4B - Thursday, February 8, 2007
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
The bleak past and present
of the Hollywood sequel
By TED CHEN
and JEFFREY BLOOMER
Daily Arts Writers
In Hollywood, there are many axioms to
moneymaking, but the most precious is that
you must keep everything that's good in the old
while infusing it with original elements in the
new. Sequels are the brainchild of this model,
bringingthe comfort of familiarity to new con-
cepts and providing an outlet for stud-s to
milk old franchises dry.
Glancing ahead at 2007, that's a lot of milk-
ing. "Shrek the Third." "Live Free or Die Hard."
"Alien Vs. Predator 2" (seriously). As of yester-
day, there's 22 sequels slated for the coming
year, up from 19 last year and part of a growing
creative complacency in Hollywood.
Many of them were hits
("Pirates of the Caribbe-
an" was the ringlead-
er), a handful were
("Basic Instinct 2" is
- E none lived up to
the franchise they
sought to continue
or revive. Overall,
they painta bleak
picture for the
The blockbuster sequels started off with
reasonable promise last May, when Tom Cruise
returned as Ethan Hunt for "Mission: Impos-
sible III." With rumors of Cruise's sanity loom-
ing, the skepticism was palpable. After 2000's
"Mission: ImpossibleII," directed by John Woo
("Face/Off"), it wasn't a surprise that it took six
years before people got it off their minds.
That said, what "M:I II" lacked - and "M:I
III" had in spades - was high-octane drama to
fuel the story from beginning to end. Cruise's
faux-maverick attempt to prevent a foaming-
at-the-mouth Philip Seymour Hoffman from
escaping at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge was
just as wonderfully preposterous, if not more
so, than the original movie's famous scene
where Hunt retrieves classified data while
hovering inches above the ground. It's in many
ways a more frivolous movie than its often seri-
ous-minded precursors, a calculated risk that
turned out to be a perfect fit for the franchise.
That promise was promptly destroyed. Next
came "X-Men: The Last Stand," which prom-
ised flashier powers, a host of new mutants and
a world war between mutants and humans.
Not really. The film is a classic example of
putting too much garnish in an already good
dish. Where "M:I III" had a new director that
resuscitated the franchise, "X-Men" lost its
guiding force - director Bryan Singer - to
"Superman Returns." The new director, Brett
Ratner, is infamous for his preference for pyro-
technics over storytelling, but "X3" moved at
such a breakneck pace that you couldn't enjoy
the FX or the story. Key players Cyclops and
Xavier were sacrificed needlessly in the hope
that the up-and-coming characters were ready
to fill the void. They weren't.
And they kept coming. "Superman Returns"
was alternatively a Christian allegory and a
gay allegory. "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead
Man's Chest" was said to be the movie every-
one saw but no one liked. "Saw III" had fingers
as part of its official title. FINGERS.
Here's where we enter the obligatory "God-
father: Part II" part of this argument - that
SEQUELS SUCK. RIGHT?
That generalization can be forgiven, but there are many
more exceptions than you think. And we're not just talk-
ing about "The Godfather: Part I."
"Gremlins 2: The New Batch"(1990) - Tell me that flying
bat gremlin didn't scare the shit out of you when you were little.
This ingenious follow-up proves that sometimes, less isn't more.
It's like they pitched 15 different movies and made every one.
"Scream 2" (1997)- "Scream" wasthe revolution, but Wes
Craven's glossed-overtfilm is a model for horror sequels (the 53
coming out next year, take note). "Roseanne's" Laurie Metcalftas
a maternal psychopath? Clever. Courtney Cox's streaks? Genius.
"Before Sunset" (2004) - It's rare to leave a romantic
comedy wondering what happens, but "Before Sunrise" never
wrapped up its unusually tender one night stand. Set10 years
later "Before Sunset"finally reveals the bittersweet conclusion
of what was only the couple's first chapter.
sometimes sequels are not only better than
the original, but actually enhance it - but the
current situation is the worst it's ever been.
It's a material manifestation of the idea that
Hollywood is so creatively bankrupt that it
will not only shovel shit but do it like it's ped-
dling worthwhile product - Disney got Johnny
Depp a Golden Globe nomination for doing a
bizarre caricature of his own performance for
three hours. Is this really all we have to look
To save you from answering that question,
a friendly reminder that 2007 - assuming it
avoids the pitfalls of last year - boasts new
releases from the best modern film franchises
we have. "Harry Potter." "Spider-Man." The
Jason Bourne films. There's even a sequel to
"Elizabeth" in sight. Despite the intimating
quantity of sequels, if ever there was a crop to
turn things around creatively, this has tobe it.
