Saturday, July 08, 2006

What accounts for the difference?

Sequels are different. Many, many sequels lose something entirely in the translation and only a rare few are better than the original.


I'm no movie critic so I don't have the big answer. I can only offer my take. For my money it's all about familiarity.

Everybody knows the old saying about how it breeds contempt. Too much familiarity with characters, not enough new settings, the same-old canned conflicts breed contempt with moviegoers.

Last night we screened the newest adventures of Captain Jack. The depths of my wife's Johnny Depp fandom (read: obsession) know no bounds. Having enjoyed the surprising amount of fun that was Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, I willingly agreed to an opening-night screening of the newest film.

While I enjoyed it enough while watching, I'm left with a similar feeling to the one I had after first viewing Oceans Twelve; somehow, I've partaken of the cinematic equivalent of cotton candy. Devilishly good in-the-moment but leaving nothing to show for it afterwards.

I must agree with this review as well: are my decidedly anti-analytical, un-intellectual capsule reviews of each: “Superman,” so-so; “Pirates,” inventively fun.

I’m skipping all plot details because there’s a point I’d like to make about why both films fell short of my expectations: at two-and-a-half hours each, they’re too freakin’ long.

Thankfully however, just as I reached the point of asking "Does it ever end?," and not caring, it did so ever abrubtly with director Gore Verbinski's cliffhanger. As Joe Lozito notes: And, of course, we know there’s a third film coming. No secret has been made of that. The overly-long film ends on a perilously uninteresting cliff-hanger that leaves nearly every thread of the plot hanging free.

Verbinski's choice of ending points could have been better. Like the similarly filmed Lord of the Rings trilogy, Verbinski had multiple-films worth of material and was forced to find a somewhat logical end point for Dead Man. Unfortunately it appears that Dead Man and World's End (part III) are seamlessly woven together and happen in one continuous stream, making any sort of definitive end point very awkward.

My wife and I spoke about the film after getting home and she was surprised by my reaction. I basically explained that "first installments" are always my favorite part of a trilogy or multi-part story. Fellowship of the Ring is far and away my favorite volume in the Lord of the Rings, a story which I've dearly loved since my first reading nearly 30 years ago.

What accounts for it? I keep coming back to familiarity. At Page 1 there is everything still to know about the characters and their volume two--or film two as the case may be--there is less to learn, less of a sense of adventure and more a sense of something else that Lozito mentions: ...too often the second movie in a proposed trilogy ends up feeling like filler. Call it the curse of “Back to the Future 2”.

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