Like everybody in the world, I saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier and it blew me away. When it comes to a single film with the greatest impact on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this was easily the most dense. I dug the first Captain America film from three years ago, but this one took the story to a whole new level thanks to the post-Avengers world where Steve Rogers is still searching for his place among the rest of us.
Sequels are a tough business. When it comes to exploring a new story or enemy, superhero movies may be the only type which get a pass from audiences. Most of the time, sequels feel like retreads over the same story as the first film, but it can still be fun to spend another two hours with characters you like. We all know about the Caddyshack II‘s and the Blues Brothers 2000‘s that take a swift nosedive from the original in the quality department. This is why I feel compelled to point out a few movies which got better as they went along. I’m only specifically listing movies which are the second film in a franchise for this blog.
“Are you kidding me, Chris? You leave out Aliens and The Two Towers but include this trash?” Hey, I never said this list was the be-all, end-all of sequels. I’m simply pointing out some that improved on the original. For me, the original Stakeout had more of a thriller vibe than a comedic one so I instantly give points to the sequel for being more about the comedy. Plus I’m a sucker for buddy movies. Make it a buddy cop movie and I’m in! The banter between Richard Dreyfuss and Emilio Estevez reminds me of the way I used to go back and forth with one of my high school friends (actually, he was really into this movie too). Add in Dennis Farina in a surprisingly understated role plus a bit of gun play for good measure and you’ve got a fun way to spend 108 minutes.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Nowadays, we get a new movie depicting a dystopian future every other month (usually centered around a teenage heroine) but 30 years ago, James Cameron gave us The Terminator, a vicious glimpse into a world where our machines have turned against us. Seven years later, he’d give us the sequel which would become a classic. Whether you’re a sci-fi fan or an action buff, there’s definitely plenty for you to dig about this film. James Cameron deserves credit for giving badass women major roles in pretty much all of his movies, and Sarah Connor lives up to every letter of the word “badass.” Arnold was easily at the peak of his success in the early 90’s but this movie cemented his role as more than the typical action star. It’s difficult for even the most hardened viewers among us to not feel tugs on their heart strings as the T-800 is lowered into the molten steel at the end. The expression “this movie has something for everyone” is way overused, but it absolutely applies to this film.
The Expendables 2
Yes, it’s far from a perfect movie but I really enjoyed the first Expendables for exactly what it was: big, loud fun. Expendables 2 delivered on the promise of the first one by being extremely self-aware and giving a knowing wink to the audience while not bogging itself down with plot and emotion. Okay, that makes the movie sound hollow but it’s hard to argue with fun. Sequels that choose style over substance are usually complete garbage (I’m looking at you, Revenge of the Fallen) but this one gives the audience everything you’d expect from these stars. With a third movie coming in a few short months, it’s safe to say Stallone & Co. know exactly what moviegoers want out of an Expendables film, and I’ll buy my ticket for every one they churn out.
The Dark Knight
What can I possibly say about this film that hasn’t already been said a hundred times over? Probably nothing, so here goes nothing. Everyone loves Heath Ledger’s turn as The Joker, especially considering the outcry when he was cast (take that, nerds!). We also love the integrity Gary Oldman brings to Commissioner Gordon, the wisdom Michael Caine bestows on us as the formidable Alfred, and watching Morgan Freeman play a genius…because he is. Okay, maybe we don’t all love the Batman voice but it certainly isn’t enough to take you out of the movie. Batman Begins showed us how the Caped Crusader could exist in a world as real as ours. The Dark Knight raised the stakes by showing that crime and corruption can be just as real. There’s a reason everybody kept going back to the theater to see this: it’s a near perfect film.
X-2: X-Men United
FUN FACT: I originally typed “X-Men Untied” by mistake but odds are that exists as a XXX-Men title somewhere. The first X-Men film was a decent setup for the characters we’d follow for another five films (sequels six and seven are on the way). Initially, I was unsatisfied with the the first movie but this was before theatrical franchises were common so I expected a self-contained film. Before long, X2 hit the cineplex and there was much rejoicing. The first movie introduced us to the X-Men but now we got to see them in action. Some complain how the majority of these films are too Wolverine-heavy, including X2. Once again – they’re nerds, so who asked them? The X-Men bring a fantastical element to a genre which continues to place emphasis on making better movies. X-2 raised the bar for superhero films and we should be forever grateful.
That’s it for now. Feel free to leave comments at the bottom listing movies you think got better the second time around.