Great sequel, bad box office

George Bell discusses why a great sequel may bomb at the box office

George Bell
17th April 2020
Image: IMDB
For the most part movie sequels suck, being a cash grab hated by fans and critics alike. But there will be the occasional sequel that improves on its predecessor or is simply made well enough to make critics swoon. Pushing against that bad sequel stereotype, there are movies that aren’t just good but are widely regarded as some of the best of the year.

It is not like all sequels suffer from this, with marvel properties frequently pulling in the majority of the box office.  The fourth Avengers film, Avengers Endgame (2019) pulled in a staggering $2.8 billion during its box office runtime so for some it clearly works. So why, even when critics love them, do certain sequels perform poorly at the box office?

In most cases, these critically acclaimed sequels come from movies that were also very well received as chances are if the movie is bad a sequel won’t get made. Many of these films are cult classics loved by many so in theory, more content should have the fans losing their minds. But the box office isn’t showing that.

Some fans might just ignore certain films to avoid what they love being ruined

Ridley Scott’s 1982 cyberpunk film Blade Runner is widely regarded as one of the best science-fiction of all time so when the sequel, Blade Runner 2049 (2017) many people were excited but sadly not enough as it ended up flopping at the box office. Despite getting 87% on rotten tomatoes, the film only made back $260.5 million from a $150-185 million budget with hopes of bringing in about $400 million. The movie won two academy awards for the best visual effects and cinematography, so it was certainly a good film to watch but people just didn’t watch it.

Part of the reason may have been because of its intimidating two-hour 44 minutes runtime, but there may be others. Movies like the original Blade Runner are much beloved so there are certainly going to be concerns around how making a sequel can take away from what that film did. Be it by completely changing the canon or just leaving a bad taste in the mouth of fans. So, it might not be surprising that some fans might just ignore certain films to avoid what they love being ruined or changing it even slightly even if the film is the best thing since sliced bread.

In order to make a good sequel, chances are you have to change things and try and one-up their predecessors

A great example would be 2019s Doctor Sleep, the sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980). Doctor Sleep received decent ratings with 77% on rotten tomatoes and an IMDb rating of 7.4. The movie however only brought in $72.3 million so clearly didn’t do as well as it could have.

I watched the film and while I quite enjoyed it, there were obvious differences between it and The Shining. While Stanley Kubrick opted for a more psychological horror, Mike Flanagan stuck closer to the source material and went for supernatural horror. In doing this it changed a lot of things about the first movie making the shining ability seem a lot more like a superpower. I can see how this can negatively impact Kubrick’s work, perhaps even taking away part of the scare factor from the film. In order to make a good sequel, chances are you have to change things and try and one-up their predecessors and some people don’t like that.

Personally, I think the hate on movie sequels is becoming outdated as there are numerous brilliant films that are sequels: Terminator 2, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Godfather Part 2. Just because the movie isn’t the original doesn’t mean it will be bad. I hope people soon realise that again and start watching film sequels again, especially when the critics are losing their minds over them.

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AUTHOR: George Bell
One half film addict, one part computer nerd. All parts Croc lover

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