After the bleak season that was 2006, the
coming year could be the nail in the coffin, but
we say cling to the little hope we have left. Easy
as it is to admonish, lining up for a summer
blockbuster as if it were an event is a singular
experience, and there's not reason this summer
can't our salvation. ... Right?
Corsy ,,of vC/vC
A 'eo aogmen,
garners and guitarists
By ANDREW SARGUS KLEIN Hero II" is able to balance doz-
ManagingArts Editor ens of unbelievably shitty songs
with a couple of gems to keep the
As alongstandingguitar player/ "honest" musicians honest and
fanatic, when I'm caught wasting the metalheads/pre-pubescents
hours on Playstation 2's "Guitar thinking they've found the end of
Hero II," the first question I get the rainbow.
usually goes something like this: (Disclaimer: I am deliberately
"Is it easier because you play gui- leaving out perhaps the largest
tar?" or "Does it improve your gui- demographic - those who play
tar playing?" or "What the hell are video games for the base reason of
you doing wasting your life away having nothing else to do, thereby
on such an insipid video game?"
The answers to those ques-
tions are "no" and "no" (I ignore The paradox of
the third). But insipid is the right T r
word. "Guitar Hero II" is akin to loving* sucha
Guitar World magazine: great if in u
you're 13 and into really bad metal, terrible game.
more like brain candy/porn if you
take yourself seriously as a musi-
Let me explain. You play gui- negating the relevance of song
tar (let's say for at least two or selection.)
three years) and have a somewhat In the game, thejoy ofmusician-
expansive appreciation of music ship is pared down to five "fret"
(you grew up on Dad's classic buttons, a "picking" button and a
rock, moved on to bad alternative whammy bar. A stream of "notes"
in the '90s, found Radiohead in flow down a low-angle fretboard;
high school, came to college and a crowd meter gauges your rock-
figured out everything else). For ability - the more notes you miss,
songs like "Freebird," "Jessica," the quicker you get booed off the
"Can't You Hear Me Knockin' " stage. You can build a character
and "Rock This Town," you fig- in Career Mode or face off against
ure hey, this is the chance finally your co-workers. There are four
to play some real air guitar over levels of difficulty, multiple gui-
those great fuckin' tunes - albeit tars and finishes, extra songs and
with a plastic mockery of a Gibson outfits. There's actually very little
SG with five buttons. Then there pageantry to distract the gamer
are the other possibilities: "Cher- from the simple reality: "Guitar
ry Pie," "Carry On My Wayward Hero II" is a short-term rush of
Son," "Crazy On You." "Guitar adrenaline cheaply bought and
Now, a sense of rhythm is
important in some instances. But
honestly, you could mute the tele-
vision and still handle yourself
reasonably well. Ultimately, there
is nothing musical about "Guitar
Hero II." The musicality is what
you bring to it, whether you actu-
ally enjoy their song selection or
SP understand the game for the intel-
lectual wankery it is.
A few gripes: The guitar selec-
tion is all Gibson, which is fine if
you prefer that side of the fence.
For Fender lovers, sorry. No
Strats, no Teles, no nothing. Not to
take a shot at the Gibson SG, but
,f.it's no coincidence Angus Young
of perennial douchebags AC/DC
plays one - "Guitar Player II"
knows what crowd it's going to
In addition, the songs them-
selves aren't the actual renditions.
Think really bad karaoke - i.e.
"Jessica" as made famous by The
Allman Brothers. That phrase "as
made famous by" is short for "we
couldn't buy the actual songs, just
the rights to reproduce them with
horrendous studio musicians."
And the whammy bar. Lord, the
fucking whammy bar. Here's
where my musician genes kick in
something fierce. The whammy
bar, with few exceptions, is the
definition of superfluity. Meant to
add a bit of thrash and pizzazz to
the otherwise boring solo, "Gui-
tar Hero II" requires you to abuse
the shit out of the whammy bar in
order to raise your "Star Power." I
steadfastly refuse to overwork the
bar, stupidly inserting something
as a foreign as tact to the game.
Regardless of what kind of
musician I think I am, I'm not
going to stop in the middle of my
quest to complete "Freebird" on
"Hard." In the same vein of a film
snob continuously renting "The
Covenant" (for "personal" rea-
sons), there's something to be said
for primal pleasures - and I can't
wait for "Guitar Hero III."