Sunday Discussion: Juno and Hollywood's Sequel Game
There's no denying it - Juno has become a huge hit! It's currently just passing the $120 million mark at the box office and is expected to end somewhere around $136 million. With that much earned domestically in the US, Juno will have passed Superbad, Enchanted, Bee Movie, Live Free or Die Hard, Ocean's Thirteen, and Saw IV in box office earnings. Why am I bringing up Juno again? Because earlier this week an article caught my eye - SlashFilm posted a quote from the film's director, Jason Reitman, who had "debunked" a rumor that a Juno sequel was in the works. It really got me thinking about the idea of the sequel in Hollywood and how they're just made for money and not for story.
When it comes to Juno, it's been incredibly exciting to watch this film blow up into the hit it is today. Now it has four Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, and is one of the biggest indie successes in history. The New York Post recently questioned Reitman about a sequel and he instantly shot it down, saying "I can't see it. She got pregnant once; I just can't see her getting pregnant again." He makes a great point about the obvious story issues, but before even bringing those up, I would have instantly responded with a "no" myself if I were questioned whether a sequel could even work.
After reading that story and actually talking with Peter from SlashFilm about it, I got to wondering whether a Juno sequel could even work at all. The best argument for a situation that could work is something like Clerks II, where the concept on a whole is revisited, but it's not a direct sequel where Juno gets pregnant again. I loved Clerks II and thought it was a fitting sequel that worked even 12 years later. Thinking about Juno, I could actually see a sequel being made 10 to 12 years from now, by another director, and it would still be a great movie that touches more on the Juno concept than acts as a sequel. It's possible, but I really don't want to see it. Juno was such a perfect movie on its own.
The root of my discussion today is really about the "Hollywood sequel game" as I call it. I refer to it as a game because there's an unwritten rule that says something like, if a movie makes double its budget in the first few weeks, then it's probably getting a sequel. No questions asked - if a movie makes money, it'll get a sequel. It doesn't matter how the original movie ended, it doesn't matter whether a sequel will even be similar in tone or plot, it doesn't matter who is even making the sequel. All that matters is a sequel gets made, the studio markets it in the right way, banking off of the previous film, and they cross their fingers hoping it'll be as successful as the first.
Everyone knows that typically sequels are never better than the original movies. By now I think we can all count on our fingers and recall from heart the names of the sequels that were better than the originals (Terminator 2 and Spider-Man 2 at least). I'm wondering, however, if we really know this or if we are just following a trend together. If you look at box office earnings, the second and third movies in a trilogy usually make more than the first movie. Everyone is guilty of seeing movies like Spider-Man 3 or The Matrix Revolutions. You all went to see them and you all helped the movie studios make their money and feel right about the decisions they made.
This sequel game that Hollywood plays is a very interesting thing to look at and discuss, because it works exactly as described. They're making movies like Wild Hogs 2 and Ghost Rider 2 because the movies made money, despite how bad the reviews were or even how much the general public disliked them. You must not forget that Hollywood is a business that's looking to make money just like every other business out there. Not every last film that gets made is striving to be the latest, greatest artistic expression like Juno. It's just trying to make money, and make enough to bring them into the black.
While sometimes, albeit quite rarely, sequels do turn out amazing, for the most part, they're not worth it. They're worth it to Hollywood - because they'll make their money back - but they're not worth it for you and I. I really do not want to see a Juno sequel unless it is at least 10 years down the road and revisited in a way that doesn't harm the original movie's premise. Until those 10 years pass by, I'll be watching countless sequels that Hollywood is pumping out and groaning every time I hear of another sequel that gets green lit just because it made money.