If Toy Story 3 didn’t make you well up, you officially have no soul
Words Greg Taylor
Movie sequels – bigger, louder, crapper, right? Well, not always.
A new entry into a franchise gives the chance to fix previous mistakes, plunge into fresh new themes, and bring popular supporting characters to the forefront. So while casting maximum shade on the moronic Matrix sequels and the ponderous Pirates of the Caribbean follow-ups, join us instead for a celebration of six rare but wonderful sequels that improve on what came before.
George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968) is an all-time classic, the disturbing progenitor of the modern horror movie. It’s also (whisper it) a bit boring, cheap-as-chips and as ponderous as the shambling zombies it depicts. The shopping-mall set sequel has guts, gags and gore to spare – it’s a full-on epic of satirical splatter that’s as funny as it is repulsive. With some of the greatest effects of the genre and a genuine apocalyptic vibe, it bites, chews, and vomits out the over-rated original.
Some say Ridley Scott’s 1979 Alien is the best in the franchise. They’re wrong. It’s slow and dreary, aside from some great gore. James Cameron’s gung-ho sequel, however, fully delivers on all the promise of the idea, pitting a team of pumped-up space marines against an endless horde of acid-blooded meanies. Aliens doesn’t let up for a second, and is both huge in scope and immediate in effect. It gives us great characters to root for as the onslaught intensifies, and stands as one of the greatest action films of all time. The original isn’t fit to lick the sequel’s extended phallic proboscis.
Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) turbo-charged the comic-book blockbuster, but its slavish obsession with the hammier-than-a-Peppa-Pig-gammon-steak Jack Nicholson left little room for anything else. Burton’s Christmas-set sequel gave him space to up the gothic grotesquery, generously increase the freak count, and wade into his pet theme of damaged outsiders interacting with an even more messed up world. It’s a glorious personal statement and far more enjoyable than its predecessor.
Guillermo del Toro, Oscar winner for The Shape of Water, is a stunning visual storyteller, and his sequel to 2004 superhero film Hellboy gave free rein to his wondrous imagination. Deadly tooth fairies, a giant elemental forest god, the eponymous, glinting army, and the grinning Angel of Death – there’s enough eye-popping bizarreness here to give Tim Burton a brain haemorrhage. But it’s a lovelorn Barry Manilow sing-along by a giant red demon and a fish man that really sets Hellboy 2 above its predecessor. Can we have another one please?
Sure, 1995’s Toy Story opened the flood-gates for ever more gobsmacking CGI movies, but over two decades later (!) it feels a bit dated and simple. Toy Story 3 is the apotheosis of Pixar’s patented skill at mixing child-friendly gags with deep-cut nostalgia hits for melancholy adults. Dealing with hefty themes of abandonment and depression, and with a deeply distressing scene that threatens the beloved toys with destruction, the film is nevertheless fast-moving and colourful enough to keep wailing brats silent with awe, and too distracted to see their parents wiping away a secret tear or two.
It’s rare for a sequel to improve on the original. It’s unheard of for a franchise to hit its stride on its sixth outing. So maximum kudos to Tom Cruise and director Chris McQuarrie for turning the faintly ridiculous Mission: Impossible series into the most exciting and visually astounding blockbusters around (shut up Fast and Furious). This summer’s entry gave Cruise’s heroic Ethan Hunt psychological depth as well as absurd stunts, and included one of the best fights-in-a-toilet in cinema history, as well as Henry Cavill with a serious moustache.