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By Madeline Perez 

We are living in a dystopian nightmare. This is not up for debate. What is up for debate, however, is what exactly makes this tormented hellscape we call ‘slice of life’ so dystopian. Some of the politically minded may think it’s the libs, with their social medias and their genders; others, the rightists, with their Columbus Day and gas stoves. I’m proud to say that it is neither and that I am better than all of you simple-minded plebs: The true reason society is crumbling lies in our very own theaters, as remakes and sequels level our cultural evolution in the most anti-Darwinian backpedaling we’ve seen since the Beatles. 

A famous authoress once said, “If there’s one thing I hate more than sexual assault, it’s unnecessary movie reboots.” In her questionable phrasing, she sought not to minimize the damage of assault, but to stress just how unethical these reboots are, of which there truly is no parallel. That authoress was me, and me is she, and I promised to unpack that loaded sentence not intended to be taken at face value at a later date. Well, the day of reckoning is upon us, just as your mother lay upon my astral cock. Stupid remakes and sequels have become the bane of my existence, dialectically opposing me in a way that also gives me the will to go on, the will to fight and die for a cause I know will never win nor make a dent in this great societal cage-refrigerator I have been locked inside of. 

This blight of depravity is killing my favorite things with the same valor in which millennials killed shopping malls, the housing market, and marriage. (Will their taste for blood ever truly subside?? I’ve escaped a savage Millennial once or twice, fleeing only when their attention shifted to the Harry Potter paraphernalia I tossed in the opposite direction.) Quality movies are now few and far between, and box offices are littered with sequels, prequels, horror movies juxtaposed by starring some childhood character, live remakes of Disney movies, or possibly a biography about some dead singer (or alive, in Elton John’s case, but let’s give that a couple years). Of course, the theaters also need some softcore movie porn thrown in for the unsatisfied middle-aged wives on Zoloft (with vivid fantasy lives) who either resent the more explicit internet porn for “ruining their husbands” or don’t know of its existence. And oh, can’t forget the Marvel military propaganda that has been turning the general population into sleeper cells until they hear the phrase “I like DC comics better” or “Gamergate.”

Why is this happening? Well, aside from the fact that there’s a cruel and unforgiving God who rips away all I hold near and dear, I believe the people who make movies figured they’re bound to get more bang for their buck promoting family-friendly nostalgia-banking bullshit rather than take a chance on an original project that will require more effort, money, and–this one’s important–an actual good idea. So, lo lo lo and behold, limp and passionless Trolls 2 and Minions 47: Return of the Banana will get advertised from here across the vast plane of outer space and back. Seven-year-olds have terrible taste in movies after all, so what do they care? (Besides me. I was a very pretentious seven-year-old, after all.)

There are other factors: Yes, the movie-goer industry is dying and everything is streaming now and 123movies and video killed the radio star. I’m sure everyone remembers when COVID happened and unprecedented times were unprecedented. Lots of small-town theaters were killed off, it’s been getting harder for smaller companies to profit off of movies, and, in a world where only the strong survive, this leaves a huge gap for larger companies to swoop in like a hawk and corner the market which is the field mouse in this emotionally-stressful simile. The monopoly man is real (and no, he does not have a monocle, you’re confusing him with the more refined Mr.Peanut), he has a gun, and his name is Disney. As I sit atop my abandoned tower, I can only dream that one day my prince will come, and these incessant sequels, remakes, and frankly terrible movies will be wiped from the planet, as well as my memory. That is, unless the sequel is… good?


The Fault in Our Sequels 2: the Sequel Within

Now, in a shocking turn of events, I must argue my opposition in my promise to (dearly departed mentor figure) to always stay faithful to myself. Sequels CAN be good, actually, and at times will surpass the original in both quality and message. There is no greater example of this than Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, which I saw a couple of weeks ago. I know I’m biased, as my extreme love for cats and Hispanic roots leave me absolutely wide-eyed and helpless in the presence of a Hispanic cat, but this was different. This movie taught me things about myself that I didn’t even know. Puss in Boots 2 wiped the slate of my life clean and allowed me to start again, to grow from the very beginning: tabula rasa in front of me and chalk-in-hand. Of course, I will not give you details from this movie because spoilers, duh! (And I expect immediately after this enticing read you will place this copy of The Review in your nearest recycling bin, hitchhike to the closest theater, and buy a ticket and a $70 bag of the most artery-clogging popcorn known to man, diet bepis to match.) Rather, I’m going to reflect on why sequels can be transformative and introspective in ways the original flick can only dream of. 

