Sequel Mania

Sequel Mania. It’s very real. And it’s upon us now. How else to explain Scream 6, John Wick 4, and Fast and the Furious 10? All within three months of each other. March, April, and May. The months leading into the summer. Now here’s the thing. Sequels have always been around. This is nothing new. Only here’s what is new… these sequels are coming in with box office numbers that somehow make them the biggest hits of their entire franchises.


That’s right. John Wick 4 has had a bigger and better grossing opening weekend than any of the John Wick movies. The same for Scream 6. Franchise best numbers. Not in terms of quality (both movies are on the lower end there,) but in terms of box office success and popularity. Creed III is another one, easily making more money than either of the other two Creed movies.

Now, how is this possible? How is it possible that the world is suddenly turning up for these later installments, when they clearly didn’t turn up as much to see the earlier films? There are a number of answers here.

One of them is absolutely related to the pandemic. Now, obviously there’s inflation involved, but it can’t be just that. The same can be said for word of mouth. Yes, the second John Wick movie did better then the first, because word of mouth on the first movie got more and more people to see it. But now we are talking about the fourth movie. So what gives?


The answer is that during the pandemic, people stayed home and watched lots and lots of movies. They got caught up. And now, seeing something familiar in theaters, and something that the audience is already invested in, feels refreshing. Call it making up for lost time, and for not being able to go to the movies at all, over the past few years.


But there’s also a problem. In fact a couple of them. The first one is that these franchises are running out of steam. While their box office numbers might be at an all time high, their storylines and quality are at an all time low. Look at the last Scream movie (Scream 6,) which was afraid to kill any of its main characters. That was never a problem for the franchise before, and kind of ruined the movie. With Scream 6, any character who had been in any previous movies was safe, so that they could be considered legacy characters that could be brought back for another sequel. What a mess.


And for the first time in four films, John Wick 4 actually felt tired. It felt repetitive. Towards the end of the movie, the injuries (or lack thereof,) made it almost feel like a parody instead of like something we should be taking seriously. But with how much money this movie is making, there is sure to be another sequel. Even despite how the movie ends, where there’s a will (and by that I mean money,) there’s a way. So they will find a way. First they will put out the Continental series and the Ballerina spinoff movie, and if either of those is tremendously successful, than maybe they will leave John Wick alone and just continue with those in its place. But if neither one does the kind of business that Wick does, then believe me, Wick will be back.


But John Wick isn’t the only movie hitting its end. Over at Marvel, they are reaching the endpoint on most of their trilogies. And three movies is generally the magic number. That’s what both Iron Man and Captain America had. Go one movie over that and you’re asking for trouble. Look at what happened with Thor: Love and Thunder, taking all of the good will from Thor: Ragnorak (highly regarded as the best Thor movie,) and squandering it. John Wick 4 is in the exact same boat, with four movies being one too many, (in terms of quality, not box office.)

With Ant Man, they just ended their trilogy. With Guardians of the Galaxy, they are about to. And where does that leave us? Because nobody is clamoring for a sequel to the Eternals. So we’ve got Shang Chi, and that’s about it. That and a fourth Captain America film (this time featuring a new Captain America, played by Anthony Mackie.)

Creed III is the rare exception where a sequel was actually better than the movies that came before it, but let’s be honest, the Creed series was never all that good. It was fine, and entertaining, but never anything special or super creative. And the days where a sequel could really light the world on fire and challenge the original as the better movie seem long gone (The James Cameron days of Terminator 2 and Aliens.) Instead, we are getting more and more of the same, and for the most part, these movies are getting worse. I was so excited for Scream 6, after the fifth movie brought in a new energy by the filmmakers behind Ready or Not (who call themselves Radio Silence.) Only somehow those filmmakers actually got cold feet with movie number six, and started thinking about sequels and franchises, and trying to keep every character alive so they could be brought back for the next movie, instead of actually making a good film.

And that’s our problem. Thinking about the next movie, instead of the movie that is right in front of you. Priority one should always be to make a great movie that could stand on its own. These days, it seems like we are getting further and further away from that.