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When the sequel makes the original worse

Sometimes a sequel makes the original worse just by comparison; The Addams Family Values is just such a better movie than the one it followed, and New Super Mario Bros. is comparatively the weakest in the NSMB series.

That’s not what I’m talking about here.

Instead, take something like The Matrix Revolutions. The original was a potent metaphor for how culture shapes us, for how “fish can’t see the water”, for how a dominant ideology—a hegemony, even—is something that affects us in ways we’re not even aware of. (Frustratingly, the movie’s imagery is used not only by my own side of the Overton window, but also the opposite, to the point of it’s basically ruined for all time by all the “redpilled” fucks.)

The third movie comes across as if all the philosophy in all three movies is only relevant for the specific diegetic conceits of the trilogy. It makes it all about the proverbial midichlorians.

The first movie still works on its own, but the second movie becomes completely pointless. A lot of us liked the second movie, The Matrix Reloaded, but a lot of that was because it seemed to be building up to something interesting, which was ultimately a letdown. It’s not that Revolutions is a bad movie. It’s that it’s just a science fiction adventure movie.

Another example is Analyze That, which made me realize that “Oh, I guess that in this and in the original Analyze This, they were making fun of mental health issues all this time.” Uh, I get that more perceptive people probably realized that as soon they saw the first movie. That’s fine, that only shows that “the sequel makes the original worse” is such a personal journey.♥︎

Sometimes, a sequel or prequel can make the original more compelling. The Perry Mason prequel that came out the other year made me more interested in the original books because of how it really humanized the characters in a way that was missing. This sort of overlaps the concept of shows that take a while to become good, like Adventure Time or Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Of course, ideally we want both parts to be good right away. I love an original that works, that’s fantastic on its own, and then a sequel that has really changed with its audience, subverting and destroying the original in a poignant and meaningful and ultimately respectful way. Archie and Afterlife with Archie comes to mind; zombie apocalypses are a dime a dozen but when the cast is a set of character that I love, it hits that much harder and more meaningfully. Another example is The Secret of Monkey Island and its sequel Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge. The tonal changes were chocking but, for me at least, they worked perfectly.