The art of the sequel is one that has been honed over the years, with Hollywood calculating the formula for a perfect follow-up and attempting to apply it time and time again. The allure of the sequel is obvious because it’s a win-win situation: the audience gets more of something they enjoyed, and the filmmakers have an established story to work from during the creative process. Simple, no?
In reality, it’s anything but. Sequels are all too often subjected to unfair comparisons and are regularly criticized for their inherent lack of originality. In other words, a sequel is something of a double-edged sword: making one comes with its fair share of both positives and negatives.
However, every so often, a sequel comes along that improves significantly upon its predecessor. We’re not talking about minor adjustments that enhance the story or characters somewhat, but sequels that stand head and shoulders above the original. The reasons behind this are usually complex and the explanations for the phenomenon are varied, but the fact remains: some sequels are just better than the movie that originally spawned them.
10. Superman II (1980)
Sequel to: Superman (1978)
Modern superhero cinema owes far more to Richard Donner’s Superman movies than the average audience member cares to admit. Watching them back through a modern lens makes them seem relatively simplistic, yet they still possess the same charm they did upon their release. 1978’s Superman introduced Christopher Reeve’s Man of Tomorrow to the big screen, and it’s still seen today as a classic of the genre. However, its sequel, Superman II, proved to be a significant step up from the first film.
Not only was it free of the burden of having to tell the character’s origin story (which messed with Superman‘s pacing), but it also stepped things up by having a more compelling set of villains. As well as Lex Luthor’s machinations, the Man of Steel had to contend with other Kryptonians, proving to be the hero’s biggest challenge yet. Through the use of a narrative device in which Superman grapples with his dual identity and reconciles his powers with his desire for a normal life, Superman II proved to be far superior to the original.
Superman II‘s story was a deeper exploration of the hero’s human side, but it also forced him to confront his Kryptonian heritage. The resulting film benefits from a far more powerful narrative than the original movie, with a more introspective narrative concealed behind its super-powered action. The consensus remains that Superman II is by far the best of Reeve’s Superman movies, and that’s largely thanks to the huge improvements it made from the original movie.