The only reason I would write a sequel is if I were struck by an idea that I felt to be equal to the original. Too many sequels diminish the original.
I see on my social media feed that we’re getting a new filmic rendition of King Kong in the near future. And of course, there’s also been a great deal of buzz about the upcoming live action film of Beauty and the Beast coming soon to a theatre near you.
Remakes, sequels and re-boots. Seems both the literary and the filmic universes are just chock full of them nowadays, much more than used to be the case.
And so my question today is... why? Does the world really need yet another filmic telling of the King Kong story? (By my count, this is number four --- and that doesn’t even include all those campy crossover titles with Godzilla and a Host of Other Miscellaneous Monsters.) Do we really need to see a live action version of the Disney cartoon made a number of years ago? Particularly since neither story, from what I’ve been able to see so far in trailers, seems to be introducing really new material or elements.
Sometimes, advances in technology make it sensible/desirable to do a remake. (The original King Kong from the 1930s looks rather quaint today with its primitive special effects attempting to bring Kong to life.) Or a botched original can be remade properly later on. (The Lord of the Rings cartoon version done in the late 1970s was absolutely dreadful. It was probably done as a cartoon because there was no practical way to do it in live action at the time --- computer generated effects had yet to be even conceived, much less perfected --- but the story was a horrendous mish-mash that ended only part-way through the tale. As a fervent fan of the books, I hated it. Still do. With the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns. Sorry, Ralph Bakshi fans.)
But I’m not seeing --- in advance, I admit, which is my caveat to cover my butt --- either of those two justifications for Kong or Beast (even though I like Emma Watson very much as an actress --- she’s come a long way from the first Harry Potter film, and I’m sure she’ll do a great job).
Now, with sequels, I get it, truly I do, because I’m just as susceptible to the sequel’s siren song as anyone else: when we like something, we tend to like it a lot, and we want to see more of the same. Hence, the sequel. We really enjoyed the one experience viewing (or reading), and we want to experience that experience again with material that is new, but at the same time, the same. Which is a strange but interesting contradiction, when you stop to think about it. And still rather questionable in terms of artistic integrity. But writers or filmmakers need to ask themselves why they’re doing a sequel: is it because there’s truly some new artistic ground that can be covered? Or has someone merely whispered in their ears that they can make a pot full of money by going back to the well with a proven marketable commodity? The first answer has artistic merit; the other is just whoring for the sake of it.
Although... we need to differentiate sequels from continuances. With Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers is not a sequel to Fellowship of the Ring, just as the “third” installment, The Return of the King, is not a sequel to the first two. The parts are just continuances of the One Story. (Sorry. Awful pun.) Tolkien was very clear on that point: it was all one tale, and the only reason why it was divided up into three books was the cost of producing the entire thing in one volume was deemed too high by the original publisher. (I suppose you could say that Lord of the Rings is a sequel to The Hobbit, but I’m not sure Professor T would agree.)
Reboots --- a relatively recent filmic phenomenon --- falls into the same category as sequels, I think, with the same pitfalls I mentioned above. Why are we doing this reboot? Artistic merit, or money? For example, I get that Shatner and Co. were getting a little long in the tooth by the end of the sixth Star Trek film... but I may as well offend yet another enthusiasts group and say that I’m really not a fan of what J.J. Abrams has done with the franchise. It’s the same complaint I make about fan fiction (in this blog post here): if you love something that much, why not create something uniquely your own? Don’t just make some slavish copy.
So what’s the point of my somewhat cranky epistle today? I would have to say it’s a plaintive plea for creative effort and honesty. I understand the desire to go back and re-cover beloved literary or filmic ground... but... isn’t it just as much fun to boldly go where no writer has gone before? Or even more?
The reader/viewer must decide.