Sequels That Don't Suck
I’ve recently realized that my movie-viewing practices have been sadly lacking in classic 1980s and 90s action/adventure films. On several occasions, I have said something like “I’ve never seen *insert movie title*” only to be met with surprise and disbelief from my friends. Case in point, I watched the Indiana Jones series for the first time in 2019. Shocking, I know.
At this point, you are probably wondering what this has to do with the title of this blog. Bear with me, I’m getting there, I promise. My pop cultural failings were once again brought to my attention on New Year’s Day when a friend discovered that I had never seen any of the Terminator movies. He decided that we needed to fix this immediately but informed me that we’d be starting with Terminator 2: Judgement Day because it was the superior movie in the series. I was a bit surprised because it’s unusual for a sequel to live up to the quality of the first installment, let alone surpass it. Most series start off on a high note and then go downhill from there.
This got me thinking about other sequels that don’t…well…suck. Naturally, I turned to my coworkers for suggestions but we quickly encountered a problem: What exactly is a sequel? And how is it different from a series? My immediate response is that a sequel is the follow up to a previously standalone book or movie. It is Book 2. But, if the author writes Book 3, is Book 2 still a sequel or is it just the second part of a series? And if it is still a sequel, is Book 3 one too? For whatever reason, I don’t really think of Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets as a sequel but rather just part two of the Harry Potter series. However, I do think of Toy Story 2 as a sequel even though there are now four movies in the franchise. It’s all very confusing.
But I’ve started down this rabbit hole and I’m stubborn enough to carry on. With the above conundrum in mind, I’ve used a relatively loose definition of “sequel” to compile a list of book and movie sequels that don’t suck... at least according to me and my colleagues.
It’s always a contentious issue when an author publishes a sequel for a very popular and/or critically acclaimed book. We’ve seen a few high profile sequels in recent years, including The Testaments, the follow-up to Margret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and Go Set a Watchman, the controversial companion to Harper Lee’s classic To Kill a Mockingbird. Most of these titles are met with mixed reviews but occasionally a sequel will come along that lives up to expectations.
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
It wouldn’t be a list of quality sequels without Mantel’s Booker Prize-winning sequel to Wolf Hall, which also received the same honor. Mantel is the first women to win the prestigious award twice. The Mirror and the Light, the long-awaited third installment in the series is due to be released this year.
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
This is one the entries on my list that requires a looser definition of “sequel.” The Two Towers is a sequel to The Fellowship of the Ring but technically the whole trilogy could also be viewed as a sequel to The Hobbit.
A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers
This sequel was my pick. It’s the Hugo-nominated follow-up to The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, which Chambers self-published through a successful Kickstarter campaign. Now containing three installments, the series won the 2019 Hugo Award for Best Series.
- Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine
- The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion
- Sharpe's Triumph by Bernard Cromwell
Sequels for movies are treated a bit differently than book sequels. Sadly, in many cases they are simply a chance for the production studio to make money by capitalizing on the success of the first movie. As a result, sequels and remakes have become very common in Hollywood. But that doesn’t mean that all movie sequels are bad.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day
The movie that started me down this rabbit hole!
The Lost World: Jurassic Park
This was one of my personal picks. The original Jurassic Park is, of course, amazing but for whatever reason, I saw the second installment first and my family actually had a Lost World computer game so the sequel will always have a special place in my dinosaur-loving heart.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
One of the best movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Another classic franchise that I have yet to see, but I am told they are excellent. I do think, however, that this is an example of a confusingly named sequel. Movie 1 is called Alien. Movie 2 is called Aliens. I suspect a lot of slightly oblivious folks, like myself, have started with the sequel by accident.
What do you think? Did my colleagues and I pick sequels worthy of this list? More importantly, which sequels did we miss? What are your favourites?