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C'Mon Hollywood: Back-to-Back Sequelitis

11.04.2010

This weekend, after hearing so much about the 25th anniversary of BACK TO THE FUTURE, I was feeling a little nostalgic for old Marty McFLy and Doc Brown, so I decided to re-watch the entire trilogy. I absolutely adore the first film in the series, which I tend to re-watch about once every two years. As for the sequels, I hadnít seen them since the DVDs came out in 2003, and before that, not since their original release.

The reason for this is that, even as a child (I was seven when BACK TO THE FUTURE 2 hit theaters), I was never all that keen on the sequels. Re-watching them again, I realized that both 2 and 3 are actually pretty darn good films (3 comes close to being great), but neither really holds a candle to the first film.


Before one blames this on the lack of Huey Lewis, Iíd wager that the problem with 2 and 3 is that they were shot back to back, and released a mere six months apart. Back in 89/90, this was a revolutionary idea, only previously tried by exploitation filmmakers like when Cannon shot two Alan Quartermain adventures, KING SOLOMONíS MINES, and ALAN QUARTERMAIN AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD this way, after it was assumed the first film would be a hit (it wasnít). However, even that had separate directors and units. Unlike those, the BTTF sequels were both huge-budget A-flicks, and both were directed by Robert Zemeckis, who also did the first film.

While nowadays both PART 2, and PART 3 are considered good films, back in the day both were seen as underwhelming, and both (particularly PART 3) underperformed a tad at the box office, at least compared to the mammothly successful first film. I think the problem is that by shooting both sequels back-to-back, they both felt like halves of one film, and this made them underwhelming unless viewed together.

Eventually, this simultaneous sequel-making made a big comeback, with recent years seeing THE MATRIX RELOADED, and REVOLUTIONS being shot this way, as was PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN: DEAD MANíS CHEST, and AT WORLDíS END. THE MATRIX sequels were all-out disasters, at least as far as critical and fan reaction can be judged, and Iíd wager that most fans would admit neither PIRATES sequel measured up to the original film. The big problem was that the sequels for both franchises felt bloated, and they stretched boring stories over two films, while the premises probably werenít strong enough for one film, much less two.


This brings me to the reason I wrote this column: the announcement of AVATAR 2, and 3 being shot simultaneously. While James Cameron has stated he wonít make AVATAR 3 at the same time as AVATAR 2 unless heís able to come up with enough material to justify a third film, I have no doubt that 2 and 3 will be shot back to back. I understand why studios like this method, as it helps keep costs under control, and rather than wait three years between installments, they can put out a sequel a mere six months after the second film. However, Iím not convinced this method works, as it robs the sequels of any kind of individuality from each other installment. Also, in the event that the second film sucks, weíll already have a third film shot in the same way (and presumably containing the same flaws) as the second film, making it impossible for the filmmakers to re-think the franchise between installments.

Of course, there are exceptions, as all-three LORD OF THE RINGS films were shot back-to-back, and they worked beautifully. That said, they were literary adaptations, and each film was based on a novel of their own- making up more than enough material for three films. I also think the HARRY POTTERS will be effective divided up this way, but once again, theyíre based on existing material which would have to be diluted to squeeze it into one film.


As for AVATAR, I suppose will have to wait and see. I wasnít as keen on the first film as seemingly the rest of the world was (I gave it a 7/10, and got loads of hate mail for it), but I still enjoyed it. Cameronís track record suggests he wonít make a sequel unless he has a damn good reason other than financial gain (he already has billions anyway), so perhaps I should give him the benefit of the doubt. Iím just not sold on the whole back-to-back sequel ideas, and Iíd rather see a PART 2, and a PART 3 of a franchise, rather than a PART 2, and 2.5.
Extra Tidbit: Any examples of good sequels that were shot back-to-back?
Source: JoBlo.com

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4:11PM on 11/06/2010

Seemed like Avatar was part of a back to back already.

