Thursday, May 21, 2009

The 15 Best Sequels of All Time

Last week, I commented on James Gunn's poll of the worst sequels of all time. Today, I'm commenting on his follow-up poll, the best sequels of all time. Converse to the last one, the parameter here is that he's asking which sequel most improved on the previous film.

1. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
I have to agree. Although I've always liked Star Trek: The Motion Picture, slow and old-fashioned as it is, Star Trek II is a much, much better film. Maybe it's that I appreciate TMP more than I actually really "like" it. I could see where Gene Roddenberry was really trying to do something with a sort of cerebral science fiction that the TV show only ever just touched on. Too bad they couldn't pull it off.

2. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
I love this movie, but is it really a huge leap in quality over the first one? The first one is pretty fucking great. They're both really great movies. What I'm saying is, putting the sequel on this list makes the first one seem deficient in some way, when it's a pretty fantastic movie.

3. Evil Dead 2
Same question, really. In the world of handmade, low budget horror, The Evil Dead is one of the best. I'd put it on the same list as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Last House on the Left as one of the great horror films. And I actually think it's tighter than Evil Dead 2, although I love all three of these movies. I also love that they're all pretty different in tone.

4. The Empire Strikes Back
I remember when I was in high school showing these movies to a friend of mine (back when there were just three of these movies). We watched one each afternoon for three days. She was a Czech exchange student and had never seen the Star Wars trilogy before. She really liked Star Wars, but after seeing Empire she was really blown away. She loved Empire so much that the first one was sort of diminished for her. "I hope the last one is as good as this one, or at least better than the first one." Cracked me up.

I've always felt Star Wars was a little slow. George Lucas was still finding his universe (and has never stopped, apparently, but hey, it's his). The Empire Strikes Back is still my favorite of the six movies.

(By the way, I also think Revenge of the Sith should be on this list. It was a vast improvement over Attack of the Clones, which is the one Star Wars film I really think is pretty bad.)

5. Aliens
Great film, but so is the original. I put them on the same level of quality, so, again...

6. The Godfather, Part II
The first film has it all over the sequel in every way. I hate being put in this position with The Godfather, Part II. I don't think it's a bad film at all. I just think it's a weaker movie that's been overpraised.

7. The Dark Knight
No. Batman Begins was so much better. I was disappointed by The Dark Knight.

8. X2: X-Men United
Sure, but quality is a relative idea when it comes to any of these movies. The biggest problem with this movie is an unmanageable number of characters, so none of the 37 endings is particularly satisfying (especially that unbelievable bullshit with Jean Grey; she might as well have said "No, Scott, I need to step outside for a contrived death so the fanboys can have Dark Phoenix in the next movie!"). Great set-up, though, and a number of good scenes and characterizations.

9. The Road Warrior
Agreed, though I do like Mad Max.

10. Spider-Man 2
Better than the first, although I also loved the first.

11. Superman II
No. I love the first one best. I just hate a lot of the silly humor of the sequel. The Richard Donner version is so much better, even though it repeats the ending of the first movie. I want to just combine them both into one four hour movie.

12. TIE: Dawn of the Dead; The Devil's Rejects; and Back to the Future, Part II
Dawn of the Dead is excellent, but Night of the Living Dead is also excellent, just on a smaller scale. Maybe that's what a lot of people are doing here; taking the grander scale of some sequels as a quality leap.

The Devil's Rejects is a quality leap, though. I like House of 1000 Corpses, but The Devil's Rejects is a much better movie.

Back to the Future, Part II? That's nuts. They're all good movies, but the first one is so much better than the second and third.

13. Gremlins 2: The New Batch
That's the first time I've ever heard that. I think they're both great, the second one is just bigger. Two of my faves, though.

14. Toy Story 2
I agree. Part of the problem with the first movie is that they hadn't quite found the characters yet, but had an excellent situation they worked from. At times in the first movie, Woody just comes across as hostile. I watched every Pixar movie recently and Toy Story holds up really well, but Toy Story 2 is the better movie.

15. Hellboy 2: The Golden Army
Again, I love both movies equally. Hellboy 2 expanded the world of Hellboy, but they're both great.

Some of James Gunn's personal choices that didn't make the poll:
* Before Sunset -- I've never seen either of these. Should I?
* Drunken Master 2 -- I've never seen either of these, either. These I know I need to see.
* Shrek 2 -- A better time than the first one, but they're both pretty good. Still, the second one walks a tightrope between being too referency and lame and pandering, and actually being character-driven. The awful third movie diminishes them both. DreamWorks has become a lazy, shorthand persona factory, which makes their few actual good movies (most recently Kung Fu Panda) easy to miss.
* For a Few Dollars More -- I would've picked The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. The first two Dollars films are good, but they have a lot of slow patches that are trying at times.
* The Bourne Ultimatum -- Christ, no. They're all good, but I felt Ultimatum was the weakest. I think it suffers from the filmmakers not being able to decide until two-thirds of the way through if this was the last Bourne movie or not. (And if it wasn't, I want another one, right now.)
* Batman Returns -- Absolutely. Much better than the first movie. The first movie has dated terribly, actually.

I'm surprised there were no Bond flicks in there. Maybe no one considers them sequels, but instead episodes in a series about the same character. Which they are, I just think it's interesting. If you considered them sequels, there are a lot in there which are better than their predecessors. Especially Casino Royale.

1 comment:

Jaquandor said...

"Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset" are wonderful movies. I can't recommend them highly enough. All they are is conversation, and walking. And they're beautiful.