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What Defines an Unnecessary Sequel?

Grey Star

Red Jacket

The Godfather Trilogy, one of the most famous cases of forced sequels ever

Unnecessary sequel: A sequel (most often to a movie) that somehow insults or defames the original due to quality (or sometime retcons), or simply adds onto a completed story in a way that is simply not needed.

So, what exactly are the parameters for an unnecessary sequel? So far I’ve found a few different types.

1. It’s a rehash of the original, or simply a bad story. Ghostbusters II is my preferred of the two movies, but the cast is ashamed of it basically being the same plot as before. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest is considered a rehash of the original in terms of basic plot, but is still well liked due to the addition of interesting villains and action sequences that set it apart.
2. The sequel adds onto a completed story, and doesn’t lead to some sort of revelation or such. This is especially prevalent with completed franchises that had a “very freaking definitely the end” installment, only to get another sequel a few years later that serves little point other than “another adventure starring the hero, the comedic relief, and lacking the lancer and dark horse!” A good example of this is once again Pirates, with On Stranger Tides adding nothing to Jack’s difficulties with paying the debt of the Black Pearl / Will Smith’s character development, and aside from strong action sequences and magic, has rather lacking dialogue between anyone that isn’t Jack, Gibbs, and Barbossa. On the other hand, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is set after the very final installment, and is simply interesting and well written enough to justify its own existence, and not all sequels of this kind are bad.
3. The studio mandated a sequel. The Godfather Trilogy is infamous with the second film being made because the film maker was desperate for money, and the third just to kill off the character.
4. The sequel makes a major retcon / makes the ending of the previous movie null. A good example is Star Wars: The Force Awakens. A lot of people liked the movie. Doesn't change the fact it made all the work that Luke did in the original trilogy literally pointless as the new First Order is even bigger, better, and ten times as vaguely evil as the Empire was, and is pretty set on making life even worse than under the Empire. Other cases are where sequels undo a character's death so they can show up again with little to no thought or consequences, thus making everything in the previous installment about the death just null. Or even worse are sequels that introduce franchise changing retcons that either make the previous installment flat out pointless or simply impossible in the new way the universe works.

So are some of these way too nit picky or specific to form a definite definition of what an unnecessary sequel is? Or is the definition required to be specific in what it does?


The Strongest
Discussions about sequels on their existence might be a bit problematic. Often times, and more certain than not, fans, without speaking a beat, become too attach to the product. Whenever new information that affects the original product, hissyfits are prone to come.

In short, there should be other ways to describe a product without using terms. Terms such as unnecessary, bad writing, Mary Sues, fanboys, or "rushing" do not have a parameters. In this case, having the fans describing the parameters of the term, there should be an acknowledgement of subjectivity.

What one considers it an unnecessary sequel, another consider the opposite. For example, are creators objective if they consider their work necessary or not? Are the creators wrong if they held a opinion of their works? Should their opinion be held in higher regard because of their status?

Let's take Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The film does seems to make Luke Skywalker's adventures pointless. Sure, but one can argue that just because Luke's achievements amount to nothing shouldn't mean his adventures were wastes of time. He still grew and became the way he was because of it - no end result can change that.

If I were to add my own thoughts of what justified the existence of a sequel, it would be on two factors. One, does the sequel (or prequel) push the narrative of the story with a new perspective? Continuity errors not included as it is impossible to avoid. Two, does the sequel (or prequel) is actually engaging with more interesting stories?

What makes an story complete? When the protagonist achieved their goal (say, they get the girl), that's it? I could argue that a sequel regarding their relationships would be actually be interesting. Do they make it? Did they break up? If they did, one could say:

"Well, if they break up, that's just make the first film pointless."

Does it? I do not think that end goals not lining up to expectations means everything else was a waste of time. Some things didn't work out, but it opened up to new things instead.

I say that as long the film accomplishes those two things and not retreading previous ground (as what The Force Awaken did), it justifies its existence.


Blue Jacket
Hm....an interesting question. I kinda feel like people throw around that term generally when people make a sequel that isn't very good or just isn't as good as the first. I think those are all valid categories but I personally think there are few "necessary sequels" unless there were always plans of having one. Those 4 categories could almost just be folded into that except maybe the nullification. I'd call The Empire Strikes Back a necessary sequel for example in so far as it was always the plan that Star Wars would have a sequel and that there would be at least 1 other movie and you really are missing most of Luke's journey if you don't see the rest. As an example of an unnecessary sequel, I'll throw out there Shrek 2. It's a good movie and some even think it's better than the first but I'd still categorize it as an unnecessary sequel as there were probably no plans for a sequel when making the first and as a result while it is a welcome addition to Shrek's story the original film is none the less a complete experience without it. So I do think you can call something that with some measure of objectivity; when something already as a beginning a middle and an end to it and it all ties up there never NEEDS to be a sequel. Therefore logically it would be unnecessary, even if it does add something and is a welcome addition.