When Sequels Attack II

Buffy the TV show was a reboot and it was successful as it took what worked from the original film, which was basically the title, and built on it. Pretty much the TV program changed the direction of and created a compelling mythos for what was a forgettable film with an interesting premise and little more. And now there is a Buffy re-reboot, without Joss Whedon and without the cast from the TV show – exactly the things which mostly made the program work.

One presumes Fran Rubel Kuzui’s attempting to chase the current (and waning) vampire trend in pop culture. Others have argued, persuasively, this effort will probably be crap. And anyway why redo the franchise with a novice scriptwriter when there’s more, as fans know, through the successful Buffy graphic novel series? The other spin-off, Angel mostly worked too, because of its strong cast. Each of the main characters developed and while those cross-over episodes with Buffy worked, they weren’t needed. I have issues around where some characters like Cordelia ended up, (does everyone agree Cordy and Connor together were ick?), but the point is, the idea behind the program was so persuasive, when it was axed, other people took a similar idea and tried it again (remember Moonlight anyone? I do, and I liked it enough).

Torchwood, a spin-off from the altogether excellent Dr Who, did all the right things for a spin-off to work. There was a charismatic main character to focus on in Captain Jack, so viewers wouldn’t miss the absence of the Doctor as lead character. There was a newcomer who was the conscience of the enterprise, which gave viewers someone to empathise with while learning along with her, plus there were all kinds of adventures and relationships to explore. If sometimes Torchwood was patchy, it certainly found its mojo during in the second season and Children of Earth was traumatically good. While the program could investigate more of the adult themes Dr Who can’t go to, it did and kept true to the ethos of the universe in which they both exist. And true to good writing: story, truth, charisma and connection.

I only hope the Torchwood reboot, this time with added Buffy/Battlestar Gallactica alum Jane Espenson along, it will be as good. I think it helps the main two characters will be back.

Another positive experience, at least for me, was Once Upon A Time in Mexico, which continued the story of El Mariachi from Desperado (which in turn was a remake/sequel to the original El Mariachi), and is very much a worthy follow-up. For a bloody shoot-em-up effort there is no lack of motivation and reflection on the part of El (Antonio Banderas), who is contrasted nicely to the brutal/whimsical CIA Agent Sands (Johnny Depp). Robert Rodriguez seems to understand what his audience wants and provides it, while also having enough imagination to provide different details in a different story. In fact, the only problem for me is that it wasn’t properly billed as a sequel. If it had I would’ve seen it sooner.

Tron Legacy for me gets a partial credit. It was great to see the willingness of one of the original cast members to return, even if he was pretending to be in a different sequel. (Oh Dude we abide with thee). There were mystifying story arcs that led nowhere and I wish there was more of Michael Sheen. He stole the show for me. In fact, he can almost do no wrong. Score also gets a tick as does the 80s sets. But the story of the orphaned yet indulged single-child-syndrome son with more money than sense realising his destiny by going on a journey and reconnecting with his father (figure) is done now. Bored with it. Please write something new and please don’t assume all your viewers are 17 and a half year old males.

I guess the point is a sequel/prequel spinoff shouldn’t be undertaken lightly. Money and the demands of fans shouldn’t be the drivers. The story is the thing, as should be the characters and whether they still offer anything more or new to say. And this is the problem with Eoin Colfer’s And Another Thing, which I desperately wanted to love, but started to read last year and haven’t even finished yet. I’m glad the characters are back and it made me realise how much I missed their voices, but…I’m not sure. Although I’m not sure about any of it now. Depending on which version of the Hitch Hikers you read or listen to or watch…well I won’t spoil it. Luckily Colfer hasn’t ‘ruined’ it for me, as Adams’ own conflicting versions, plus the film, managed nicely to demonstrate the universal principles he wrote about. It’s like muddying the universal stream of there is one story for everyone. Colfer has merely added to the confusion and complexity.

The point is, in all of this, is respect. Respect for the creation, respect for the characters and story and respect for the people who love what was there in the first instance. With the big movie houses and networks (and perhaps publishers?) with their wont to endlessly rehash the has-beens for a quick buck, the respectful, truthful sequel/spin-off/reboot is becoming the stuff of legend. All I ask as a consumer is, if we can’t have originality, can we at least get authenticity?

2 thoughts on “When Sequels Attack II

  1. great article.

    If you’re going to make a sequel, continuation, reboot, whatever, it’s got to continue the feeling of the original. It can’t just be an excuse to make a movie or tv show.

    If it’s a really, really, really good sequel (I’m look at you, Once upon a Time in Mexico and Torchwood), people will see things out of order (that would be me) and be so interested, and so impressed that they go for the originals too. Only after I saw Once Upon a Time in Mexico did I go nuts for that entire series, and although I saw Torchwood first, I’m now an obsessed Dr Who fan.

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