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What makes sequels work?
October 05, 2013, 05:00 AM By Janani Kumar

Producers and actors have many potential issues to consider before making a sequel: how to use the same characters in an entirely new, still-gripping story line. Similarly, an author must take into account how much the audiences liked a first book, and how to create another story of similar caliber.

Perhaps the biggest and most obvious issue is that of people inevitably comparing the addition to the original. I am going to be completely honest here and say I am really looking forward to J.K. Rowling’s new series, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” Now, Rowling has openly said this series is not meant to serve as a prequel or sequel to the beloved Harry Potter series. However, it will share the same location and feature the same mythical creatures. I can almost guarantee it will receive some degree of “hate” from the Harry Potter lovers, as they will compare the screenplay and acting.

Another potential problem is the issue of “exceeding expectations.” The sequel to “Finding Nemo” will be coming to theaters in 2015. However, the original set the standards so high, grossing more than $920 million worldwide, that the sequel, “Finding Dory,” just might disappoint. The Twilight series received mixed reviews, as many people really enjoyed the first book, but routinely said that the books that followed were just boring.

This brings me to this question: What must there be for a sequel to work? Ultimately, for me, what makes sequels good is the hype. Especially for book series made into movies, the hype of who will play the new character or which scenes are the fans most excited see on screen makes the wait worthwhile. In turn, the scenes and dramatic effects must live up to our expectations. The scenes, in general in Harry Potter and “The Hunger Games,” were what we fans were expecting, and so our hype was “justified.”

Sequels work when they do not lose the characterization and original actors. Invariably, when a sequel to a movie has a different actor play the same lead character, they somehow seem to lose integrity. Moreover, there must be a larger overlying story covering the many movies/books, or else each addition just seems disjointed. A reason Twilight really did not work was that there really wasn’t much of a story line besides the Edward/Bella romance. There wasn’t a larger struggle that carried itself through the four books, like Harry spent seven years trying to find and defeat Voldemort.

Ultimately, I acknowledge it is hard to create a sequel that people will like as much as the original. However, it has been done. Whether we are talking about “Despicable Me 2,” which was arguably as hilarious as the first, “The Godfather: Part II,” which many people believe was better than “The Godfather,” or Harry Potter, I think we can agree that all three titles had strong character development, a strong plot and wide public appeal.

Janani Kumar is a senior at Burlingame High School. Student News appears in the weekend edition. You can email Student News at



Tags: sequel, harry, series, story, really, people,

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