Vantage point

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Birth of the Sequel Fad

It seems like every major box office grosser these days is a sequel. Heck, my own personal "most awaited movie of the year" is the sequel to Batman Begins. White people are obsessed with sequels. They just can't wait to come up with them. In fact every time they make a movie, on the odd chance that it might become a big hit, they leave open some sort of a loophole in the plot to sequelize it.

Film historians would have you believe that the sequel phenomenon started with the Thin Man movies in the thirties. But they are way off. The seeds for the first ever sequel were sown in 1918. Towards the end of what we now gullibly refer to as World War I.

I have previously expressed my disapproval at calling that little 4-year-long skirmish a "World" war. I mean come on! Seriously! It happened mainly in Europe. All the other "theaters" like the African Theater and the Middle-Eastern Theater were just that - theaters roleplaying the war on a tinier scale. Where does that piddly war get off calling itself a "World" War?

In fact, until the big daddy, i.e. WWII happened, they just called it the "Great War". "Great" in the sense, "wasn't that war just great and wouldn't it be fun to have another one like it?". So the seeds of the first ever sequel were sown, quite wilfully, by the world leaders at the end of the 1914-1918 war.

Historians have made careers out of dissecting the mistakes after WWI. The terms of the Treaty of Versailles, ignoring the obvious hubris in Mein Kampf, England and France folding at pretty much every hand Hitler played in the 30s, and America's reluctance to enter the picture until attacked directly. You think the world leaders at that time were not smart enough to see how catastrophic all these mistakes were?

Of course they were! But they let them happen anyway, because those were the plot loopholes that would justify a sequel. A bigger badder sequel which would gross more money (and human lives) worldwide than the highly popular original ever could. So don't blame Chamberlain for his stupidity. Praise Chamberlain for having the vision to craft the first blockbuster sequel the world ever saw.

And what a sequel that was! No longer could skeptics like me question the "World" part of the name. That baby was everywhere - Europe, Asia, Africa..... even friggin Hawaii!!! The villain was freakishly short, had a funny moustache and even had a moll. There was enough complexity in the plot to keep fans discussing "what if" scenarios for decades. And what an ending! Nuclear bombs annihilating large swathes of civilian populations? Who could have seen that coming? WWII totally kicked the ass of what we now have to call WWI.

So the next time you watch an overhyped but disappointing sequel, be accurate when you apportion the credit/blame.