Every so often there is a sequel that ends up surpassing its original. It is a rare occurrence but it does happen. This week I’m covering my Top Five Sequels Better Than the Original.
5. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2011)
The first Ghost Rider missed the point entirely. It tried to make a legitimate superhero movie when it should have made a cheesy action film. The second film did just that. It covered the backstory with cool comic book type images in the opening credits, instead of the hour of exposition that happened in the first one. Do you really need that much explanation for a guy that bursts into flame and fights evil? No you don’t. I just explained it in one sentence. The sole reason I was convinced to see this film (obviously I didn’t enjoy the first so why would I see the second?) was the peeing fire joke in the trailer. I apparently have the sense of humor of an eight-year-old. Hey, it got me into the theater, didn’t it? Believe me, the payoff was worth it. Everything about this film was better than the first. The special effects were better, as was the storyline but the best part was that they let Nic Cage be Nic Cage! In the original he was restricted by a more serious tone. This film allowed him to be the over-the-top, crazy, screamy, wide-eyed guy we all know and love. The end result was a ridiculously entertaining action popcorn film worth the $7 admission.
4. Army of Darkness (1992)
I am a huge fan of all the Evil Dead films (I did see Evil Dead the Musical the last time I was in Vegas). I had seen Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness countless times but had never actually seen the original until last year. After seeing the recent remake (which is pretty awesome) I went home and watched the original. Mind you, this was at one o’clock in the morning on a Friday and I had work later in the day but still, I needed to see it. It’s really low budget and less fun than the others but it’s still entertaining, and it’s the original so it deserves some praise. Evil Dead 2 is a lot more campy and gorey but Army of Darkness is perfection. It has the perfect amount of camp, gore, and Bruce Campbell to satisfy just about anyone (the one thing that was missing from the remake). The special effects aren’t computer-generated and while they may look a bit dated, that’s part of the appeal of the film. It feels rough and cheap but in a good way. It’s supposed to be fun. You aren’t supposed to treat it like a serious horror film. It also helps that practically every line in this film is quotable. Bruce Campbell rose to cult legend status with this film and it was all because of the delivery of those lines. While the first two were entertaining, Army of Darkness surpassed them with style and attitude.
3. Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
It’s not that The Terminator was terrible and T2 was so much better. T2 is just a more enjoyable action film, whereas Terminator was great but a little slower paced and more science-fictiony. Again, that’s not bad, it just makes for a film that requires a little more work from the audience. T2 is great because you already know the basic setup but there is a twist thrown in. The bad guy from the last film is the good guy in this one (surprise!). Having a terminator on the good side makes things more exciting and it levels the playing field a little. Of course, in order to make the situation seem more desperate, the bad guy this time around has to be ten times more intense. He can shape shift and is practically invincible. The special effects technology is a little better this time so it looks cleaner and cooler. It also means there are a few things that you couldn’t do in the first one (like that scene where he walks through the fire in his metallic form, pretty awesome). There is also a little more of an emotional storyline this time. Sarah and Kyle’s relationship in the first film happens so quickly, there is hardly room to react. Having a kid as the protagonist is risky but this one is foul-mouthed and tenacious. He isn’t as tough as he seems though and that makes it more interesting.
2. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
This film is similar to the last one in that Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope was revolutionary and perfect. How do you top it? You do so by having Han Solo more prominently featured, of course. Really, it’s Han’s suave, bad-boy personality that makes this film. Yes, this is the first time we meet Yoda, and he is awesome! And Luke’s Jedi training is exciting and tense but come on, Han is perfect. Plus it’s because of him that they end up in Cloud City (bad move in retrospect, sure but how was he supposed to know Lando would betray them?) where we get Luke and Vader face to face. It’s here that Vader reveals what may be the biggest plot twist ever (after that whole Psycho thing) when he tells Luke that in fact, he is his father. We also get Boba Fett because of Han (again, he makes a bit of a mistake but it creates some of the most memorable moments of the franchise). So Han is awesome, Yoda kicks a**, Boba Fett is a bada** and we get the most upsetting and shocking reveal in movie history. All in one film. That’s why Empire is better. Sorry New Hope.
1. The Godfather Part II (1974)
The Godfather is a perfect film. It is near impossible to believe that Coppola topped himself with The Godfather Part II but he did. The deception and betrayal in this film is more surprising and crushing because it comes from within the family. Loyalty is a big thing for Michael and one of the major themes of the first (and second) film. His response to this demonstrates the price you pay for disloyalty. You pay heavily, even if you are blood. Michael’s psychotic tendencies have gone so far that his own family is turning against him. He has changed dramatically from the first to the second film and it is mirrored by the dual-timeline with his father’s rise to criminal power. Michael has unknowingly made great sacrifices as the “Don” and he discovers just how much he has lost when Kay reveals that her miscarriage was in fact an abortion. He and his father shared similar values but Michael’s thirst for power cost him most of those things he had been fighting to protect. The contrasting final flashback of the family arguing over dinner but breaking to greet their father, and the ending shot of Michael alone is the perfect demonstration of misunderstanding and isolation. Vito did what he did for the better of his family, and truly understood the meaning of that word. Michael, on the other hand, has gotten lost in his lust for power. Coppola really is brilliant.