By Margaret Jacobi
The Dark Knight Rises promotional poster. Photo courtesy of marvelousRoland.
At this point sequels have become a paradigm in the film industry. Oftentimes they are overshadowed by the ambition of directors and studios who just don’t know how to let a good thing rest. They can taint the experience of the first film, or at least garner the disappointment of fans with high expectations. Usually the result of the absence of fresh ideas, these stories expand on established narratives with the hopes of continual revenue. Who wouldn’t want to make more money off a previous success, though?
However, every now and then, if the sequel happens to be a second book in a series or is actually thoughtfully executed, it can make the first and perhaps the following releases parts of a glorious epic story. Regardless, fans clamoring for an extension of a beloved plot will always bring in some sort of revenue for these budding franchises.
Every year these films come and go. This year is no exception, with dozens of sequels slatted to debut. Here are some of the most anticipated box office sequels of the year:
Underworld Awakening – January 20
This is the fourth installment in the vampires vs. Lycans franchise that began almost a decade ago. The history of the world that sexy badass vampire Kate Beckinsale inhabits develops as both groups of fantasy species are threatened by humankind’s ambition to destroy them. Beckinsale leads the battle against humans in the first 3D release in the series. The audience’s enthusiasm for the films didn’t seem to sustain for this one though, as its box office earnings didn’t quite fill out the estimated budget.
Wrath of the Titans – March 30
Falling under the category of epic action fantasy films is the continuation of the visually rampant Clash of the Titans. The open-ended finish to this movie, based on themes from Greek mythology, has already instigated rumors of a third leg to the adventure. Both films received mostly negative reviews from critics, giving the impression that the heavy reliance on CGI overshadows any sort of impactful plot, but they both reaped over twice their budgets in profits at the box office, so why not carry on the story?
American Reunion (American Pie 4) – April 6
Apparently, not one, not two, or even three movies were enough for the “official” American Pie series (there is a whole slew of spinoffs in which Eugene Levy is the only real connection to the original movie). Now that the gang has lost its collective virginity at prom, reunited after college, and gotten together for a wedding, obviously the next tired plot is a high school reunion. General consensus is that the movie relies on the same comedic tropes as the first three, but maybe that’s a good thing to some people? It seems this will be the finale to this series.
Men in Black 3 – May 25
A very late blossom, 15 long years have passed since the original Men in Black came out and 10 since the lackluster second. This third installment made up for all criticism the second garnered and was even dubbed “better than the first one” by Roger Ebert. The addition of 3D to the series was ultimately deemed a huge success because it didn’t rely on recycled materials like its closest predecessor. Also, who doesn’t love time travel?
The Dark Knight Rises – July 20
Perhaps the most anticipated of the sequels this year is the new Batman movie. Strategically scheduling the film four years after The Dark Knight and seven after Batman Begins, director Christopher Nolan once again has audiences anxiously awaiting the final segment in his epic trilogy. The plot begins with the return of Batman, who has laid in the shadows for eight years after taking flack for Two Face’s crimes. When a new villain named Bane (played by Tom Hardy) arises in his absence Batman must come to the aid of the citizens of Gotham once more. I’m stoked.
The Bourne Legacy – August 10
The first of what is likely to be a new series branching from the original Bourne Identity trilogy, The Bourne Legacy aims to reinvigorate the badassery of the first movies with a new cast. Jeremy Renner assumes the torch from Matt Damon to become the face of the ultimate action hero pitted against any and all world authorities. This installment will be the first to be directed by Tony Gilroy, who has worked on all the previous screenplays in the series. With Rachel Weisz and Edward Norton also starring in the film, it’s hard to imagine it couldn’t be full of anything other than action-packed awesomeness.
Resident Evil: Retribution – September 14
Milla Jovovich returns once more to drop the collective jaws of Resident Evil gamers everywhere. The movie begins with her in the heart of the operating complex of The Umbrella Corporation, her ultimate nemesis. As she explores the facility, she learns more about her own past and the history of the viral outbreak results in some sort of groundbreaking revelation. Doesn’t sound super inspired to me, but I’m sure Milla Jovovich looks fantastic kicking ass all over again.
Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn pt. 2 – November 16
The birth of Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson’s mutant vampire/human hybrid baby shocked the vampire authorities as much as it did audiences nationwide. As the last installment in the Twilight franchise, this movie finally reveals Bella’s transformation as a vampire and all powers she acquires therein as she protects her child from the Volturi. I’m sure Lionsgate will pull out all the stops for this one. At least it’s got to be a little more tolerable and entertaining than the last.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – December 14
Ok, more of a prequel than a sequel, but you get the point. Peter Jackson surprised audiences everywhere with the announcement of this film almost 10 years after what everyone thought was the cinematic conclusion of the Lord of the Rings. It will be the first of two parts expanding on Bilbo Baggins’ quest with a group of Dwarves before he acquires the mythical ring of power. With the majority of the filming done in New Zealand, the inclusion of more fantasy creatures, and the fact that it will be in 3D, this film is guaranteed to be visually stunning. I can’t wait to see Middle Earth all over again.
Honorable Mentions: The Expendables 2, Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, Ice Age: Continental Drift, Step Up Revolution, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, Taken 2, Silent Hill Revelation, Paranormal Activity 4.