, it looks as if the cinematic summer might be flavoured by lashings of weary deja vu. It makes you feel like climbing in your dinghy and making for a remote island.

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