Avatar looked great but the story was recycled and I don't think it was a strong enough film to start a franchise off of. Visually maybe but the story wasn't original or groundbreaking.
Pirates 2&3 were both terrible. And I'd say Return of the King suffered because of the rushed shooting schedule. If you watch the first film and than the third there is a definite drop in quality.
They should focus on making a great sequel to Avatar which is both original and stands on its own. Cameron is
Avatar looked great but the story was recycled and I don't think it was a strong enough film to start a franchise off of. Visually maybe but the story wasn't original or groundbreaking.
Pirates 2&3 were both terrible. And I'd say Return of the King suffered because of the rushed shooting schedule. If you watch the first film and than the third there is a definite drop in quality.
They should focus on making a great sequel to Avatar which is both original and stands on its own. Cameron is 1for1 with making sequels better than their predecessor so hopefully he can pull it off.
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6:48PM on 11/05/2010
Anybody think that any sequels or movie should have been shot back to back or had been split up. I think Inception could have been split in to two shot back to back and had been better.
Anybody think that any sequels or movie should have been shot back to back or had been split up. I think Inception could have been split in to two shot back to back and had been better.
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6:46PM on 11/05/2010
Twilight new moon and eclipse were made back to back and they both turned out terrific and just as good as the classic first one.




What the fuck did I just say, someone shoot me my ass is talking
Twilight new moon and eclipse were made back to back and they both turned out terrific and just as good as the classic first one.




What the fuck did I just say, someone shoot me my ass is talking
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12:39PM on 11/05/2010
I don't know to me the only evidence you have is that the matrix movies sucked, and I still enjoy the second one. The Pirates movies weren't horrible, just not as good as the first. I love every back to the future film but the first one is better. This can be done right though as we've seen with Lord of the Rings with each movie getting better as it goes. In capable hands shooting movies back to back should be no problem and we're talking about James Cameron here, the problem he might run into
I don't know to me the only evidence you have is that the matrix movies sucked, and I still enjoy the second one. The Pirates movies weren't horrible, just not as good as the first. I love every back to the future film but the first one is better. This can be done right though as we've seen with Lord of the Rings with each movie getting better as it goes. In capable hands shooting movies back to back should be no problem and we're talking about James Cameron here, the problem he might run into is having a strong enough story for two films seeing as the first ones wasn't all that great.
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2:47PM on 11/05/2010
Yeah, but the thing about LOTR, HOBBIT, and the HARRY POTTERS is that they're based on existing material, which they follow closely. This makes them immune to what I'm debating here. For me, HOBBIT, and LOTR are basically two films, with each installment being one chapter. The POTTERS have their own identity, but the latest one will be two part of one whole, and they're not pretending to be otherwise.
Yeah, but the thing about LOTR, HOBBIT, and the HARRY POTTERS is that they're based on existing material, which they follow closely. This makes them immune to what I'm debating here. For me, HOBBIT, and LOTR are basically two films, with each installment being one chapter. The POTTERS have their own identity, but the latest one will be two part of one whole, and they're not pretending to be otherwise.
7:32AM on 11/05/2010
I don't think the Matrix sequels were THAT bad. Reloaded was pretty ace, not as good as the 1st one but pretty damn cool, and it got a Fresh rating on Rottentomatoes, so it wasn't universally hated. Revolutions failed to provide a satisfying ending for the franchise, but that can't be blamed on them being shot back to back.
Avatar 1 didn't have much of a story to begin with, the sequels will make tons of money no matter what.
I don't think the Matrix sequels were THAT bad. Reloaded was pretty ace, not as good as the 1st one but pretty damn cool, and it got a Fresh rating on Rottentomatoes, so it wasn't universally hated. Revolutions failed to provide a satisfying ending for the franchise, but that can't be blamed on them being shot back to back.
Avatar 1 didn't have much of a story to begin with, the sequels will make tons of money no matter what.
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6:48PM on 11/05/2010
I think the matrix sequels were not horrible but over bloated, biggest problem I have with them is that the sequels look othing like the original.
I think the matrix sequels were not horrible but over bloated, biggest problem I have with them is that the sequels look othing like the original.
9:50PM on 11/04/2010
BTTF is like the original Star Wars trilogy. There will be purists who love the first, fanboys who think the second is the best and in retrospect everyone agrees that Ewoks/Old West and Han Solo/Doc Brown love stories cause the third to be weak. Back to the Jedi is still better than a lot of Hollywood crap.
BTTF is like the original Star Wars trilogy. There will be purists who love the first, fanboys who think the second is the best and in retrospect everyone agrees that Ewoks/Old West and Han Solo/Doc Brown love stories cause the third to be weak. Back to the Jedi is still better than a lot of Hollywood crap.
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9:21PM on 11/04/2010

