6 Basic Types of Film Sequels

5. The Back to Back

Matrix vs BTTF

Description:So you made some money. Oh did I say some? I mean a metric frak-ton of money. Upon your release pre-sales went through the roof, critics sang your praises, and you almost became an instant cultural landmark upon opening weekend’s dawn. Someone up there must really like you, as the stars have aligned to provide you funding for not only one, but two future installments. That’s right, you’re getting the Trilogy Treatment, and you’ve already taken the first big step. At once two scripts are written, and the shooting schedule is planned out…you’re going to film both films one right after the other. It’s exhausting, it’s mad, it’s…really, really smart considering the ravages of age, the demand your stars are going to have, and the continuity you want to preserve in your universe.

The Right Way:So after two pots of coffee, an all nighter listening to Kenny Loggins (circa Danger Zone, none of that Pooh Corner stuff), and a quick re-read/re-watch of Part I, you come up with a brilliant idea! This idea is one big story arc, easily converted into two separate parts. Two separate movies really, seeing as one is set differently from the other and the characters grow as much between these films as they did between the first and the second. Think of this as two smaller ideas that link together to make one big, cohesive idea. These movies really tie the series together, and it’s all the better for it.

(Example: Back To The Future Parts II and III.  The bigger story arc is Marty and Doc getting back to 1985 after trying to fix the future, and accidentally flubbing with the past, twice! Take that arc, and break it into two parts: Marty and Doc correcting 1955 to save 1985, then Marty trying to save Doc and correct 1885. Now throw in the development of Marty McFly growing into a proud man who doesn’t care if you call him chicken, and Doc Brown making a family instead of just relying on Marty, and you’ve got two films that are fun as well as heartwarming.)

The Wrong Way: Again, two pots of coffee and an all   listening to Kenny Loggins are involved. However, you got to listening to the Pooh Corner era stuff, and as soon as Your Heart Will Lead You Home kicked in, you went all teary and wrote way too much action to try and compensate for the tears falling onto your desk. However, all is not lost, for you have only enough story to get you through one sequel. With some clever dipping into the wells of region, philosophy, and romantic cliches; you extend this story into two films. Your mythology is very thin, so thin you could rest a hot coffee on top of it and it’d burn through on mere heat energy alone. But hey, check out that 15 minute freeway chase!

(Example: The Matrix Reloaded/Revolutions. While fun flicks, it’s time to admit that The Wachowskis consulted their local college philosophy majors/theology majors/drum circle, and came up with one story that was just too little for two films. Neo journeys to the Machine City and becomes DigiChrist. Ok, that’s cool and all, but you could have built your way up a little better, and with much less convolution. I don’t care that Zion is a metaphor for religious subtext, as opposed to the dirty hippie rave you showed me. Also, your fight scenes are cool, but if you compressed your two and a half hour run-time into an hour and a half/two hour film, you’d be making everything much easier on your audience.)