May 16, 2003

By Michael Strickland


Neo's back. It's been four years since we all met the über-hacker Everyman—a seeming eternity for fans of "The Matrix," who have waited impatiently for the sequel, "The Matrix Reloaded." Now that "Reloaded" has been loaded into multiplex projectors across the country, I have the opportunity to talk about the phenomenon of sequels in general.

Let me begin by postulating the Strickland Law of Sequels: the more original the original, the more banal the sequel. Several exceptions to this rule immediately come to mind: "Aliens," "Terminator 2" and "The Empire Strikes Back." But countless other examples of the rule leap off the silver screen and into the porcelain bowl: "Batman and Robin," "Caddyshack II," all of the "Jaws" sequels, "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier," "Jurassic Park: The Lost World." And so many more.

I have not yet seen "The Matrix Reloaded," and will probably wait for the crowds to subside in a week or two to see it. But early buzz seems to indicate mostly style and little substance. A cinematic video game, a dazzle for the eyes but not the mind. Did anyone expect differently? Strickland's Law of Sequels would have predicted such a result. The first movie, reflecting the angst and ennui of a world in the midst of a technological revolution, was a masterpiece of originality. According to Strickland's Law, then, the sequel must therefore be a one-dimensional piece of claptrap. Which I'm sure it's not, but the basic premise still holds. In terms of originality, it's probably a mere shadow of the original.

Strickland's Law of Sequels illuminates the real reason that sequels get green-lit: money. Sure, in some cases the original filmmaker has a vision for the next installment, and an inventive sequel comes about (note previous examples). But the primary raison d'etre for sequels is to make money for the studio which releases them. With such motives, things like originality and creativity are secondary—perhaps even discouraged, if it means straying too far from the original formula which gave birth to the first success. If the studio senses a big payoff, they can often be willing to lay out a large investment in the production (the two "Matrix" sequels cost a combined $300 million). But you can be sure the films resulting from such large investments will closely follow the original formula. "Risk" is indeed a four-letter word in Hollywood.

A long string of utterly banal remakes, sequels, adaptations and spin-offs has spewed out of Hollywood in the past ten years. Originality has become a rarer and rarer commodity. Sadly, it's not because it doesn't exist, but rather fewer and fewer executives will take a chance on an unknown. As a result, we'll continue to see reload after reload.

Photo © Warner Bros.


©2003 Michael Strickland ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

What is "The Daily Strick"?

I have long called myself a writer, but too often I don't do what a writer must do daily: write. So you, dear reader, are the beneficiary of my resolution to make a positive change in at least one area of my life. Every single day of this new year, I will write something, anything, and post it here. It is my intention to use this daily exercise to jump-start my too-long-dormant creative energies, and perhaps generate some worthwhile material this year. Hopefully you will find at least an occasional amusement or insight in my daily musings.

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5/15: Temporary Defeat
5/12: What, Me Write?
5/11: Rockin' Out
5/10: Van Halen at the Tokyo Dome
5/9: Your Tax Dollars at Work
5/8: Yes, I Am a Nerd
5/7: Still Writing
5/6: A Different World?
5/5: Sponge
5/4: MacGyver
5/3: Mike's Sky Ranch
5/2: Baja Bound
5/1: Ice Moon
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