The best sequels aren’t sequels. Terminator was a thriller – Terminator 2 was an action movie. Alien was a horror – Aliens was an action movie. Star Wars was a modern fairy tale – The Empire Strikes back was a major, major downer.
However much fans want more of the same, follow-up films often only succeed when they change the formula entirely. Fast and Furious only became the world conquering franchise it is today once it abandoned street racing to become a building destroying, Lynx-huffing extravaganza.
Jurassic World has seen similar success in transforming the original’s soft sci-fi into full blown satire. The previous sequels –The Lost World et al – thought fans wanted a continuation of the story, and have been almost immediately forgotten. Fans want something new. They want an invisible T-Rex and raptor cops.
Magic Mike XXL turns the original’s ‘Rocky in a thong’ into a surreal neon dystopia, where America is entirely populated by strippers and dollar bills fall from the sky like acid rain. Beyond Channing Tatum’s taut posterior, the film is almost unrecognisable, which is what makes it worth watching.
It’s a lesson that some have learned better than others. The Terminator franchise – which includes one of the classic examples of the genre-shifting sequel – has now become mired in its own continuity. Terminator Genisys is like fan-fiction in that it simply remixes what was already there. You will struggle to find anything truly new.
Arnie may be back, but sometimes that’s not enough…