An original movie is saddled with the expository muck of extensive character introduction and world-building. While any good sequel will touch on this too, it normally takes half the time. The biggest difference between the two is that, especially in action movies, originals tend to focus on the main character’s call to action as they are forced up from their gamer chair of normalcy into the grass-touching of heroism. The main conflict is not only with the arising villain, but the fact that the villain (or external threat) is, in a way, forcing a (normally unwilling) hero to step into their role. Think of movies like Shrek and Spider- Man (2002)—with great power comes great responsibility, after all. 

Now, that’s all fine and dandy. The movie ends, the main character has been fully established as hero(ine), and the villain is defeated in a way that absolves the main character from the moral weight of actually doing the killing (in the examples above, death by milf dragon and accidental suicide by glider). This all gets flipped on its head in sequels focused on further character-building. In whatever the opposite of layman’s terms is: Transformative sequels aim to be subversive as they take the logical conclusion of the original and present a new internal conflict that forces the main character to readdress their newfound role and/or environment. 

In Shrek 2: The Shrekoning, Shrek is forced to readdress his feelings of self-doubt and internalized ogre-phobia by drinking glitter and becoming human, only to find that his feelings are stupid: Fiona can love someone who’s green, and he should be himself because everyone else is already taken. In Spider-Man 2: Return of the Goo, Tobey–I mean Peter looks inside himself to try and find if he really wants to remain Spider-Man, since he can’t hold down a job (pizza time), take care of Aunt May, or be with MJ, not to mention everyone hates him due to a series of literal ‘fake-news’ targeted attacks. Much like the secret powers of anxiety, these feelings manifest somatically as he literally starts to lose his powers (a sort of ‘projectile dysfunction’), giving him an out to live a ‘normal’ life. By the end of the film, he realizes that though he wants to shirk this ‘great responsibility,’ he has ‘great power’ and, for the sake of the greater good, he should probably remain Spider-Man (besides the fact that it’s incredibly fun to shoot goo and swing from buildings like some teenage mutant urban Tarzan.)

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is different from these particular sequels in one crucial way—–after confronting his internal conflict, Puss realizes that some of his beliefs and behaviors were harmful to him and the people around him, and he actually makes the change. Puss grows as a person (cat) and the defeat of the external conflict was pleasantly directly relevant to the resolution of his internal conflict. In a similar fashion, part of what makes Megamind such a beloved movie is its transformative sequel is already built into the original. Halfway through the film, after defeating the external conflict (Metroman), Megamind now has everything he’s ever wanted and… gets bored. Not before too long, he must face his new internal conflict of wanting to be the good guy and hold hands with pixie-cut Tina Fey, a process which is expedited by the rise of Titan, the new villain. This is an example of really good casting because Jonah Hill terrifies me and sometimes I think I hear him through the heating vent in my room training the mice to steal my hair clips and quarters. 

This is not always the case, however, as many sequels can be just as successful or even surpass the original in a simple retelling of the same story. In the Indiana Jones sequel, Indy never has to question his role as an extremely sweaty male heart-throb who treats women questionably. Honestly, introspection is probably not one of his strongest characteristics, as these types of sequels tend to be a more modern trend and children of the ‘80s did not want to watch their infallible heroes admit their flaws or grow as people. Go figure. 

Sadly, most sequels do not make the grade. They ARE money grabs, they SUCK BALLS, and they DO NOT RESPECT THE SOURCE MATERIAL. Toy Story 4 has driven me into blind rage more times than I can count, and by just mentioning it I feel another excessively violent fugue state creeping up on me. You should probably leave, but before you go always remember: good sequels are possible, most are failures, and always stay faithful to yourself. Happy watching!

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