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Second Chances for Sequels…

What if you have to pee when you’re on fire?

It’s awesome.

I have a confession to make. I am actually kinda looking forward to Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. The trailer looks like it could be either off-the-wall over-the-top brilliant, or mind-numbingly terrifying, but promises to be interesting either way. Still, the taint of the original Ghost Rider, perhaps the weakest comic book adaptation of the past decade (and there have been some weak adaptations), hangs around the title, and I can’t help but wonder if my dislike of the original film should somehow mute my anticipation for the sequel. After all, I’ve seen the concept fail on screen before, so why should I feel even a hint of excitement for a follow-up to a ridiculously crap film? Appropriately enough, with sequels, is it once burnt and twice shy?

As much as I may want to seem objective in reviewing films, and hope to judge each film on its own merits or demerits, the truth is that previous instalments in a series do manage my enthusiasm for a particular franchise or property. I saw Twilight, for example, and it pretty much killed any intention I had seeing Breaking Dawn or Eclipse. I sat uncomfortably through Epic Movie, so I know I don’t ever want to see Disaster Movie or Meet the Spartans. At the same time, it also works the other way around. I only ever saw The Two Jakes because of my deep affection for Chinatown.

I’ll concede that I am quite willing to forgive a long-running franchise an especially weak instalment here and there. Star Trek V: the Final Frontier belongs on a compilation of the worst movies ever made, but I will still queue up to see a Star Trek movie. There are some Bond movies I like less than others, but the production and release of another instalment in the franchise still piques my interest. It’s not even the notion of distance between the crappy instalment and the next movie that counts either. I was disappointed by Quantum of Solace, but am psyched for Sam Mendes’ release. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country was probably my favourite movie to feature the original cast.

Bad sequels take their troll...

Still, when a movie series has stumbled so heavily coming out of the gate, and doesn’t have a long line of success behind it to help guide it back on track, I do wonder what it takes to generate a bit of enthusiasm for a follow-up. Perhaps a clean break helps. Say what you will about Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man and the shadow of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man and Spider-Man II, but the movie does seem to have escaped the taint of the disappointing Spider-Man III, if only by completely distancing itself from the previous series. I think that Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class did the same thing for X-Men III and the recent Rise of the Planet of the Apes did it for every talking monkey film after The Planet of the Apes. So perhaps it’s easier to embrace a follow-up when it looks like something new – when it seems like there’s a conscious effort to move away from the creative misfire.

That said, I don’t think that Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance quite has that. The trailer still features Nicolas Cage riding a motor bike and turning his head into a flaming skull – I think that was just about the only thing that audiences took away from the mess of the first film. The directors of the project, on the other hand, are the duo responsible for Crank, rather than the dude who messed up Daredevil, so maybe a strong behind-the-scenes change is enough to allow me to feel just a little bit hopeful and forgive the sin of the original movie. It’s almost like a suspension of disbelief, in that I’m suspending my skepticism until I see the new film.

Ghost Rider hasn't exactly been on fire of late...

However, perhaps I am simply over-thinking it. Perhaps my willingness to give a failed film series a second chance has nothing to do with the original film, and simply allows me to be convinced of a film’s value on its own merits. The cast and creative team behind Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is considerably stronger than that of the original (sorry, Peter Fonda). The trailer seems like it’s insane – it seems like a movie that could very easily implode under the weight of its own ridiculousness, but it also looks like a film that won’t be boring. I can forgive a film a lot if it isn’t boring.

Perhaps I’m won over on a sequel by the same factors that convince me to see any original film: the people involved in production, the buzz around it, and the footage released. It sounds kinda bad to say it, but perhaps the premise – one that has been tried and which failed – isn’t that big a draw for any film. I mean, I don’t understand baseball, but I’m psyched about Moneyball. I didn’t care for the character of Ghost Rider before the film, and I don’t care now. I enjoyed Jason Aaron’s take on Ghost Rider, but the character is hardly a cultural icon – he’s a fire-breathing skeleton motorbike rider. I can take it or leave it, it’s the other factors that will sell me on a movie.

On yer bike, Cage...

I think that might be it. The movie looks intriguing, but it would still look intriguing even if its predecessor didn’t exist. It doesn’t look average, or okay, or so-so (in which case I’d probably defer to experience), but it looks like it could be fun. Sure, it could be an even worse film, but I think it has my attention for that alone.

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2 Responses

  1. I have to say, I found the first Ghost Rider hilarious (ly bad). It makes one wonder if perhaps a comic book fan should not attempt to portray any role in an adaptation!
    The trailer for the second attempt definitely has me wanting to go see it in the cinema. I have no idea why. I think it could purely be because there is no better entertainment than seeing a flaming skull, with Nicholas Cage’s posture, in a leather jacket zooming around on a motorbike.

    Apparently Beetlejuice is due a completed sequel in the next few years. What is worse is that there are rumours that it will have a beachy setting. I think that suggestion was Burton’s way of saying ‘I don’t want a sequel’ back when it was being asked of him. Hopefully he won’t do a sparkling and swish Alice in Wonderland type of sequel either. I’m really curious to see if his next few films will get him back on the right track, but am a little anxious at the result of a ‘modern’ treatment of Beetlejuice. Although, I would like to see a sequel to the waiting room scene..maybe those characters could star in a spin-off :)

    • I actually think that Tim Burton really needs to go back to his roots – all his films have seemed “samey” since Big Fish, to be honest. I love quite a few of them, including Sweeney Todd, but I think Alice suffered for being “generic Tim Burton project #281.” I believe he’s working on adapting his short Frankenweenie, or was that just a rumour? And Dark Shadows could be interesting, if it does manage to seem distinct from his last few films. I think what’s frustrating is that Burton’s style used to be so unique.

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