Nerddom is littered with bad sequels. For every film franchise that manages to make it to a good third movie, there are dozens that never even make it to a good second one. So it’s really saying something that “The Dark Knight Rises” is not only a threequel, but one that looks good and most of fandom is actually excited to go see opening day. It also says something that “Men In Black III” has come along and gotten a better reception than the second one.
It’s not quite the summer of the threequel, but considering their track record, it’s surprisingly good, so far.
But why has Christopher Nolan succeeded where so many have failed? Well, we’ve got a few ideas.
#5) Creative Departures
Most Notable Example: “Batman”, Oddly Enough
1989′s “Batman” gets slagged a little too much, thanks to the combination of Tim Burton becoming Hot Topic fodder and people deciding that there can be only one “Batman” movie. But it’s still a great movie, in a lot of ways, and it pretty much defined, for better and for worse, the blockbuster and the direction it would take for the next ten years.
Unfortunately, the production designer, Anton Furst, died, and Burton took over that job for the second film, which among other problems made “Batman Returns” a…difficult move. Then Burton, depending on who you asked, burned out on Batman or decided he wanted to leverage his big-studio cred while it lasted, so Warner Brothers hired Joel Schumacher, and we all know how that turned out.
Pretty simply, you need to keep the creative team, because otherwise, you run a risk that whoever you get won’t quite capture the same energy. This is why studios generally make sequels back-to-back. On the other hand, that won’t save you from…
#4) Thin Material
Most Notable Example: “Pirates of the Carribbean”
“Pirates” should not have worked. It was a movie based on a freaking Disney ride. But, with a mix of a lighthearted tone and a pretty good cast, it became a hit.
Then they were expected to deliver not one, but two sequels, and they had to share the same plot, please.
The franchise collapsed under the expectation of delivering a serious drama amid what was a fun and light fluffy swashbuckling movie with some entertainingly gross effects.
Most Notable Example: Pick Any Horror Franchise, Really
One of the biggest problems with sequels is the fact that, instead of an entirely new movie, they’ll just remake the old one.
We see this constantly in horror franchises. Is there any difference between most of the Jason movies, in the end, other than the cast and the occasional “it’s not Jason” twist? This has thankfully largely gone by the boards as Hollywood has stopped making slasher sequels, but you still see it way too often: “Men In Black II” had the same plot as “Men In Black”, for example.