There is a great scene in Ken Russell’s 1971 forgotten masterpiece The Devils. Oliver Reed as the whiskey priest Father Grandier has been tortured by a church sanctioned witch hunter. His legs crushed, his tongue pierced, he refuses to confess to heresy. His tormentor leans in one last time to question the priest’s commitment to his faith.
“Do you love the church?”
After a long pause the broken and battered holy man says, “Not today.”
I bring this up because I have just read that 2011, with a sum total of 27 movie sequels scheduled to hit theatres, is the biggest year yet for sequels and I feel like my cinematic church has been defiled.
This weekend alone offers up two part twos, the imaginatively titled The Hangover Part Two and Kung Fu Panda 2.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with movie sequels. Arguably The Godfather 2 outstrips the original, and The Bride of Frankenstein is unquestionably a better movie than its predecessor. So are Aliens, Toy Story 2 and Dawn of the Dead. It’s possible to make sequels that improve on the source, so why doesn’t Hollywood do it more often?
Because they don’t have to, that’s why. Audiences get the movies they deserve.
Need proof. Look no further than last week’s box office. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, which I called a “monstrosity” in this space just seven days ago, soldiered on despite my scathing review to gross $90 million domestically, $260.4 million world wide.
Hollywood wouldn’t spend the time or effort to make these photocopy quality sequels if we didn’t line up to see them, so the next time you’re wondering why you haven’t had a truly great time at the movies recently, think back to the amount of movies you saw with a 2, 3 or 4 in the title and hang your head in shame.
I love going to the movies, sitting with strangers and getting wrapped up in the images flying through the air, but when I leave the theatre after watching—or should I say, enduring—PotC: On Stranger Tides and its ilk, I feel like Grandier. I love the movies, but catch me on the right day, ask me the question, and my answer would be, “Not today.”
I get paid to watch these things, what’s your excuse?