Terrible article

This is partly for this, but also for your horrendous review of Paranormal Activity 2 because there was no place for feedback on that one. Please learn how to write about films for their quality, not your useless opinion. Not once did you even talk about ewhat you didn't like about the movie. talk about the movie! also, you are so far off with your reviews I can't stand it. The second pirates and bttf were fantastic films and I have never met people whose opinions have differed. at the
This is partly for this, but also for your horrendous review of Paranormal Activity 2 because there was no place for feedback on that one. Please learn how to write about films for their quality, not your useless opinion. Not once did you even talk about ewhat you didn't like about the movie. talk about the movie! also, you are so far off with your reviews I can't stand it. The second pirates and bttf were fantastic films and I have never met people whose opinions have differed. at the very least be more clear that these are your opinions and are not actual facts, because it seems you have no idea what you are talking about and I hate the idea that people will actually listen to what you have to say as the way it is.
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2:44PM on 11/05/2010
Ok- so let me get this straight. Because I disagree with you, I'm wrong. Is that about right? Forgive me for having an opinion of my own. Sorry bud, but I can't just go ahead and give a film a good review because I think other people will like it. If I personally don't enjoy it, then I'm obligated to give it a bad review. To do otherwise would be a lie. I'm not saying you have to agree with me- but PLEASE don't be ignorant- which is how you're coming off.
Ok- so let me get this straight. Because I disagree with you, I'm wrong. Is that about right? Forgive me for having an opinion of my own. Sorry bud, but I can't just go ahead and give a film a good review because I think other people will like it. If I personally don't enjoy it, then I'm obligated to give it a bad review. To do otherwise would be a lie. I'm not saying you have to agree with me- but PLEASE don't be ignorant- which is how you're coming off.
7:12PM on 11/05/2010
you miss my point entirely, read your "review" not once did you talk about the actual film. my arguement is not that you didn't like it, nor that you disagreed with me. I could care less than that. this is the internet after all. please say your opinion, you are most definitely entitled to it. I just ask you to please if you are going to post a review, please talk about the film. you spent most of the time ranting on the idea of a sequel to the first film and why it was a waste of time
you miss my point entirely, read your "review" not once did you talk about the actual film. my arguement is not that you didn't like it, nor that you disagreed with me. I could care less than that. this is the internet after all. please say your opinion, you are most definitely entitled to it. I just ask you to please if you are going to post a review, please talk about the film. you spent most of the time ranting on the idea of a sequel to the first film and why it was a waste of time ( which I actually AGREE with you on that point) instead of commenting on the actual plot of the film. And I feel you do this often. If you want to be a critic, for the love of god, talk about the films. give your opinion of the acting, the writing, the directing, not how much it sucks a studio is milking a film. if you want to do that, don't call it a review. Look, I'm a fan of this site, a huge one at that. I've been reading for years, but when I go to the review pages I want to read reviews.
4:14PM on 11/04/2010
I think shooting back to back is a good idea. The main problem with the matrix sequels, besides the lackluster storyline was how long it took the sequels to come out. In four years the matrix was parodied so much or copied that when the sequels came out the fans were expecting something new, something the matrix didn't deliver on. In the case of Avatar I wasn't a huge fan of the original and the sequels is a wait and see. With the Hobbit I have complete faith in Peter Jackson. Lord of the Rings
I think shooting back to back is a good idea. The main problem with the matrix sequels, besides the lackluster storyline was how long it took the sequels to come out. In four years the matrix was parodied so much or copied that when the sequels came out the fans were expecting something new, something the matrix didn't deliver on. In the case of Avatar I wasn't a huge fan of the original and the sequels is a wait and see. With the Hobbit I have complete faith in Peter Jackson. Lord of the Rings speaks for itself.
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1:45PM on 11/04/2010
They are doing this with the Hobbit as well, kinda shocked you didn't say that in this column but you mention the LOTR trilogy . I've always been a fan of this concept as the other way where the sequels are years a part never seems to work out all that great either, Godfather Part 3 and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull comes to mind.
They are doing this with the Hobbit as well, kinda shocked you didn't say that in this column but you mention the LOTR trilogy . I've always been a fan of this concept as the other way where the sequels are years a part never seems to work out all that great either, Godfather Part 3 and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull comes to mind.
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2:44PM on 11/04/2010
I guess we'll see with Batman 3, huh?
I guess we'll see with Batman 3, huh?
11:54AM on 11/04/2010

I agree

I guess I'm the only guy who fully agrees.

