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A Beleagured Nation Enduring An Unnecessary Sequel July 7, 2006

Posted by doctorolove in Movies.
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It just wasn’t a good idea to begin with.

I mean, the first one was epic. It was the late eighties/early nineties phenomenon. You couldn’t escape it. It was the topic on everyone’s lips, from the counter at Stuckey’s to the swankiest of dinner parties. The marketing machine went into overdrive just to make sure we didn’t forget it. Kids were wearing shirts with the yellow ribboned logo across it. McDonalds was dropping flags alongside every happy meal. It was everywhere. The World worshipped at its’ feet.

The story was simple enough. You have the conflicted hero, forced into his righteous stance by a dark foreboding past. There was the villain, all smiles and bravado, who saw a rich conflicted city begging to be overthrown. All the stereotypical good vs. evil smackdown stereotypes were there. The hero is misunderstood at first, even as we watch the villain gain power. Yet, he fights past his conflicted soul and launches an attack on his adversary with swiftness and righteousness and well timed green explosions. And in the end, he wins. The tyrant is vanquished and sent back to his lair, still with a smile on his face.

But it wasn’t just the story. It was the way it was portrayed. Big explosions. Dark lit cityscapes rife with flashes of incendiary devices. Swift new weapons we’d only imagined, but could never really fathom as being physically possible. Camera angles that we never thought we’d be able to ride along on (Did they just show the missile blowing apart that factory?). And the media ate it up, showing clips around the clock and hailing it as the “Mother of all other” in its’ genre. Artists of all colors came out to support the cause, recording tribute songs and staging efforts to gain the project’s notoriety. (Is that Prince singing a tribute to the city? He almost never sells out.) It’s director, with his weird tics and mysterious bon mots lovingly doled out at press conferences, became a hero in his own right. The nation embraced his eccentricity and he, more than the beleaguered hero himself, became the face of the story. It was tight, running along at such a speedy clip that we barely noticed the time fly by. The casualties shown were few, the horror of others of its’ genre so graciously spared from our eyes. Only the enemy took his lumps. And at the end of the day, we all breathed as the hero returned to his massive mansion in the heart of the city, safe and victorious.

But we as a people always demand more, no matter how successful and perfect the original product may have been. And the big wigs knew it. Questions about the hero’s validity came into question and the powers that be knew that there was only one way to pump the good feelings back into the public. They would create and market the sequel. And surely they could improve on the original.

At first, we were all skeptical. They brought it big names to act out the storylines. They even changed the hero, yet still left him with his checkered past and the issues of darkness that hung around him. The architects of the project went from body to body explaining how, though this project would be expensive, it was necessary, nay, pertinent to the values and good feelings of our country. And the powers, with their deep pockets and whip-smart judgment, whole heartedly agreed.

And so we were fed the sequel. It started out innocently enough, with millions of Americans glued to their seats during the opening weekend. All the players were back in their familiar roles, save for a different clothed hero and a few extra people along for the ride this time. They even saddled the hero with a sidekick, who while joining the fight on the side of our champion, maintained his own personal agendas for the adventure. This time, however, they saddled us with two villains. There was the evil one, who had already attacked our hero and his family once and the mysterious co-conspirator, who was created by the champ’s alter-ego in a horrible accident.

But what are the standard rules of sequels? How quickly did they manifest themselves. The opening sequence was big, awe-inspired and shocking. Explosions like none the screen had ever seen. Body counts were higher from the get-go. Yet our heroes emerged unscathed and ready to fight their two villains in the same dark cityscape. Only now, the set had changed. Gone were the darkly lit green flashes, replaced by studio quality neon-lit joyless explosions, tailor made to illicit oohs and aahs. Only the public was not buying it. In fact, it was outraged. Support for a hero only lasts so long as the battles are quick and the victory is imminent.

They forgot the story this time. The hero was being pulled in so many directions with so many enemies and useless sub-plots involving his sidekick. The back-story and invention of our hero, such an important part of the first one’s success, was gone, replaced with pithy quips and lame side characters that, although we remember them from the first, are given nothing to do but act as lip service to further the plot. With the two enemies, the narrative often lost focus, resulting in holes large enough to drive massive rolling armored vehicles through. And the massive stars they got this time around were laughable, even the muscle bound lovable oaf we had all once pinned our hopes on.

The plot was longer and muddier. Even early in the film, when the enemy’s home and plans are vanquished, and the hero announced “Mission Accomplished,” we know there’s more to come. The explosions became louder and the enemy was still lurking, plotting his final revenge. The hero, still conflicted (or so he may have said, but his piss-poor countenance and acting ability revealed otherwise) became a joke. The sequel spins out of control, turning out laughable scenarios one after another. Critics ask for it’s demise. Powers that be lose their job. And the director this time around, once hailed as a future genius, is laughed off his platform, unable to explain away the mess he has created. The film seems to be going nowhere, as if a plot had not even been written. The ending is tacked on – with a final shot of one of the vanquished foes smoking a cigar in his cell, a battered shell of his former powerful self.

The public is scarred permanently. How could an idea that at once seemed so filled with promise and worldwide goodwill have degredated itself into this filthy icky mess of overblown words and horrid visuals? Even in the end, when the hero and his band of sidekicks retire to their mansion, it is to the sounds of boos and snickers.

We as a nation must stand up to the powers that allowed this unnecessary sequel to happen. We all stood idly by as it rose from just an idea to a reality. And now with every ticket we punch we must coil in fear. Will this next story be another one like the “sequel” was? A big mistake.

It just wasn’t a good idea to begin with.

Batman and Robin, just plain bad.

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