Sequels: when Part II just isn’t a good idea…

When does too much of a good thing become a bad thing?

I mean, let’s be honest: any time you read a great book or finish a great movie, somewhere in the back of your mind you wonder if there will be more –unless, of course, the author is dead (and no, fanfiction does not count).

Why is it we want more? Is it because the story left things open-ended? Is it because it was a cliff-hanger? Or is it simply our voyeuristic curiosity to know what the characters do with the rest of their lives?

Whatever it is, it has led hundreds—nay, thousands—of writers into plotline pandemonium (or frankly, lameness) and character catastrophes (or frankly, contradictions).

With each new installment the writers attempt to perform CPR on a corpse, failing to realize that they are the ones who killed it in the first place.

A good story doesn’t feel dead without a sequel.

It might feel incomplete, but if it has no life on its own, then adding Part II or even Part VIII isn’t going to breathe life into it.

But even worse is undoing the meaning of the first story by undermining its characters in the sequel.

At this point, I tread dangerously near the edge of controversy. I would avoid naming names, but alas, it’s impossible.

Take for instance Andrew Lloyd Weber: the man is a brilliant composer and storyteller through music. But I cannot bring myself to watch The Phantom of the Opera’s sequel, Love Never Dies (even though I sang the title song in my junior recital). Although *some* of the music in the sequel is comparably beautiful to that in the second, as a continuation of the story, it destroys the characters—not to mention, it robs any meaning from the original’s iconic “All I Ask of You.” Where is the beauty in the commitment Christine and Raoul make in Phantom if they throw it all away in Love Never Dies?

The other pitfall of sequels comes from contriving watered-down plots that have no energy left.

Okay, maybe I’m plunging off the edge of controversy now.

But Pirates of the CaribbeanI’ll defend the choice to make the trilogy, but I think everyone can agree that the first was capable as a stand-alone. It had a complete plot arc, a somewhat complete character arc (at least for Will), and a signature swashbuckling finish that left ends just open enough for a sequel or two. But even without the sequel, it would still have been a good film.

The hole they dug themselves into with this one was the introduction of a fourth. Not only did it have an inferior plotline, but the new characters it introduced were one-dimensional tropes pulled off the front-row shelf—even if they have the faces of Penelope Cruz and Sam Claflin. That being said, the fifth was a slight improvement from the fourth, but I don’t think they can ever match the glory of the trilogy. Basically, in making the fourth, the directors opened a can of worms they seem reluctant to close back up again… even if it would be best for the world of cinema.

And then there’s Star Wars… I won’t say much here, because I never saw the prequels and stopped watching after the seventh and Rogue One, so I’m utterly unqualified to give any assessment. But I do know the creation of the latest two trilogies has caused simultaneous enthusiasm and eye-rolling.

It makes me wonder, as do these other cases, what exactly is it that makes a story ripe for a sequel? Aside from those cases where it’s obvious that the story will be a saga (e.g. Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, etc.), what components set up a stand-alone for a second installment?

What are some stories out there that could have done fine without a sequel?

Which ones could have used a part II? And which ones absolutely should never have received a follow-up?

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