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What Happens Next Will Amaze You! Or Not…


As a rule, sequels are never as good as originals.

The original Jaws (1975) about a great white shark killing and eating local town folk in the seaside town of Amity Island and the police chief’s successful effort to kill it was both a financial and creative success.

Jaws II (1978) in which another great white shark comes to town to renew the killing spree so popular in the original film was a much lesser film, but still much better than what was to follow.

Jaws 3-D (1983) was a silly film in which a baby white shark infiltrates a new Sea World park in Florida and apparently begins killing water skiers and other park workers.  The baby is captured, but it is soon discovered that the baby shark’s momma is also loose in the park and is the real killer. The shark is finally killed with the help of some friendly dolphins and a hand grenade.

Then, just when people began to think it was safe to go back to the movies, along came Jaws, the Revenge (1987) an even sillier film in which the shark returns to Amityville and kills the police chief’s son. The police chief has by this time died of a heart attack brought on by his fear of sharks. After the death of her son, the distraught widow moves in with her other son, a marine biologist who lives with his wife in the Bahamas. Unfortunately, the shark follows her there.  This makes the police chief’s widow so nutty, she is convinced that the white shark community is seeking retribution for all the sharks destroyed by her family. She goes out on a final mission to put a stop to it and with the help of some locals finally kills the last vengeful great white. Or did she? Only time and Hollywood know the answer to that one.

Remember Rocky (1976). A great feel-good flick.  Rocky II (1979) was less so. Rocky III (1982), Rocky IV (1985), Rocky V (1990), and Rocky Balboa (2006) left us reeling from the dribble overdose.

I won’t even get into the later super hero films. Grown men and women running around in capes fighting crime just seem too silly to consider at my advanced age.

There are some exceptions that prove the “bad sequel” rule. The Godfather Part II – both a prequel and a sequel – was much better than either The Godfather or The Godfather Part III. It routinely comes up on the “Best Movie of All Time” list. And it should. But Coppola should have stopped when the stopping was good.  The Godfather III – not so good. And, of course, there’s the Star Wars franchise, which is a category onto itself – a mixture of mega-hit prequels and sequels with a multi-generational fan base.

But for the most part, sequels suck.

Even so, Hollywood thrives on the assumption that if you can squeeze another dime out of a story, you’d better do it. As a fan, I believe it’s best to leave well enough alone. There is no sequel to Gone with the Wind, Casablanca, or Apocalypse Now, nor should there be. Scarlet and Rhett are never going to fall back in love; the noble Ilsa is never going to leave her husband and get back together with saloon-owner Rick, and I really don’t want to see Captain Benjamin L. Willard go back to the states, check in at the VA with PTSD, get rehab and return to battle.

There really is a time to just let it go.

Which brings me to the wonderful seven-episode HBO mini-series Big Little Lies that concluded earlier this year. I don’t want to spoil it for anybody who hasn’t seen it, but it’s a black comedy about five women who spend the entire series fighting with each other, only to finally put aside their differences and reach a happy ending.

Now there’s talk of a sequel. There’s no doubt the sequel would make money, that people would tune in to see what happens next, but this is where imagination comes in. Let us viewers decide for ourselves what happens next.

I have to agree with Joanna Robinson, writing for Vanity Fair, who says:

“While the desire to get the band back together is understandable, it’s tricky to conceive of a plot that would rival Season 1’s. Will there be another murder? Is Monterey the new Cabot Cove? Or will these five women grapple with lower-key issues the second time around? It’s hard to imagine that Big Little Lies could go more dramatic—and it’s equally hard to picture fans of the first season’s twisty reveals being satisfied with a tamer second installment.”

The thing about a good story is that is has a beginning, a middle, and an end. And what happens after the end is never going to live up to what came before.

George Lee Cunningham

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