Monday, May 3, 2010

The Sequel Formula

Believe it or not, the Summer movie season kicks off this weekend with "Iron Man 2." Tony Stark and the gang are back in the sequel to the 2008 smash hit. It's easily the most anticipated blockbuster of the Summer bunch. Sequels can be really good, but they can also get really ugly. In honor of this being the start of the Summer season, and "Iron Man" week, I'm compiling a list of thoughts/possibilties/expectations and putting them into a series of articles.

First up, the sequel formula. What goes into making a good sequel? Obviously, Movie studios are hoping to expand on the success of the first film, but you have to follow the right formula for that to work. To quote "Scream 2," "Sequels themselves are inferior films..." -- which means you have to expand on the characters' universe for the movie to stand next to the original. Now, expanding doesn't necessarily mean more explosions/fight scenes/characters/etc. Expanding can also mean taking their first world, and turning it upside down. New characters are always welcome, but they aren't a necessity. If Marvel follows their formula for two other sequels, fanboys like me will be happy with the product and coming back for more.

"Spider-Man 2" still stands as one of the greatest superhero sequels by Marvel Studios. The 2004 Summer hit kept the same, simple product from the first film and just turned it on itself. We didn't see a ton of new villains, characters, or storylines and that was perfectly fine. What made the movie so good was the fact that it kept things simple. Peter fights with the powers of Spidey and his love for Mary Jane. There's only one true nemesis in the film, Doc Ock. Too many times movies try to add too many bad guys and it just makes the sequel messy and irritating. When you have a character such as Dr. Octopus, who is one of the strongest villains in comic book history, he's all you need. Some sequels also try to make the new villian darker and more sinister, but that's not a must. The Doc wasn't darker than The Goblin, but he was still a great evil match to the Spidey Sense. Now, with "Iron Man 2," it's obvious that Whiplash is a darker villian than Iron Monger. Will it work?....only time will tell, but I'm super excited about seeing Mickey Rourke go bat crazy again the suit of armor.

Sometimes sequels can involve plenty of new characters and turn out really well. There's no question that "Iron Man 2" is adding a slew of people as the move towards "The Avengers," but will it work? "X2: X-Men United" worked to the tenth degree. In my mind, this film is one of (if not) the greatest underrated superhero movie of all-time. Bryan Singer did an excellent job of keeping the plot line simple, but throwing in these new and intricate characters that helped stir the pot. Night-Crawler was one of the most exciting and most welcomed people to X2. If you add someone, they must have a purpose. Don't just add bad guys, partners, and side characters just for the sake of a laugh or explosion. There's quite a few new characters in "Iron Man 2" so we shall see how well they all mash up not only in this film, but other movies to come....

That's right, I just ended that paragraph on an Avengers tease. Which I'm hoping is not the case with this weekend's movie. "Spider-Man 2" and "X2" were great, but they weren't building towards a universe like this film is. If Marvel uses the formulas that both Spidey and the X-Men banked on, we should be in for a fun ride for weeks to come. How will Tony Stark's second round compare with these other sequels....we wil find out soon enough.

There's much more "Iron Man 2" coverage to come this week. Also, be sure to check out our weekly podcast for the very latest.

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