Contrary to popular belief, "first" doesn't always means "best." Case in point, you wouldn't want to make first place in the 100 yard dash toward the razor wire minefield competition. The second guy tends to do better in that scenario. And, much like the first child of a couple, the first film of a franchise is often a good opportunity to test-run some potentially dangerous methods so you can do better in the second installment (or sibling). Most people always focus more on the youngest anyway.
So here are some films where they made two films (or maybe more) and it turned out that the one that was the two was better than the one that was the one.
I'm shirking away from the obvious choices, by the way, like Terminator 2, Aliens, The Dark Knight, etc.
1) Kung Fu Panda 2
Kung Fu Panda is a movie that got off to a good start right away because its title follows the tried and true formula of combining a martial art with some harmless thing that isn't usually associated with martial arts, like Karate Kid and ...
Well, that's pretty much it. At least until I'm able to land my surefire blockbuster "Pencak Silat Corn Dog."
Anyway, I enjoyed the first movie more than I thought I would, because while it's formulaic but it's formulaic with conviction. It's not like they just slapped it together to churn out a generic box office hit. They slapped it together with care.
The movie has good characters, an engrossing plot, and some big laughs. But the sequel is the one that really hit the spot for me because it uses a more Campbellian approach to develop the main character with a nice arc that is thoroughly satisfying to watch. It had more emotion and more excitement, and it was a better movie overall.
2) Elite Squad 2: The Enemy Within
For those of you who don't know, Elite Squad is a Brazilian social experiment to see how many action film one-liners you can inject into the common parlance of a country from just one film. It was a raging success, comparable to what the game Portal achieved within the nerd community. It was also the moving story of fascistic blood lust, and how Brazilian cops love fastening a plastic bag around a drug dealer's head. It scored so big that they decided to follow it up with Enemy Within. In lieu of cheering for stupid violence to treat a symptom (drug-related crime), instead of the disease (the War on Drugs), the movie examined the entirety of the inner-workings of a corrupt government and how that corruption leads to violence and crime. It was also a great police procedural movie with cool action sequences, awesome twists, and great acting. All in all, a movie that you absolutely have watch, especially if you like roided-up burly men shouting at each other all the time.
As a side note, the director is now slated to helm the RoboCop remake which, to me, is totally off the hook.
3) Addams Family Values
Does anyone even remember the first Addams Family? I vaguely recall some scenes where there's like a family dinner, and the soup has an eyeball in it ... and ... umm ...
I'm sure I've watched it. I can remember there was some actors, and those actors were playing some characters ...
The point is: the first Addams Family movie is entirely forgettable. It was a crap movie that didn't have nearly as many memorable moments as the sequel; like when Wednesday flat-out burns some uppity sons of a bitches at the stake. That true transgression of values captured the soul of what makes The Addams Family Values so attractive and cathartic: it's a movie about people who are truly misfits and rebels, who revel in death and horror, yet still love each other much like any other family. All you keep thinking is "This was not supposed to happen in a family-friendly Hollywood movie! But it's happening! And it rocks balls!" The movie appeals to some of the most primitive desires we harbor but aren't allowed to act out in real life: Setting fire to overly cheerful camp counselors is something most people probably dreamed of doing, whether they admit it or not.
Man, that movie was amazing. I think I'm going to watch it again, right now.
Most people probably don't know this, but the Korean crime-kick-assery Oldboy is part of a trilogy of sorts, being preceded by Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and succeeded by Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (somebody likes the Rolling Stones). Don't worry, it's the only one you have to watch. The other two aren't all that bad but, you know ... they aren't Oldboy. The first one is way less "Tarantino" than it's sequel, and it's more of a heavy social drama involving a vicious cycle of revenge that forces people to do the most horrid things to each other. In short, it's kinda boring. And gross, too.
Oldboy may still be gross to some, but it's anything but boring. The story of a man who is abducted and kept in the same room for 15 years and is released so he can figure out who did it and why is flawlessly structured into a world class thriller that moves at an insane pace and builds up to one of the most brutal and jaw-dropping climaxes to ever hit theaters. This is one for the history books for several reasons, not the least of which the lengthy fight scene in the middle that was all filmed in one take.