/Answers: Sequels We Like More Than The Original

Every week in /Answers, we answer a new pop culture-related question. In this edition, tying in with the release of Deadpool 2, we ask, "What sequel do you like more than the original?"

Chris Evangelista: The Dark Knight

Is it basic AF to pick The Dark Knight for this? To hell with it, I'm picking The Dark Knight. In 2005, Christopher Nolan rebooted the Batman franchise as a more "realistic" action-drama, giving audiences a chance to see how Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) first became Batman. It was a good film, and a huge change of pace from the previous Batman film franchise, begun by Tim Burton and concluded by Joel Schumacher. But as good as Batman Begins was, it was only the warm-up for what came next. With The Dark Knight, Nolan changed comic book movies forever. Nolan certainly wasn't the first filmmaker to take comic book movies seriously, but he was perhaps the first filmmaker to understand how to turn that seriousness into big, bold entertainment.

Nolan's Dark Knight drops takes Batman out of the superhero genre and drops him into a crime drama crossed with a psychological thriller. A pulse-pounding, intense film about civilized society breaking down in the face of terror. Thousands upon thousands of words have been penned praising Heath Ledger's game-changing turn as the Joker, but it's worth noting that even now – years removed from the hype – Ledger's performance is still mind-blowing in its intricacies and in the ways Ledger takes the part and turns it into an absolute – to paraphrase the film, an unstoppable force smashing against an immovable object.

I liked Batman Begins, but I remember watching The Dark Knight in a kind of awe, almost unable to process what I was seeing. I had never seen a comic book movie like this; I didn't even know you could make comic book movies like this. The Dark Knight was such a huge phenomenon that it was only a matter of time before the inevitable backlash set-in. "Pfft, that movie isn't that good!" came the eventual online cries. No, it is. It really is.

Ben Pearson: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Rise of the Planet of the Apes took most people by surprise with its level of quality, but it wasn't until director Matt Reeves stepped into the director's chair with 2014's Dawn of the Planet of the Apes that we saw the true potential of this rebooted franchise. Rise is good, an effective coming of age story for a young Caesar that has strong visual effects and works despite its premise. But Dawn is great, upping the ante in every conceivable way and grappling with meaty themes like what it means to be a father and how to live in a divided community. Despite its impressive set pieces, the movie is also decidedly anti-violence, which is a bold stance to take in a landscape of studio-driven blockbusters that often crassly embrace violence to sell more tickets.

Dawn begins on a close-up of Caesar's eyes, and it's almost as if Reeves is daring you to find the flaws in WETA's visual effects work. Joke's on us – the VFX are practically flawless, and Andy Serkis's performance as the ape leader is even deeper and more powerful this time around. But in addition to the improved effects and stellar direction, the story is superior, too. This is best represented with the relationship between Caesar and Koba (Toby Kebbell), his second in command who has a bitter distrust for humanity. The uneasy relationship between apes and humans comes painfully close to achieving peace until Koba rips it all apart – a dichotomy that feels especially relevant when considering certain current world events. The whole film is dripping with suspense, and when all-out war finally breaks out, we feel the tragedy in it. This is easily one of the best science fiction films of the millennium, and a vast improvement over its predecessor.

Vanessa Bogart: Terminator 2: Judgment Day

With iconic lines that have worked their way into the pop culture vernacular, and the ever present fears of Skynet becoming a reality as we delve deeper into a tech-dependent world, Terminator and Terminator 2 are a staple in the lives of millennials. However, when it comes to watching, rewatching, and watching again, nothing beats the sequel, with its thrills, action, and the endearing display of the innocent side of humanity through the relationship of a troubled boy and his cyborg buddy.

The connection between John Conner and the Terminator shows us why humankind is worth saving, and the introduction of the super mega-awesome T-1000 takes the sci-fi action of the first film and says, "hold my beer." Love and violence, violence and love, Judgment Day is the R-Rated, face-meltingly cool, morality lesson that we deserve. The death of Miles Dyson haunts me just as much today as it did when I was a child, and I forever wondered how his son and wife handled the news of his passing. Watching Sarah Conner melt to bone in her nightmare triggered a morbid fascination that both scared me and made me look forward to it with every viewing. All of that horror culminates in the sacrificial final scene that turned something as childlike as a thumbs-up, into a symbol of the purity of human connection. Terminator is an absolutely fantastic film, but Judgment Day is a goddamn masterpiece.

Ethan Anderton: Spider-Man 2

While all of the love for Spider-Man is now centered around Tom Holland as the webslinger in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the younger version of everyone's favorite wallcrawler hasn't yet measured up to the greatness that is Spider-Man 2. Not only is Spider-Man 2 superior to the original Spider-Man in every single way, it's one of the best superhero movies ever made.

What makes Spider-Man 2 so outstanding is that we get to dig into Spider-Man and Peter Parker as a character more than the origin story allows. The first Spider-Man had to do some heavy-lifting by introducing general audiences to this superhero who had never gotten his own big budget movie before. The second Spider-Man movie let's us explore the struggle Peter Parker has with living up to the "With great power comes great responsibility" motto instilled in him by his late Uncle Ben and living his own life that allows him to have some semblance of happiness that doesn't require always fighting crime.

Furthermore, Spider-Man 2 gives our hero a villain that is one of the most fully formed bad guys that the comic book genre has ever seen. He's not dissimilar from Parker himself, which is a big part of what makes him such a great villain. Sam Raimi's horror sensibilities also present him in a visually thrilling way, giving the movie some moments that are truly suspenseful and tense. Plus, the bank robbery fight and train battle are two truly spectacular and exciting action sequences. Spider-Man 2 is aces.