I've said the same thing many times. I love the BTTF sequels out of nostalgia and love for the characters, but the first one blows me away every time whereas the sequels do not. It's partially because elements of the 2nd and 3rd films directly link up, whereas they don't to the first as much (Such as Marty hating being called chicken).

2 halves of a whole film is the problem, though. It's definitely important for each film to stand on its own.
I guess I'm the only guy who fully agrees.

I've said the same thing many times. I love the BTTF sequels out of nostalgia and love for the characters, but the first one blows me away every time whereas the sequels do not. It's partially because elements of the 2nd and 3rd films directly link up, whereas they don't to the first as much (Such as Marty hating being called chicken).

2 halves of a whole film is the problem, though. It's definitely important for each film to stand on its own. And BTTF 2 isn't complete without #3. Likewise with the Matrix sequels. They're completely dependent on each other to work.
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7:50PM on 11/04/2010
Aren't all sequels dependent on at least the first film to continue the story, and can't "stand alone" anyway? Isn't that why we watch? To see the continuation of the story?
Aren't all sequels dependent on at least the first film to continue the story, and can't "stand alone" anyway? Isn't that why we watch? To see the continuation of the story?
11:46AM on 11/04/2010
they forgot to mention Superman 1 and 2
they forgot to mention Superman 1 and 2
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11:51AM on 11/04/2010
They weren't sequels.
They weren't sequels.
2:35PM on 11/04/2010
superman 2 is not a sequel?

all the movies mentioned above were shots in the dark as to whether or not they would deserve a sequel. Superman was a given that it was going to be epic.
superman 2 is not a sequel?

all the movies mentioned above were shots in the dark as to whether or not they would deserve a sequel. Superman was a given that it was going to be epic.
2:43PM on 11/04/2010
Alright, alright, I guess I should've said "they're not BOTH sequels".
Alright, alright, I guess I should've said "they're not BOTH sequels".
10:57AM on 11/04/2010

The Pink Panther and A Shot In The Dark.

Not exactly shot back to back, but A shot in the dark came out 3 MONTHS after the Pink Panther. Also I gotta say the 3rd Back to the Future is my favorite and is just pure fucking awesome. Except for Clara, but I am all for Christopher Lloyd getting some.
Not exactly shot back to back, but A shot in the dark came out 3 MONTHS after the Pink Panther. Also I gotta say the 3rd Back to the Future is my favorite and is just pure fucking awesome. Except for Clara, but I am all for Christopher Lloyd getting some.
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2:49PM on 11/05/2010
PINK PANTHER & SHOT IN THE DARK where shot a few months apart. As soon as PINK PANTHER wrapped, but BEFORE it hit theaters, Blake Edwards got the greenlight to do SHOT.
PINK PANTHER & SHOT IN THE DARK where shot a few months apart. As soon as PINK PANTHER wrapped, but BEFORE it hit theaters, Blake Edwards got the greenlight to do SHOT.
10:28AM on 11/04/2010
I never perceived BTTF 2 and 3 as one film, or 3 being a 2.5 follow up. I always considered them to be separate films. Maybe it's because I thought 2 was excellent and 3 was quite uncreative. But I do understand where you're coming form. Most movies filmed back-to-back usually end up being awful. The track record hasn't been very good.

Extra Tidbit: BTTF trilogy is better than LOTR trilogy... IMO.
I never perceived BTTF 2 and 3 as one film, or 3 being a 2.5 follow up. I always considered them to be separate films. Maybe it's because I thought 2 was excellent and 3 was quite uncreative. But I do understand where you're coming form. Most movies filmed back-to-back usually end up being awful. The track record hasn't been very good.

