When it comes to cash grabs and revivals of beloved cult classics, there is a good chance that the sequel will not be as good as the original. Overall, it’s quite rare to find a follow-up that is better than the one that started it all, such as The Empire Strikes Back, Toy Story 2, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Shrek 2, but several sequels tragically ruined a series or franchise altogether. Many big-budget studios — like Disney, DreamWorks, Blue Sky, and so on — heavily rely on a “universe expansion” to make money when things start to dry up, and it’s not all good news for the fans and viewers expiring the travesty. If you’re in desperate need of money whilst writing a sequel, perhaps actual thought should be put into it, yes?
When writing a sequel, one must consider if it’s necessary — not the amount of money they’ll make at the box office. There should be only three things to consider when developing a sequel; will it be better than or equal to the original, will it be something relatively new, and is it necessary —to the characters or plot? Of course, the sequel may not be as good as its predecessor, but that doesn’t mean a writer shouldn’t put any thought into it. Additionally, you want to introduce new elements to the storyline, not a quick-witted, half-developed, and unoriginal repetition of the original. Yes, you may want to remind your audience of what made them fall in love with what hooked them to the series, to begin with, but not to retell a previous story that was already told. Lastly, a writer will need to consider if this is necessary; what do the characters have to overcome and why is it relevant to their arcs, does the protagonist still feel unaccomplished from their previous journey, or is there something from the previous work(s) that wasn’t fully fleshed out enough? Although many will argue that Toy Story 4 was an unnecessary addition to a “perfect franchise,” the story was not about the other character’s satisfaction with their new life, it was Woody’s story — for him to find a new purpose in life. Was the sequel necessary as a whole? Of course not, but it concluded the arc of the protagonist in a satisfying way that Toy Story 3 failed to do, as it was more focused on the whole cast rather than the individual who was growing throughout the first two films.
“We’re Doing a Sequel”, a song performed by the Muppets in Muppets Most Wanted, demonstrates how awful potential sequels can be and how they’re usually never as good compared to the first installment. Even Kermit the Frog knows what’s up, and warns the audience by breaking the fourth wall in song: “We’re doing a sequel. We’re back by popular demand.” As the song demonstrates, sequels are never as good, and a franchise or series as a whole is considered vital to their wallets and banks. It’s quite obvious to spot a cash grab; it’s a sequel to a film released twenty-plus years ago, the actors appear out of character in the film, or there are an overwhelming amount of surprise cameos (this also usually occurs when a series’ audience is dying out). Although some movie franchises seemingly pull off their sequels well, it may not just be a great follow-up overall.
Sequels may not be as great as the original, but sometimes they have their moments. In modern-day society, audiences are always expecting a sequel due to their high demand in cinema, but should really consider skipping out if the trailer tells you something similar will happen. There’s always the option to be original, or uniquely expand an already-created universe.