Lindsey Romain: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

If you follow me on Twitter or heard me on the /FilmCast, you'll know how deeply I feel about The Last Jedi. I'm a lifelong Star Wars fan, but I'm not sure I ever felt the series fully in my soul until Rian Johnson's sequel to The Force Awakens, a film I also genuinely adore. The Last Jedi expanded on the series in a way I didn't think possible; it questioned the very foundation of the galaxy and these characters in challenging, ruthless ways. It completely upended our idea of hero worship, and it grew the world in a brave new direction.

The story of The Last Jedi is almost diametrically opposite to what I thought it would be, but it's exactly what I needed. It's a film about letting go, about growing up, about realizing that the world doesn't owe you a thing but that you must forge your own destiny. That's powerful stuff for a franchise that, until this point, was all about granting mystical powers to people who didn't want or even necessarily earn them. Luke Skywalker is now a jaded man whose hubris outpaced him, and Rey is his protege who must learn from his mistakes. At the center is Kylo Ren, one of cinema's all-time great villains, an insecure boy with a famous name who, in The Last Jedi, skirts the line of redemption but ultimately shows himself for the scared and dangerous person that he is.

And he's just that: a person. Everyone in The Last Jedi feels human, and fails the way humans do. "The greatest teacher, failure is," Yoda reminds us. That is a line I return to over and over, that I remind myself of every day. Failure isn't the end of the road, but the beginning of several new directions. It's up to you to decide where to go next.

Jacob Hall: The Godfather Part II

This one may be a little obvious (it's only the lauded sequel to one of the most famous movies ever made!), but The Godfather Part II is the golden standard against which all sequels should be measured. Just look at what it does: it expands on the world of the original movie, it uses that expansion to comment upon and explore the characters in greater meaning, and it asks you to reexamine what makes the first one so special, providing fresh context to people and situations we thought we understood. By acting as a simultaneous prequel and sequel, The Godfather Part II is a study in where the Corleone crime family is going and where it came from, resulting in a juxtaposition that is downright tragic and gut-wrenching. This is the kind of sequel that actually makes the first film, already a masterpiece, better.

Hoai-Tran Bui: Before Sunset

I kind of cheated when it came to the Before trilogy. I saw Before Sunset first, totally unaware that it was a sequel to a beloved indie classic, Before Sunrise. And I was captivated by the dreamy Parisian setting and the way that the brisk dialogue between Ethan Hawke's Jesse and Julie Delpy's Celine simply sang. I needed no introduction to these characters. There was a barbed distance underneath each of their interactions, their small talk belying long-simmering regrets. I liked the layers to their banter. So when I finally got around to watching Before Sunrise, I was almost disappointed that there was no deeper meaning behind each line spoken each other. It was just a movie about two young, slightly arrogant, people falling in love — so happy and idealistic compared to the bittersweet shades of Before Sunset.

I loved Before Sunset so much that for years it skewed my opinion on Before Sunrise. It took a long time for me to soften toward the first film — when I came to realize that the first movie was for the hopeful optimist in me and not the slightly pretentious realist that I was when I watched Before Sunset. But I still have a fondness for Before Sunset. I think seeing it first made me realize that it was a perfect film on its own, and not simply a more cynical echo of the first film. Even scenes that acted as visual callbacks to the original film — the staircase, the almost-hair touch — packed an emotional punch with me without having seen the first film. That's a testament to how great a film Before Sunset is — it stands apart from both Before Sunrise and its sequel Before Midnight as a great film that needs no prologue or epilogue. I would have been perfectly happy never knowing how Jesse and Celine met, or knowing if Jesse missed his plane. It exists that perfect afternoon, frozen in the sun-dappled Paris streets.

Matt Donato: [REC] 2

Are you a perennial doubter of found footage horror? Allow me to challenge your perspective. Not only are recent technological advances providing unique horror perspectives for the digital age (Unfriended/The Den/etc), but traditional narratives have seen ample benefit from first-person lensing. Movies like [REC] capitalize on "zombie" intensity while sidestepping found footage pitfalls so often suffered – which brings me to my favorite "better than the original" sequel of all time. Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza unstoppably more stupendous [REC] 2.

What [REC] introduces in terms of "La Niña Medeiros," munchy tenants and frantic survivors is multiplied exponentially throughout [REC] 2. It's a true "Part II" that starts *immediately* after journalist Ángela Vidal is "possessed" by Tristian Medeiros' demonic mouth slug. In barges a Spanish police unit escorting one determined Ministry Of Health inspector. Within minutes, we're revisiting a room that [REC] fans know as the source of jump-scare heaven, if only to ensure viewers that no respite or breathing room will be allowed. The GEO officers are weaponized, trained, but still no match for frenzied "zombies" who make their presence known without hesitation.

What unfolds is pure adrenaline-revved terror. Vicious infection carnage told through uniform cameras as teeth gnash and religious blasphemy builds a monster out of abusive anguish (Tristian's revealed motive through the franchise). Scares are fun like a haunted house (re: creepy ceiling kids) but also traumatic in the sense that hope is even bleaker this time around. We return to the scene of a bloodbath crime that [REC] 2's characters know only of what's heard over previous radio chatter. Does this mean the same horror beats are refurbished for a new set of unaware eyes?

Hells to-the no.

[REC] 2 is The Godfather Part II of horror movies. What's accomplished through world building and franchise expansion opens up doors to even more glorious damnation, only ever looking forward. Mythology tightens (Albelda's body/communication through children), action is bite-down-on-leather tense (death by firecracker) and the film's nightvision finale plays with paranormal realms as well as magician's eye tricks. You feel evil winning every step of the way, and you know what? It feels good. In terms of horror movies being ten paces ahead of viewers, that is. Not that I'd *hope* for an outbreak that eradicates humanity or anything.

Not yet, at least.