“Stadium Seating” is a weekly film column that will be run over the remainder of the summer
It would be naíve to call this the summer of the sequel. They’ve been around for ages and will likely reappear every summer for years to come as creativity wanes and audiences grow more tolerant of anything that will occupy their time in an air conditioned theater. However, the sequel is a growing annoyance that, at the very least, provides a little critical fodder for the bored critic. In that vain, here’s a little sequel brainstorming:
Three sequels that the public needs to see:
1. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: Potentially just as scary as an “Oz” follow-up is a “Willy Wonka” sequel. Not only was the original story left open for any number of demented interpretations, but the story simply ends with Charlie, Willy and Grandpa Joe blasting off in some sort of rocket, leaving the door open for one of the most twisted sequels ever. Imagine if Tim Burton were to helm the project, interpreting Wonka as a sort of demented devil. If one recalls, Wonka had a knack for leading kids into doom with his tempting “candy.”
Possible replacements: There was once talk of a “Wonka” follow-up starring Marilyn Manson as a more devilish tempter, but no one will ever replace Gene Wilder.
2. The Wizard of Oz: Despite its creepy coolness, 1985’s “Return to Oz” does not count because of its ultra-limited release. However, there were a number of interesting plot ideas raised with the Fairuza Balk cult classic, including: What if Dorothy kept having recurring dreams of Oz — wouldn’t that make her a borderline psycho? A darker follow-up on the Oz story in the hands of someone like Oliver Stone might make for some really entertaining matter.
Possible replacements: Pepsi icon Hallie Kate Eisenberg as Dorothy; Saggy-eyed Benicio Del Toro (“Traffic”) as the Cowardly Lion; MTV alum Jesse Camp as the Scarecrow; and falling star Michael Richards (“Seinfeld”) as the Tin Man.
3. Indiana Jones: If ever there was a series that defied time and was bound to succeed, no matter how many years later, it is the “Indiana Jones” story. Defying the notion that three is always the limit, a fourth installment would surely be welcomed. Harrison Ford seems to be defying time anyway, so why not pick up where the last left off before he goes and turns 90 on us. On the other, getting George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford together at one time could be an issue.
Possible replacements: Not necessary. Unless he passes away, Ford will always be believable as a strapping 40-some-year-old.
Three franchises that have run themselves into the ground with sequels:
1. Silence of the Lambs: Despite rumors that producer Dino De Laurentiis is hard at work lining up either a fourth installment or a remake of the first, this is one story that has been stripped to the bone. If anything, the over-the-top brain-food scene at the end of “Hannibal” demonstrates that there is no way to top what we’ve already seen.
When it went sour: After “Silence…,” the series should have been laid to rest. Then again, the current Michael Jordan situation should serve as testimony to the difficulties of retiring at the top of one’s game.
2. Jurassic Park: The inability to get Steven Spielberg to return as a director was sign number one that this franchise was caput. Imagine the Bulls announcing they were making a run for the championship the year after Jordan left and Scottie Pippen bailed.
When it went sour: The day Spielberg latched onto that crazy “A.I.” idea.
3. Alien: Anytime cloning is used to resurrect characters that good old-fashioned storytelling eliminated for natural purposes, you might want to start doubting the direction of a given film franchise. Unfortunately for serious fans, and fortunately for those simple-minded, summer-filler-loving drones that made “The Fast and the Furious” the number one movie this summer, there will likely be a fifth, yes a fifth, installment in the “Alien” series.
When it went sour: That whole cloning thing. Damn science.
Three Sequel Commandments:
In between Thou shall not lie, Thou shall not steal and Thou shall not feed Gremlins after midnight, Moses delivered these three key sequel commandments:
Rule of one: If you’ve done it well once, there’s no need to do it again.
Rule of three: Fine, you’ve gone ahead and broken rule number one. But, whatever you do, never ever take a series past three installments (See parts 4 of the “Lethal Weapon,” “Alien” and “Superman” franchises).
Rule of greed: Okay. If that’s the way you’re going to be, then go ahead and make a sequel out of every damn movie that reaps any remote profit, irregardless of how much sense it makes plot-wise (See sequels to “Police Academy,” “Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Friday the 13th,” “Hellraiser,” etc…).
Mix-n-Match ‘Em Sequel Fun:
It seems sequels rarely maintain their entire casts, often sending audiences into a tailspin of confusion. Case in point:
1. Rusty and Audrey Griswold: Despite such notables as Anthony Michael Hall (“Vacation”), Juliette Lewis (“Christmas Vacation”) and Ethan Embry (“Vegas Vacation”), there has never been consistency amongst the Griswold children. Regardless, the series has never lost a step.
2. Batman: Hypothetically, it shouldn’t matter all that much since Batman does where a mask. But his exposed alter-ego, Bruce Wayne, is just as important and the difference between Michael Keaton and George Clooney is so enormous that it’s almost laughable to see the two doing the same character. Let us forget Val Kilmer.
3. Hannibal Lecter: Unbeknownst to many, British actor Brian Cox played Hannibal quite well in the “Silence of the Lambs” predecessor “Manhunter.” Still, this goes down as the greatest improvement in sequel history.