Oh, the dreaded sequel. For a while, it was the loathed S-word -- an inevitable drop in quality, almost always revealing an increasing degree of cinematic laziness. But then came the aughts. Not only did we find the S-word replaced with the dreaded R-word (remake/reboot ... take your pick), but we also got a slice of something good. This decade brought some impressive sequels that challenged the well-established notion that continuing a story and revisiting beloved characters would be a bad thing. And now, as the decade wraps up, it's time to rank them.
Compiling the best sequels of the decade is not the most harrowing task out there. My fellow writers have that honor, shuffling through hundreds of films to pick out a few mere handfuls, but the sequel list does elicit questions. For example: What do you do when you desperately want a comedy sequel to be on the list, but you really don't like the best choice of the bunch? Should you consider the film's box office success? What about installments in a series? There's so much to consider...
What follows are the best and most successful sequels and series installments (they must have love here!) that the aughts have brought us. Of course, this is the opinion of one mere writer, so dig in, and as always, be sure to comment with your own picks.
Just as they fly through the air and kick the snot out of every baddie that comes their way, superheroes tend to rule the school when it comes to sequels. These days, the first sets things up and the second hits the setup right out of the ballpark. While some of you vocal hero fans will chastise this choice, The Dark Knight reigns supreme, allowing one of Heath Ledger's final performances to be a knockout, improving on Ms. Rachel Dawes, creating the creepiest and most delightful Two-Face, and ushering in delightfully subtle bits of back story with Gordon's family.
Of course, it's not the only superhero sequel to blow us out of the water. Spider-Man 2 easily captured hearts with Doc Ock and Oscar-winning special effects. Perhaps even more impressive was X2, the film that immensely improved on the feature that came before, and opened up the possibility of back-to-back killer sequels -- a hope horribly destroyed by Brett Ratner. (Fie you, Ratner! X3 should be on this list!)
One expects a solution when it comes to cinematic romance. The pair meets, they fall in love, and then they fall apart in gut-wrenching heartbreak, or stay together forever. Rarely can lovers return and not only elicit the same magic as the first project, but also improve on it. Before Sunset took everything that was good about Before Sunrise and made it all the better. Not even two hours of real time, the film saw Jesse and Celine come together again after a decade apart, having grown and moved on ... in the superficial sense. Below the surface, the pair never untangled themselves from that night in Vienna, a revelation that was deliciously revealed as the catch-up chit-chat melted away and all that was left were the confessions of two lovers who never lost the feeling they had one night many years ago. This remains my favorite sequel of all time.
While not even close to the heights of Before Sunset, New Moon will get the briefest love here, for doubling the box office take in the first weekend alone over Twilight. But that's it.
Blood reigned over the last ten years, in both laughs and dramatic turmoil. First, stateside, Quentin Tarantino managed to keep the exact same freshness between Kill Bill volumes One and Two. Finally, we got to learn the back story, and even better -- see how The Bride would defeat the likes of Budd, one-eyed vixen Elle Driver, and of course, Bill himself. Granted, this is a story that should be seen in two parts rather than a story + sequel, so it's a slight cheat, but it's a worthy addition nonetheless.
But the even worthier mention rests overseas. It's the film that trumps even Tarantino -- the second installment of The Vengeance Trilogy -- Oldboy. Chan-wook Park's film earned the Grand Prize of the Jury at Cannes, and even more impressively, the film fan hearts of almost everyone who saw it. As Roger Ebert wrote back in 2005, "Oldboy is a powerful film not because of what it depicts, but because of the depths of the human heart which it strips bare." It showed the depth that can rest in vengeance, thrills, and action. Thank god we've had news that a remake/reboot/US take has been shelved.
With no hyperbole, one can say that no decade has boasted the impressive cinematic series that the aughts have shared. In a mere ten years, we watched not only the long-awaited Lord of the Rings come to life as a cinematic powerhouse, but also the magical world of Harry Potter. Together, they formed two successful series that were not only gorgeous money-makers, but also loved by the general public beyond the walls of fandom. (Sorry, Twilight.)
Of course, the waters were not perfectly smooth for either adaptation -- being massive works that need a whole lot of editing to fly to the big screen -- but the results were always solid, never falling to utter disappointment, always managing to please. This is especially true for the Potter series that fills the entire decade, finding success film after film -- a reliable cinematic bet since 2001.
If there is any action sequel to make this list, it's the return of Indy with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Okay ... No, I kid. That film was a big pile of poo. The real winner in the action realm is Matt Damon's Bourne Supremacy -- the second piece of the Bourne trio. It's a classic story -- the super-macho dude tries to live the quiet life, only to get pulled back into the action fold -- but Paul Greengrass managed to make it fresh, adult, and winning.
If given the reigns to stretch the definition of sequel just a little bit, I would also include Casino Royale, for it's part of a long series of James Bond films. (Not so much that sequel though.) Then again, inclusion of that would lead me to also include Star Trek, so let's not go there.
This is the tough one, the one I mulled over for a week before writing this. Without a doubt, the most successful comedic sequel of the decade was Clerks 2, both in its box office take and the number of fans who were fully happy with Kevin Smith's return to his roots. Me, on the other hand, I wasn't. The magic was gone. I tried ... really I did. I rushed to see it opening night, then waited months to see it again, hoping my dislike was just a bad mood, a passing phase. No dice. I preferred the '90s shocks, and a black and white world without dance sequences. Nevertheless, I'm glad it pleased most of you, and it definitely deserves this spot on an overall scale.
Now it's your turn. Do you think the Underworld sequels should be on here? Pirates of the Caribbean? Any of Saw? Blade 2? Bad Boys 2? Ocean's Twelve? Rocky Balboa? Weigh in below.