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Top 10 Ways To Make A Good Movie Sequel

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Written by Laura Keating Sequels have a tendency to be hit and miss in Hollywood, but they can be done right! Here are our tips on how to! WatchMojo presents the Top 10 Qualities of a Good Movie Sequel! But thwat will take the top spot on our list? More character development, not just remaking the same story again, or being faithful to the original film? Watch to find out! Watch on WatchMojo: WatchMojo.com Big thanks to Tristan Hartup for suggesting this idea, and to see how WatchMojo users voted, check out the suggest page here: WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+10+Ways+To+Make+A+Good+Movie+Sequel
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Transcript
Not all follow-ups are created equal, but here are some ways to make the experience more enjoyable. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Ways to Make a Good Movie Sequel.

For this list, we’re looking at methods which, when properly employed, help enhance a movie sequel.

#10: Continue the Story

Part of the reason sequels are made in the first place is because the collected efforts of the cast and crew were enough to immerse audiences into a believable world, and the audience wanted MORE. Whether in front of a big screen, or a campfire, it’s a human impulse to want to know what happens next. If the film’s world has been properly built, and the characters are dynamic enough, there should be lots more stories to tell, and you can hit the ground running. But, if the material has run dry… best to save everyone the time and money, and leave well enough alone.

#9: Avoid Underdeveloped New Characters

It’s okay to freshen things up, and new characters can be a great way to add intrigue or spice up familiar situations. However, if you’re going to be throwing anything new into a sequel, it has to be for a reason, and they must truly further the story in some way. When a character is added as a McGuffin, or their random talent SUDDENLY becomes useful, or they’re obviously comic relief, it stinks to high heaven. It’s an insult to the audience that’s followed along with the story so far, and more often than not, it cheapens the movie rather than invigorating it.

#8: Take Risks

Just because you got everyone back to the theater, doesn’t mean you can rest on your laurels. Any follow-up needs to keep challenging as well as exciting the viewer, which means taking some risks. And no, that doesn’t just mean faster scene cuts and bigger explosions. Familiar characters with ulterior motives, improved effects, and pursuing a deeper message are all ways to up the ante. If poorly executed, yeah, they can be gimmicky. However, when done right, gutsy plot twists can create some of the most memorable and iconic movie moments ever.

#7: Don’t Overdo It

Risks and escalating plot points are great – but it is possible to go too far! There’s a fine line between increased action and gratuitous overkill. Too many new ideas will bog a story down. Too many or over-long fight sequences lose their all their urgency and leave viewers disengaged. As soon as a viewer feels aware that they’re watching a movie, well, it’s all over. Pacing is hard enough in any first installment, but it takes a skilled writer, director, and editor to navigate the rocky waters of a good sequel. You’ve got to raise the stakes, but not too high.

#6: Don’t Make Us Wait Forever

Granted, Rome wasn’t built in a day – but if the future Romans had known what was in store for them, don’t you think they’d have wanted it in a timely fashion? Is there anything worse than investing in a film, finding out that there WILL be a sequel … and then having to wait years and years? (*clears throat* “Avatar” *Cough*) Equally confusing, however, is when we get a sequel that was never really asked for, years after the first one concluded. Sometimes this can add new layers to a story, but mostly it comes across as a hackneyed attempt to score points off a famous brand.

#5: Bring Back the Original Cast / Characters

Unless you’re creating an anthology of films set in a particular and engaging world, it’s crucial to bring back the same characters – and cast, if you can manage it. Audiences not only buy into a story or setting, but largely into characters as well. It can be jarring going into a sequel, with fond memories of one familiar face, only to have to get used to a new one. Sometimes, when it’s a swap out for a minor character that suddenly has a meatier role the first actor might not have been up for, it works. Other times, it’s unavoidable – due to death or illness. But barring that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

#4: Raise the Stakes

This is critical if the sequel is going to stand out, and is even more important if the original had a satisfactory conclusion. You have to give the audience something bigger and more urgent, making them believe that a second installment is what they wanted, even if they didn’t know it. But raised stakes don’t just mean more butts for kicking. Maybe the events of the last movie affected the characters’ emotional stability, or the scope and breadth of a problem is now to be more deeply examined. Doesn’t matter what the bar is, it just needs raising.

#3: Faithful to the Feel of the Original

Sometimes a director has a great vision, and they know just where to carry it. But one of the biggest problems facing sequels is that a new team often takes them on, essentially fanboys and fangirls with the tools available to make their vision of “what happened next” come to life. When a new director helms a budding franchise, they need to faithfully deliver on a beloved world while also taking the right liberties to make it their own. If they get it right, everyone wins. If they don’t … you get a mess.

#2: Don’t Just Redo the Same Movie

We get it, the first one was popular – that’s probably what got it a sequel deal in the first place. However, if audiences wanted to see the same movie again … they’d just see the same movie again. The temptation is always to stay in the comfort zone, or deliver a formulaic story that is contentedly mediocre. Studios, perhaps even more than the production team, are most guilty of this. However, if audiences show their support for the sequels that are really going in an original direction, the studio-heads will take notice. Vote with your dollar, folks, and say yes to originality.

#1: Further Character Development

At the heart of any movie are the characters. They’re the ones audiences root for, fall in love with, or love to hate. At the end of the day, character-driven story arcs are the lifeblood of the film industry. Whether they’re following a redemption/disgrace narrative, building integrity, or proving that they’re more than just tropes in a genre, characters in any good sequel must show growth and development. Wooden or poorly drawn characters will quickly lose the audiences’ attention, because at the end of the day, for better or worse, viewers want to see something that they can relate or aspire to.
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