Extra Tidbit: BTTF trilogy is better than LOTR trilogy... IMO.
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10:25AM on 11/04/2010
This was a cool column. I thought all of the BTTF movies were great, but the first one with forever be the best one. As for The Matrix Trilogy, I enjoyed all of them and apreciated how all of them were different and I loved how it was one long story because the time you get to the end of Matrix:Revolutions you feel so drained and tired. POTC, first one was good, second one was a good follow up, but the third was just too confusing with all the multiple storylines and backstabbings.
This was a cool column. I thought all of the BTTF movies were great, but the first one with forever be the best one. As for The Matrix Trilogy, I enjoyed all of them and apreciated how all of them were different and I loved how it was one long story because the time you get to the end of Matrix:Revolutions you feel so drained and tired. POTC, first one was good, second one was a good follow up, but the third was just too confusing with all the multiple storylines and backstabbings.
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10:07AM on 11/04/2010
As far as "The Hobbit" is concerned, Peter Jackson is gonna make this work because he obvioulsy isn't filming it with two films in mind. It's one story split into two. Avatar on the other hand may suffer from "The Matrix" syndrome. To much of a good thing. Peter Jackson made the unmakable story with "The Lord of the Rings". He's got my confidence. James Cameron may be jumping the gun with two more "Avatar" films.
As far as "The Hobbit" is concerned, Peter Jackson is gonna make this work because he obvioulsy isn't filming it with two films in mind. It's one story split into two. Avatar on the other hand may suffer from "The Matrix" syndrome. To much of a good thing. Peter Jackson made the unmakable story with "The Lord of the Rings". He's got my confidence. James Cameron may be jumping the gun with two more "Avatar" films.
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+4
9:50AM on 11/04/2010

I disagree about BTTF 2 and 3

While yes they are not as great as the original, they are still pretty darn good and a lot of fun to watch. I do not think they have to be viewed together. Part 2 does end on a "cliffhanger" of sorts but so does the original!
While yes they are not as great as the original, they are still pretty darn good and a lot of fun to watch. I do not think they have to be viewed together. Part 2 does end on a "cliffhanger" of sorts but so does the original!
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9:19AM on 11/04/2010
Umm..to No_Fun... I'll definatly say that the LOTR Trilogy is far superior than the Back to the Future trilogy. The first BTTF is a true classic, but I'll throw the sequels into the not up to par category. Theres a reason people generally only talk about the first one and not the latter two, they dont hold up nearly as well and arent nearly as good.
Umm..to No_Fun... I'll definatly say that the LOTR Trilogy is far superior than the Back to the Future trilogy. The first BTTF is a true classic, but I'll throw the sequels into the not up to par category. Theres a reason people generally only talk about the first one and not the latter two, they dont hold up nearly as well and arent nearly as good.
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5:50PM on 11/04/2010
Who u been talking too? :-,
Who u been talking too? :-,
9:15AM on 11/04/2010

I will

Even if he wasn't, I'll imply it. Lord of the Rings is better than Back to the Future.

This is a very nice post with some thought-provoking data. I commend you, good sir.
Even if he wasn't, I'll imply it. Lord of the Rings is better than Back to the Future.

This is a very nice post with some thought-provoking data. I commend you, good sir.
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-3
8:40AM on 11/04/2010
I disagree with most of this, Back to the Future parts 2 and 3 are pretty damned good and I know alot of people who consider the 2nd to be the best one, and I myself aren't sure which one I like the most. And I seriously hope you're not implying that Lord of the rings is better than Back to the Future....
I disagree with most of this, Back to the Future parts 2 and 3 are pretty damned good and I know alot of people who consider the 2nd to be the best one, and I myself aren't sure which one I like the most. And I seriously hope you're not implying that Lord of the rings is better than Back to the Future....
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5:47PM on 11/04/2010
You're absolutely right.. Future 2 is mine and many others favorate of the three but the fact is that I can't watch just part 1, I have to watch the trilogy and to me and many other people, the trilogy is considered one story because of the precise continuity. My son the other day said they made a mistake in part 1 because The older doc Brown was not in the final scene the way he was in part 2 since he traveled back in time and we had a whole debate ove that.. Unlike many other sequels.. U
You're absolutely right.. Future 2 is mine and many others favorate of the three but the fact is that I can't watch just part 1, I have to watch the trilogy and to me and many other people, the trilogy is considered one story because of the precise continuity. My son the other day said they made a mistake in part 1 because The older doc Brown was not in the final scene the way he was in part 2 since he traveled back in time and we had a whole debate ove that.. Unlike many other sequels.. U cannot separate these films, they are in perfect synergy
7:55PM on 11/04/2010
Love BTTF 1, 2 was/is a very interesting follow up, 3 I can't fucking stand, but I hate Western-set stories.

I've come to the realization, though, that the BTTF movies are essentially the same damn movie 3 times.
Love BTTF 1, 2 was/is a very interesting follow up, 3 I can't fucking stand, but I hate Western-set stories.

I've come to the realization, though, that the BTTF movies are essentially the same damn movie 3 times.
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