The late film critic Roger Ebert helped popularize a word that describes one too many movies released these days, and that is the “requel.” A portmanteau of “remake” and “sequel,” a requel is exactly that – a sequel to a movie that rehashes its predecessor’s plot, despite technically taking place after its events. Let’s be honest with ourselves: when you have a winning formula, it can be hard to diverge from it and take chances. This is especially prevalent in low-budget sequels to sleeper hits, as the creative minds behind them evidently believe more of the same will work for their target audience.
Sometimes it does, but often it doesn’t, and we’re left to pick up the pieces. And so, we at Taste of Cinema have decided to point out 10 different sequels that, when you think about it, are actually pretty much copies of the original.
1. The Sandlot 2
The original “Sandlot” was unabashedly soaked in nostalgia, but it was ultimately a sweet coming-of-age tale about a boy learning to grow up through baseball. This wasn’t a sports drama in the same vain as “Remember the Titans,” “Rocky,” or even “Rudy.” It was about a time in everyone’s young life when we started to expand our horizons and venture into the outside world, facing all sorts of obstacles. To quote Ebert again, it was like a summertime version of the 1983 classic “A Christmas Story.”
Its direct-to-DVD successor, “The Sandlot 2,” released an astounding 15 years later, decided the best way to reignite favor among audiences was to redo everything the first one had done. Have a lonely protagonist? Check. Have him bond with a group of baseball players? Check. Have the group lose something precious behind the fence of Mr. Mertle, guarded by a seemingly monstrous dog? Double check.
The only difference this time around was that there were girls in it, in an ill-conceived attempt at tackling gender roles.
2. Jaws 2
It is really saying something when a production goes so far off the rails a director genuinely believes that the crew wants to murder him. But such was the case with Steven Spielberg when he was making “Jaws,” a movie now widely regarded as not only a great thriller, but the original summer blockbuster. Made on a $9 million budget, its scary premise caught the attention of millions of moviegoers, resulting in it becoming a mega success and cultural milestone.
But that former figure was the only thing that interested Universal Pictures, which decided that a sequel needed to be fast-tracked in order to capitalize on the fervor generated by it. Thus came the title-uninspired “Jaws 2” a mere three years later.
Though it featured the the return of Roy Scheider and John Williams, “Jaws 2” rested on an impossible quandary – how do you make a surprise killer shark scary again? The answer, of course, was that you couldn’t, but that didn’t stop the filmmakers from basically going over every story beat from the original: a lone shark begins preying on innocent beachgoers, resulting in the local police chief investigating, and being doubted by nearly everyone until he comes to a climactic showdown with the titular beast.
Best to stick to the first.
3. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
Though child actor Macaulay Culkin had starred in the 1989 John Hughes/John Candy cult classic “Uncle Buck,” it was the Christmas comedy “Home Alone” released the following year that proved to be his breakthrough as a performer. The premise, like most great comedies, was based around a simple idea: have a kid who’s left alone at home deal with burglars who are attempting to rob his house while the family is away.
Though criticized for being mean-spirited at times, the film hit a stride with audiences and became a hit, meaning a sequel had to be acted upon. Except, just like with “Jaws,” there was no way to do a follow-up without rethreading the basic plot structure. Sure, the events of “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” take place in a hotel in the Big Apple rather than the small house in Chicago, but it still features the same set-up of Kevin getting separated from his parents as a result of an alarm clock malfunction and having to deal with idiot thieves once again played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern.
At least everyone was smart enough to avoid the third one….
4. Final Destination 2
There is this idea in time travel theories called the Novikov self-consistency principle, which was conceived by Russian physicist Igor Dmitriyevich Novikov to resolve the idea of a problem arising from a potential time travel incident, like the Grandfather paradox. It suggests that time has a way of fixing itself to ensure that no time traveler can alter the future, deliberately or accidentally.
Imagine that premise turned into a horror film and you have “Final Destination.” Following a group of people who avoid a deadly plane crash after one of them has a premonition about it, “Final Destination” depicted them being subsequently hunted by Death in order to ensure that they die according to the original plan. Though somewhat interesting, without a deeper mythology there was nothing the film could do outside of coming up with creative deaths for its beautiful cast.
To the credit of “Final Destination 2,” it did attempt to somewhat change up the formula by actually revolving around characters from its predecessor, but that did not stop the plot from being the exact same: people cheat Death, resulting in Death working to kill them in conveniently gruesome ways.
Sure it’s better than the “Saw” sequels, but that’s not saying much.
5. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
The Writer’s Guild Strike of 2007 and 2008 did more than just raise awareness for what the low-wage writers in the film and television industry were taking at the time: it showed just how integral good screenwriting was to movies and TV shows everywhere.
Regarding the former, we could see the effects present in such trash blockbusters as “Rush Hour 3,” “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” amongst others. However, none of them quite topped the travesty that was “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.”
Michael Bay’s first take on the Transformers franchise provided enough thrilling visuals to overcome its by-the-numbers storyline. However, with the sequel, the novelty had not only worn off, but the story had taken a nosedive as a result of hack writing that pandered to the lowest common denominator.
The worst part? It was essentially just the first film with a different Macguffin. Rather than have Sam Witwicky and the Autobots try to find the AllSpark to protect Earth from Megatron, it was about finding the Matrix of Leadership to protect Earth from The Fallen.