The ASIDESTEPS CANON – no Jaws sequels – vol. VIII

Sequels, prequels and remakes.  One of the greatest pleasures of movie obsession is seeing the films you love reimagined, seeing how different directors bring their own peccadillos to the proceedings.  Remaking movies is as old as cinema itself, so quite why the concept is so frowned upon nowadays, I have no idea.  Anyways.  These are my personal favourites (though it bears underlining that in nearly every case the original movie is superior.)  No Jaws (1975 – Steven Spielberg) sequels though because they’re all terrible.

71. Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom (1984 – Steven Spielberg)

 

Sequel/prequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981 – Steven Spielberg)

 

Lucas and Spielberg’s desperate attempt to make a Bond film, this film is fuelled by a healthy dose of cynicism.  The movie attempts to distil the entire history of cinema into its running time – bickering back-and-forth repartee, dance routines and casual racism included.  Here the narrative is more stationary than its predecessor, so the action sequences can seem a little more obligatory, but when they are as excruciatingly involving as the mine cart sequence, its easy enough to allow yourself to be enveloped in its dazzling momentum.

Traditionally, this was seen as the weakest entry, but Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989 – Steven Spielberg) is a more prosaic affair, only enlivened by Sean Connery’s brusque charm.  The less said about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008 – Steven Spielberg) – personally I have an affection for the episode of the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles that features Harrison Ford – The Mystery of the Blues – which features a pretty engrossing car chase for something made on a television budget.

72. The Curse of the Cat People (1944 – Gunther von Fritsch and Robert Wise)

 

Sequel to Cat People (1942 – Jacques Tourneur)

 

The original invented much of the language of cinematic shock, all creeping tension and jump-scares.  This sequel threw much of its narrative out of the window, instead choosing to focus on the memetic memory of shared trauma.  We are haunted by the stories we’ve read and the traumas we see at a distance.  It is a creeping portraying of the swirling emotions of an adolescent girl, how puberty can force girls to explore the dangerous and rebel against the conformity they are being forced to adopt.  Primal experience provides a release from the patriarchy they are being groomed to work within.

 

73. Cat People (1982 – Paul Schrader)

 

Remake of Cat People (1942 – Jacques Tourneur)

Schrader’s remake is a fairly pedestrian attempt for most of its running time that simply repeats the shocks of the first film with more tits on display.  However, its ending, a depiction of sexual dominance and control, bound in a presentation of sado-masochism, is almost elegiac.  It speaks deeply to our deepest perversions, and the ease and willingness with which a man will revert to patterns of abuse if presented with the opportunity – all agency is removed from the woman in order to satisfy his sexual desires.

74. Spider-Man 2 (2004 – Sam Raimi)

 

Sequel to Spider-Man (2002 – Sam Raimi)

 

The first film, in my mind a heady mix of first dates and dropped popcorn, showed Raimi’s mix of volcanic action scenes and cheesy emotion.  The second film is pretty much in the same vein, but the pirouetting camera that swirls around some genuinely thrilling action sequences ensures that this is the best superhero film the world has ever seen.  Which is a bit like being the world’s most popular STD…

 

75. Rambo (2008 – Sylvester Stallone)

 

Fourth in the Rambo film series

Very much a companion piece to Rocky Balboa (2006), Rambo featured Stallone’s return to an iconic eighties role.  But this was a far more pessimistic affair, where good intentions proved fruitless and violence gave the only answer.  Stallone plays John Rambo as an empty shell – a logical conclusion of the events of the previous three entries in the series.  He is broken and hollowed out by violence.  He has little grip on compassion, and the film follows this path, refusing to present his adversaries with any inch of humanity.  It is Stallone’s greatest fantasy.

76. The Godfather Part II (1974 – Francis Ford Coppola)

 

Sequel/prequel to The Godfather (1972 – Francis Ford Coppola)

 

Which is often little more than the first response to ‘sequels that are better than the originals’.  I don’t think that’s a true statement, in the same way that no film adaptation is ‘better’ than the novel upon which it is based; they’re different emotional experiences.  First films have to establish tone and character and theme.  Sequels can take that from granted and build upon what has come before.  ‘Prestige’ long-form television relies on that function – unfortunately, miss-used, as it so often is by tv, the audience experiences a form of cinematic Stockholm Syndrome, whereby affection is given simply because they’ve spent a lot of time with the characters.  The Godfather Part II, does not engage with these facile assumptions, simply because it is determined to build on the first film; by both extended Michael Corleone’s descent into transgression, and by adding depth to a family business he was unable to escape.

77. Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970 – Ted Post)

 

Sequel to Planet of the Apes (1968 – Franklin J. Schaffner)

 

Which takes a pulpy concept (a spaceman land on a post-apocalyptic Earth ruled by monkeys) and somehow makes it even pulpier, by throwing in psychic mutants who worship an atom bomb.  Developing a more fully designed world than its predecessor, Beneath the Planet of the Apes carefully withholds Charlton Heston’s manic screen presence to the final reel.  And what a final reel, where the Earth is annihilated by its god, only this god is an invention of man that he wished he could have forgotten, the nuclear bomb.  God isn’t that much different.

78. Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972 – J. Lee Thompson)

 

Fourth in the Planet of the Apes series

After a more jovial third entry (Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971 – Don Taylor) – very much ‘The Voyage Home’ of the series, featuring drunk monkeys) the series had been boldly recast around simian protagonists rather than the humans.  By the seventies, the realisation was that the threat did not come from outside humanity, it came from within.  Here, as the continuity of the film series turned back upon itself, the series showed how our species would seek to dominate and oppress anything it perceived to be aa threat.  The only consequence, quite brutally depicted within the film, was violent insurrection by the oppressed.

79. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011 – Rupert Wyatt)

 

Seventh in the Planet of the Apes series and reboot

After a lacklustre final instalment (Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973 – J. Lee Thompson)) and an underwhelming, though not worthless reboot by Tim Burton in 2001, the series was once again restarted in 2001.  Technology had reached a point where CGI apes had a life to them, though they were somewhat unfairly cast opposite John Lithgow, who has made a bit of a career of upstaging apes of various forms.  Despite being an ostensible franchise kick-starter, Rise of the Planet of the Apes takes its time, creating an engaging drama that demands your attention.  The moment where Caesar speaks for the first time is genuinely shocking.  It was followed by a messy, ridiculous sequel, where Gary Oldman had a totally superfluous moment where he cried at the sight of a cynically product-placed iPad.

80. Beverly Hills Cop II (1987 – Tony Scott)

 

Sequel to Beverly Hills Cop (1984 – Martin Brest)

Eddie Murphy is one of the great screen presences, and Beverly Hills Cop best captured these charms – his defiant, inimitable disruption of the conventional white screen that Hollywood forces upon us.  The sequel built upon that by placing him within a fluorescent, hypnotically glossy world that appears now to be the epitome of the eighties that we see in our collective cultural memory.  Tony Scott brought a balletic grace to his action scenes, and ensured that they were as thrilling as they can be – it’s almost as if he realised no one would be able to act Murphy off the screen, so the only way to provide a credible threat was by presenting action scenes as genuinely threatening.  It was a bold move, and one that began to define Scott’s career.

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