Sequel Counting: Is #4 The Lucky Number?


I know generally you never get a second chance to make a first impression, so with my first attempt at befriending the masses that come to Film School Rejects, I’m sure I’ll fail before I start.

I remember a time when sex used to be what sold in Hollywood, it’s not really that way anymore. It’s all about sequels nowadays. Anything the corporate machine can do to propagate a franchise and poke fun at aging actors in roles that may or may not compromise the position they’re in when jumping off buildings, driving backwards through tunnels, or remembering to take their Metamucil.

Now I’m as much a fan/critic as anyone else, I know plenty of people in Hollywood, I’ve worked for John Schneider for a couple of years now, and I could start my own film website and tear every new blockbuster to shreds if I so desired. But I like Hollywood, it’s fun. It’s a place to forget my own life for a few measly hours and enjoy something that’s eye pleasing and sometimes, yes sometimes, thought-provoking. I’m a sucker for sequels at that because I enjoy the references to the past, the clever ways to further a story, and do-anything-to-shock-a-return-audience right into seeing it again and again before the DVD hits the shelves.

A couple of summers ago there was a surge in trilogies; Shrek 3, Spider-Man 3, Pirates of the Caribbean 3, and a few other third titles were hitting the screens to an almost alarming rate. I was not a big fan of any of those three titles, nor was I of their #2 successors.

Four seems to be where it’s at lately.

diehard4_1I know you might think I’m crazy, but there’s a certain trend to the craft that makes the fourth installment of series the one worth returning to. My first instance of this is Live Free or Die Hard, originally titled Die Hard 4.0. Now before you write me off, think about the caliber movie this was given we first met John McClane 20 years ago, in the best Christmas movie ever. I groaned and argued as well as thousands of other fans when I heard the fourth film would carry a PG-13 rating, dampening the gritty death and dialogue I’m used to in a Die Hard film. I advise you, whole-heartedly, that if you have yet to see the Unrated version on DVD, go buy it now and it breathes new life into the movie – John throws around the f-bomb every few seconds (I still don’t know how they did that in ADR when it wasn’t in the original track, but I *expletive removed* love it) lots more killing, lots more action, and hella more intense than what I saw in the theaters 3 times in the summer of 2007. Seeing the movie in a raw, director’s cut light made it my second favorite of the franchise (next to the original) and made parts 2 and 3 trail behind it. Die Hard remains in my top 10 films of all time, and stakes it’s claim as one of my favorite franchises with a very, very worthy quadrilogy.

There are a few other lessons in this little rundown, including Indiana Jones. Now it’s split down the middle all over the world – people either loved Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, or they despised it. Put me in the former of the two. My buddy Steve (of Geek Out Loud, over at – that’s $20, Steve) had the same reaction as me, having a huge grin on our faces through the entire duration of the film. I felt like I was 4 years old all over again, the music, the action, the hat – all of it. A true Indy fan can accept the the story for what it was and enjoy a fun two-hour ride through nostalgia. I’m not going to bring personal beliefs into the mix, but you could pretty much argue that an alien on screen is no different than “God in a box” or a 700 year old Knight sitting in a cave twiddling his thumbs. I had a good time, and it was definitely a sequel worth waiting for minus a few creative complaints (I walk out of the theater when Shia starts swinging from vine to vine.) << Note: For my Twitter bet on Shia’s amount of “No’s” throughout the film see Youtube video – He replaces them with “Woah’s”. See: Waterfall scene. >> Regardless of not-so-stellar casting, it was good to have an old friend back. Admit it, if we had waited nineteen years and gotten “Temple” instead of “Kingdom” – wouldn’t you be a little upset? More than a little. Freakin’ travesty. Indy 4 – okay in my book, didn’t rape my childhood, and has the re-watchability of Raiders or Crusade for me.

My last example, and probably the most damning against my argument, is Rambo, originally titled John Rambo, and hopefully will be again when Stallone gives us the director’s cut I’ve been wanting to see. Here’s a franchise that nobody thought we’d see again, everyone rolled their eyes, and in the end I think everyone was pleased. Stallone’s direction is amazing, and Glenn MacPherson (Director of Photography – the unsung heroes of films) did an outstanding job with this shockingly-raw film (Gotta love the guy, he was DoP on Wrongfully Accused – one of my favorite Leslie Nielsen films). First Blood is the best (as were Raiders and the original Die Hard) but this one really made you wonder why we had to sit through two other sequels to get to this point. Time. It really is money! Who knew? This movie would have been awful if it came out when First Blood: Part II did – you need an aging John Rambo to make it all the more gritty. You need the aging Indiana Jones in the 1950’s to show what’s happened since the Last Crusade; and John McClane needs a few years on him to make him all the more desperate to save the day when everything is on the line. Rambo is the quintessential fourth installment of a franchise; it’s fun, it’s intelligent, and even though the body count is one of the highest of a film I’ve ever seen, you still have a smile on your face when you see Sly jumping out of the dark in the rain and cracking someone’s neck. If Stallone wanted us to see a “real” Rambo movie and still have a good time; then mission accomplished.

Maybe it’s just the seasoned veterans of films I love in a sequel-go-around but if their truly are no more original ideas in Hollywood, I’d rather see Indiana Jones survive an atomic bomb blast in a lead-lined refrigerator than a Bill and Ted or Red Dawn (please don’t suck) remake.

If the first film is what set’s the tone, the second is the summer revival o’ fun, and the third is where it’s the company’s paycheck before the filmmaker’s design, the number four is a retooling that I welcome because I feel like I’m a kid again sitting in the theater and having a good time, instead of correcting every factual mistake, finding every continuity error, or catching a boom mic in the shot. Lately I’ve felt like a younger-me all over again in the movie-going experience and if growing up means I’m not going enjoy myself, then I’ll just stay five years old forever.

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